A firefighter surveys the remaining shell and tons of debris of the World Trade Center on Sept. 25, 2001. (Photo by Michael Rieger)

Recent policy changes to the 9/11 Victim’s Compensation Fund are not only better helping ailing first responders, but also downtown Manhattan workers, students, residents, and families of those who died of related illnesses.

The change extended the deadline to file VCF claims to July 31, 2021 for all families who lost loved ones to 9/11-related illnesses as well as people who worked, lived, or went to school in lower Manhattan and were exposed to airborne toxins on or after the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks — but few people know about the extension.

“We have many clients that missed this deadline because they did not know that a cancer … was 9/11 related, did not know that the VCF applies to non-first responders … or were wholly unaware of the VCF program until the recent news — when it was too late,” said attorney Daniel Hansen of Turley Hansen & Rosasco, LLP, a law firm specializing in 9/11 fund claims.

About 410,000 people were exposed to 9/11-related toxic dust released into the air in the area surrounding the World Trade Center site and of those, an estimated 67,000 have died since 2001, according to a recent report from the Congressional Budget Office. Of the 67,000, only 1,173 families — 2 percent — have filed VCF wrongful death claims, which compensates families for funeral and burial expenses, according to a recently released report by the VCF Special Master.

Previously, the VCF required that the families of people who died from a 9/11-related illness register their claim within two years from the date of death, which caused the denial of many VCF wrongful death claims. Similarly, before the change, those suffering from 911-related cancers had to file a VCF claim within two years of being diagnosed in order to be considered for compensation.

“It’s amazing that after so many years and so much news coverage that these families, many who struggle due to the loss, still don’t know their absolute right to receive financial support from the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund,” said Hansen, who counts Long Islanders among his clients.

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Timothy Bolger is the Editor in Chief of the Long Island Press who’s been working to uncover unreported stories since shortly after it launched in 2003. When he’s not editing, getting hassled by The Man or fielding cold calls to the newsroom, he covers crime, general interest and political news in addition to reporting longer, sometimes investigative features. He won’t be happy until everyone is as pissed off as he is about how screwed up Lawn Guyland is.