Message from Special Master Rupa Bhattacharyya
We have recently received a number of reports from our colleagues at the WTC Health Program and individual Clinical Centers of Excellence (CCEs) concerning claimants and counsel engaging in practices that are counterproductive and create unnecessary strains on the program, the centers, and the staff. This includes the following problematic practices:
- Creating a false sense of urgency and fostering fear among claimants who are seeking certification solely for VCF purposes that they will risk losing their right to receive VCF compensation if the WTC Health Program CCE does not schedule an appointment in the immediate future (untrue because registration preserves the right to file a VCF claim in the future and certification is not required to register).
- Advising claimants to contact the WTC Health Program CCEs and exaggerate the severity of their conditions so that the WTC Health Program will prioritize their appointment.
- Encouraging claimants to call individual CCEs regularly and leave as many messages as possible in an effort to expedite their appointment.
- Calling the WTC Health Program Helpline to try to schedule appointments at individual CCEs before the claimant has been enrolled in the WTC Health Program.
- Sending claimants to their WTC Health Program appointments without the medical records needed for the CCE physicians to appropriately evaluate whether there is a medical basis to certify a claimed condition.
- Advising claimants that the value of a VCF award is tied to the number of conditions certified, and that each specific diagnosis will result in a larger award – which the VCF has repeatedly advised is not true.
- Encouraging claimants to seek certification of additional conditions that would yield no medical benefit from the WTC Health Program (i.e., because the condition is within the same “care suite” and therefore is already covered for treatment) and no financial benefit from the VCF (i.e., because the additional condition would not warrant an increase in the compensation award).
- Requesting that the treating physician or the CCE provide a letter to the claimant listing all certifications, in addition to the certification letter the WTC Health Program issues to its members.
We work very closely with our WTC Health Program colleagues and we value tremendously our partnership with them in serving the 9/11 community. In order to best serve this community, however, we need your help in ensuring that the doctors, nurses, social workers, and other WTC Health Program staff are able to focus on their program’s mission: providing monitoring and treatment services to their patients. Responding to unmeritorious requests to prioritize appointments or to certify new conditions already covered for treatment in order to support a VCF claim is a distraction from this mission and a disservice to the larger community and those who follow the practices, policies and procedures of our sister program. Please refrain from engaging in these and other practices that take the attention of the WTC Health Program staff away from its important work in providing high-quality medical care to individuals impacted by 9/11.
We rely on you to fully and responsibly advise your clients of the policies and procedures of the VCF and WTC Health Program. If you have questions about issues that you believe have not been addressed on our website or in communications and meetings with law firms, please contact our Law Firm Outreach Team (Peter Offen and Catherine Doctor) or the VCF Helpline.
We just posted a new document to the website called "Just the Facts" which is intended to address some of the common misperceptions about the VCF, including those that involve the intersection with the WTC Health Program. We encourage you to read it and share it with your clients.
Thank you, Rupa