9/11 A Decade Later: Head Of September 11th Victims Comp Fund Takes Applicants' Questions
The September 11th Victim Compensation Fund will soon reopen for business, and hundreds of responders and survivors of the World Trade Center terrorist attack gathered Wednesday night to learn more about it. NY1's Bobby Cuza filed the following report.
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Sheila Birnbaum has a daunting assignment, as she is almost single-handedly in charge of the $2.8 billion victim compensation fund for 9/11 responders and survivors who became sick or died from breathing World Trade Center toxins.
Many who were eligible for the fund turned out en masse at a Manhattan hotel Wednesday to ask her questions.
"I can't promise you that you'll all be satisfied with the awards you get. I can't promise you that you will all be eligible under this statute," said Birnbaum. "But I can promise you that you'll be heard, that we will be fair."
Under draft guidelines Birnbaum released last week, the fund will cover a larger area of Lower Manhattan than before. But at least for now, the fund doesn't cover those with cancer or those with only mental injury like post-traumatic stress disorder.
Not only is the fund capped at $2.8 billion, but the bulk of that money won't be disbursed until 2016. Those filing claims could number in the tens of thousands.
"There's 11,000 people at Mt. Sinai right now that are being treated, so the possibility is there are 11,000 cases right there, no counting the civilians that are going to come forward. When you start looking at it that way, there's not really that much money to go around," said Joseph Zadroga, the father of the late September 11th first responder James Zadroga.
Birnbaum, who is taking no salary for her work, says she wants the fund to act efficiently and transparently, and invited feedback.
"If you think we got this wrong, tell us. Write us. We want to hear from you," said Birnbaum.
The public has until August 5 to comments on the proposed guidelines. The rules will then be finalized in September, with the fund to open and begin accepting claims in October.