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June 16th, 2004, 01:10 AM

June 15, 2004

With one day to go before the deadline, the fund set up to compensate victims of 9/11 has paid out close to $6 billion more than $3 billion more than its overseer's original estimate.

The Sept. 11th Victim Compensation Fund, which closes at midnight in accordance with a congressional mandate, has authorized $5.9 billion in payments to the families of injured or killed World Trade Center workers.

Fund workers still have hundreds of claims to finalize before the deadline, said Kenneth Feinberg, the special master overseeing it.

"We will be working right up until midnight," said Feinberg.

Last year, Feinberg had said that the fund would likely pay $2 billion to $3 billion to victims and families who accept the settlement in exchange for not suing airlines or other U.S. companies that may have been negligent before the terror attacks.

"It had all the ingredients of a monumental failure it has been an extraordinary program," said John Bailey, head of Trial Lawyers Care, which provided free legal services.

Feinberg was initially criticized by some families, who were offended by government formulas that placed widely different dollar values on different victims based on their expected annual income.

The average death payment is $2 million.

"At the start, people were . . . looking for a bogeyman, and Ken Feinberg was there but his heart has always been in the right place," Bailey said.

[b]In the end, about 98 percent of the families of those killed signed on with the fund.

Roughly 100 lawsuits are going forward against U.S. companies for failing to prevent the attacks.

Copyright 2004 NYP Holdings, Inc.

June 16th, 2004, 01:30 AM
New York Times
June 16, 2004

After Weighing Cost of Lives, 9/11 Fund Completes Its Task


Kenneth R. Feinberg, the administrator of the Sept. 11 Victim Compensation Fund, reported to President Bush in the Oval Office yesterday.

Nearly three years after establishing a fund to compensate the families of Sept. 11 victims, the federal government said yesterday that it had completed the task and that it would end up paying more than 5,000 families almost $7 billion.

To mark the end of the program, the fund's administrator, Kenneth R. Feinberg, met with President Bush and Attorney General John Ashcroft yesterday afternoon at the White House. In an interview afterward, Mr. Feinberg said the president praised the program for giving the families the full compensation to which they were legally entitled.

It was a bittersweet coda to a program that hovered, day after day for a total of 997 days, as a sad and sometimes numbing reminder of the awkward and difficult process by which the families and the government decided how much the lives and the injuries were worth.

On Sept. 22, 2001, Congress created the Sept. 11 Victim Compensation Fund without any financial cap as part of an airline bailout package, and as a fast and, it hoped, less painful alternative to lawsuits. In exchange for giving up their right to sue, which some lawyers argued could be a draining and risky option, relatives of dead victims were told that the average payment would be about $1.5 million, tax free, after deductions for life insurance and other possible benefits.

The fund got off to a slow start, plagued by criticism of rules governing eligibility to apply and how the financial calculations would be made, as well as an overwhelming sense of grief among victims' families. Just a month before the application deadline, Dec. 22, 2003, only 60 percent of those eligible for death benefits had filed claims. The rate was so sluggish that New York members of Congress pushed for a one-year extension.

As the deadline approached, hundreds rushed to file, pushing the final application rate to 97 percent of the 2,973 families of the dead who were eligible. In what Mr. Feinberg said was a sign of the fund's success, only 70 lawsuits were filed against the airlines, while 30 or so families filed neither a lawsuit nor an application with the fund.

"When you have about two-thirds of all the physical injury claims not coming in until the last 45 days and 40 percent of the death claims, the magnitude of getting this completed fairly and consistently by the June 15 deadline was a difficult challenge, but we did it," Mr. Feinberg said.

By yesterday, Mr. Feinberg's office said that 2,878 families had received, or were about to receive, compensation on behalf of dead victims that averaged almost $2.1 million per family. The lowest individual payment was $250,000 and the high was $7.1 million.

In addition, 2,675 of the 4,430 who filed injury claims were to be compensated; of those, 1,919 were rescue workers at ground zero or the Pentagon. The range of those payments was from $500 to $8.7 million.

In all, Mr. Feinberg said, the government would spend approximately $6.9 billion on the fund, roughly $1 billion of which would go to injured victims. But the fund was more than just a blur of statistics about economic loss; it was also an intense emotional experience for thousands of people.

There were families who filed early because they wanted to get the process over with and move on. There were families who were so paralyzed by grief that they barely applied in time. There were families, too, that squabbled bitterly and endlessly over who would speak for the dead and who would get to share the awards.

There were lawyers and accountants, in New York and around the country, who wanted to contribute to the healing process in a post-9/11 world. Some assisted families without pay. Others did it for a reduced commission.

And there was Mr. Feinberg himself, who had previously mediated complex compensation disputes like the legal claims involving the effects of the Agent Orange defoliant used in the Vietnam War. Mr. Feinberg said he had never encountered the kind of raw and bottomless pain that consumed many 9/11 families.

"I underestimated the emotion caused by the horror," said Mr. Feinberg, who was also not paid for his work on the fund.

To sift through the claims during the surge in 11th-hour filings, Mr. Feinberg leaned increasingly in recent months on a temporary staff that included close to 250 people from assorted federal agencies and PricewaterhouseCoopers, the accounting firm. to Mr. Feinberg, alone, was the final arbiter.

