The 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund, which awards payments for individuals harmed in the 2001 terrorist attacks, has made 3,128 decisions valued at just over $804.1 million as of Jan. 2. As of last January, 323 decisions had been rendered to the tune of $135.5 million, according to the fund's quarterly status report released Thursday.
The 10-fold increase in decisions is a result, in part, of the increased number of complete submissions from claimants, said Sheila Birnbaum, the fund's special master. "As claim submissions have increased, I have increased the staff to enable prompt review and evaluation," she said.
The fund, which had earlier come under heavy criticism for the slow pace of decisions and small number of payments made, expanded staff over 2014 from 75 to 103. It also has worked more closely with lawyers and individuals to find ways to expedite claims.
Because claims "are not simple," Birnbaum said, staff has been added to do outreach and to work with lawyers representing claimants. Other initiatives include expanding informational letters to tell people just what data they need to submit.
Birnbaum also said, as of Thursday, claim data on the fund's website will be updated weekly and give breakdowns on awards for "personal injury or death, cancer or noncancer condition, and include economic and/or noneconomic loss."
Out of the total 18,148 claims that have been submitted, the fund has deemed 9,677 to be eligible for compensation so far, the status report said. Last year at this time, 12,183 claims had been filed with 4,294 approved.
"The numbers are getting better and better," said John Feal, founder of the responders' advocacy group FealGood Foundation. "We've seen improvement, but we're not at our goal yet" of compensating all who are eligible.
The fund allocates $2.775 billion for compensating individuals. The filing deadline is Oct. 3, 2016.