The 9/11 Health Compensation Fund handed out its first payments recently to World Trade Center first-responders with illnesses, but officials worry that estimated compensation for all eligible victims could easily grow to triple the allotted sum.

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The $2.8-billion fund will assist those suffering a physical disability or illness from the attacks on Sept. 11. An actuarial calculation projects that if as many as 26,475 people applied by the October 2016 deadline, the costs could rise to more than $8.5 billion. So far, about 16,000 have registered, but only 2,500 have submitted eligibility forms.

Sheila Birnbaum, special master of the fund, said most filing claims are missing affidavits confirming their presence at the attack sites or related venues. That's important, even if it delays the payments. With so many victims and a limited pot, this has to be done right.