In the last two weeks, hundreds of injured victims who said they had suffered respiratory illnesses at ground zero made last-minute claims. By midnight last night, all decisions were final, and the fund was officially shut down, save for a few hundred checks to be mailed out.

Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company

June 18th, 2004, 11:24 AM

By Gersh Kuntzman
June 18, 2004

For Marian Fontana of Brooklyn, accepting a settlement from the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund was a deal with the devil.

The widow of firefighter Dave Fontana (pictured at bottom left of photo of his widow) is, of course, grateful for the nearly $1 million she received as compensation for his death. But she's still angry about the process.

"I don't think it's an accident that the deadline to file a claim was Dec. 22, 2003, and then, all of a sudden, in January, all these documents about 9/11 started coming to light," she said. "I would have liked to see a conclusion to the 9/11 commission investigation before deciding whether to file for compensation or sue. But I didn't have a choice."

By creating the compensation fund, Fontana said, Congress has set a precedent for future attacks.

"People say we're so lucky to be compensated, but what they don't realize is that if something happens to them someday, they'll be as limited as we are in finding out what actually happened," Fontana said.

"It's not the money for me I married a firefighter, so you know money isn't important to me. It's about finding out why this happened and how it can be avoided in the future."

Copyright 2004 NYP Holdings, Inc.

June 18th, 2004, 11:26 AM

By Dan Mangan
June 18, 2004

After Charles Wolf's wife, Katharine, died at the World Trade Center, he became a leading critic of the 9/11 compensation fund.

Wolf even set up a Web site dubbed "Fix the Fund" to attack what he called overseer Kenneth Feinberg's stinginess.

"I was reluctant to get in the fund because I thought it wasn't going to be fair," said Wolf.

Then, "we won, basically. Ken's demeanor and attitude turned around . . . He did a 180. He finished up running things like he was supposed to."

Wolf, 50, ended up pushing fellow survivors to apply to the fund. "Ken listened," he said.

Wolf lost his wife a 40-year-old classically trained pianist who also was his business partner after 12 years of marriage.

On 9/11, she was a new employee for the Marsh & McLennan investment firm.

Now he's on the verge of receiving a payout from the 9/11 fund. He did not disclose the amount.

"I'm going to invest the money either in an apartment or invest it to generate income," said Wolf, who has lived for years in a Greenwich Village studio.

Copyright 2004 NYP Holdings, Inc.

June 18th, 2004, 11:27 AM

June 18, 2004

A financial analyst who worked blocks away from Ground Zero on 9/11 and claimed he could not return to his job because of post-traumatic-stress disorder cannot collect workers' compensation, a state appeals court ruled yesterday.

The state Supreme Court Appellate Division unanimously ruled that Joseph Betro's problems did not arise from his job, noting that he voluntarily hung around to watch the tragedy unfolding.

Betro was working for Salomon Smith Barney, four blocks from the World Trade Center, when his building was evacuated after the terrorist attacks.

According to court papers, Betro did not witness the first jet fly into the north tower, but learned of the incident from co-workers.

After he made a "safe and uneventful evacuation" from his building, Betro walked about 50 feet to a side street "in order to better observe the destruction," the documents show.

Betro's lawyer, Mark Lewis Schulman, said his client is paying too stiff a price for watching the destruction.

"They seem to indicate that because he took a 50-foot diversion to see what was going on on a day that seemed like the end of the world, that his injuries were not compensative," he said.

Copyright 2004 NYP Holdings, Inc.

June 23rd, 2004, 09:04 AM

July 13th, 2004, 03:36 PM

July 13, 2004

Doug Copp's payout from the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund is not the first to be referred to the Justice Department for investigation, The Post has learned.

A number of other cases have been "deemed suspicious" and are either under investigation or have been resolved, according to an official familiar with the probes.

The official would provide no details about the questionable claims, or provide any numbers on how much money had been improperly paid out.

He would say only that "less than a dozen" of the more than 7,000 claims received had been forwarded to the Justice Department's special fraud unit for investigation.

The same unit is expected to look into Copp's claim at the behest of Rep. Tom Udall (D-N.M.).

A Justice Department spokesman stressed that the 9/11 claims which resulted in $7 billion in awards to 9/11 victims were thoroughly scrutinized by the fund's special master, Kenneth Feinberg, and his staff.

"They did an absolutely incredible job under almost impossible circumstances," Mark Corallo said.

"That there may have been people out there trying to fraudulently cash in on this tragedy is disgraceful. But there were some people who did try," he said.

Under guidelines set by Congress for fund claims filed by rescue workers, applicants had to provide:

* Proof of their physical injuries.

* Proof that the injuries were suffered at the World Trade Center site within 96 hours of the two terrorist strikes no later than 9 a.m. on Sept. 15.

* Proof that medical treatment was sought for those injuries within three days although Feinberg was empowered to make exceptions to this rule.

* Proof that hospitalization was required, or that the injuries caused partial or total physical disability, incapacity or disfigurement.

Copyright 2004 NYP Holdings, Inc.