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9/11 victims fund may go from $7.3B to zero by 2020

By Sommer Brokaw
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Mourners hold photos at the Reflecting Pools at the 9/11 Memorial near One World Trade Center on the 17th anniversary of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center at Ground Zero in New York City on September 11, 2018. Photo by John Angelillo/UPI | <a href="/News_Photos/lp/0411ea01d95321e0c675d443212d116c/" target="_blank">License Photo</a>
Mourners hold photos at the Reflecting Pools at the 9/11 Memorial near One World Trade Center on the 17th anniversary of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center at Ground Zero in New York City on September 11, 2018. Photo by John Angelillo/UPI | License Photo

Oct. 3 (UPI) -- A fund that had more than $7 billion earmarked to help survivors and families affected by the Sept. 11 terror attacks might be empty within the next two years.

Victim Compensation Fund Special Master Rupa Bhattacharyya warned Wednesday in a Notice of Inquiry the cash on hand might not be enough to cover all the filed claims.

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"The projections suggest the possibility that the $7.375 billion in total funding that has been appropriated to compensate claimants may be insufficient to compensate all claims," Bhattacharyya said.

He said the lack of funding could apply to new and existing claims, and by law priority must be given to those with the most debilitating circumstances.

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Bhattacharyya said his warning isn't a formal determination, but a call for public comment from the Sept. 11 community on how they would like to see the remaining funds allocated.

"In both an abundance of caution and a steadfast commitment to fulfilling my statutory responsibilities, I am seeking public input on how the remaining funds might be allocated in a fair and equitable manner to claims and amendments that have not yet been decided," he said.

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Questions in the comment section include whether there are "non-cancer conditions that should no longer be considered severe and debilitating."

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Another question asked if the minimum payment for non-economic loss, $20,000, should be lowered. The request also asked if there should be a cap on cash awards.

Executive Director Ben Chevat of 9/11 Health Watch said he's pleased Bhattacharyya, the Justice Department and Attorney General Jeff Sessions are "involving the 9/11 community in the difficult decisions they may have to face."

A statement on Chevat's 9/11 Health Watch website said it's "Congress's problem to solve."

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"It is Congress's responsibility to provide the VCF with all the funding needed to see that 9/11 responders and survivors get the help they need and deserve," it said.

More than 42,000 people in the World Trade Center Health program have at least one certified condition related to the terror attacks -- while a larger percentage have multiple conditions. More than 9,300 have been certified with a 9/11 related cancer.

"Every other day another 9/11 responder or survivor reportedly dies from a 9/11 related cancer. The magnitude of the 9/11 cancer problem, though obvious today, was not entirely known in 2015 when the VCF re-authorization was funded," 9/11 Health Watch said.

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