WASHINGTON D.C. -- February 1, 2002 -- An American Bar Association (ABA) task force on terrorism has both praised and critiqued the interim final rules announced by Special Master Kenneth Feinberg for the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund. Applauding the "significant time, effort and energy" expended in creating the rules, the group commended the attempt to have victims receive prompt full compensation for their losses.
According to the task force, however, some rules are ambiguous and conflict with congressional intent. It presents these problems and objections:
- Proposed limits on damages represent "an unauthorized exercise of power." They cast doubt on the individualized decision-making goals of the Fund program.
- Presumed awards for non-economic losses of $250,000 per deceased victim plus $50,000 for the spouse and each dependent also negate the individualized, claim-by-claim system intended by Congress.
- Few rescue workers are likely to receive benefits because of the deduction of collateral source compensation.
- Victims who sustained very serious injuries and survived will receive less compensation than will the estates of those who died.
- Requiring claimants to waive their litigation rights in order to collect immediate advance payments ranging up to $50,000 is harsh and unfairly targets the most needy.
- Although the Special Master will not deduct money received from charity from a victim's compensation, he also should not deduct life insurance proceeds from pain and suffering awards.
- Fraud and interrogation functions should be separate from the work of hearing officers. To do otherwise would undermine public trust and the legitimacy of the Fund program.