Families of Uniformed Victims Are Urged to File 9/11 Claims


Federal and city officials said yesterday that they would reach out to relatives of the city's uniformed forces who lost family members in the Sept. 11 terror attack and encourage them to file claims with the victims' compensation fund.

Fewer than half of the families who lost relatives in the attack have filed claims with the fund so far, and the number is even lower among the families of the police officers, firefighters and other uniformed officers who were killed or injured on Sept. 11, the officials said.

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg met yesterday with Kenneth R. Feinberg, the federally appointed lawyer who oversees the fund, to discuss ways to encourage families to apply for compensation before the Dec. 22 deadline.

According to the city's figures, 2,792 people died or were reported missing in the World Trade Center attack, including 343 firefighters and more than 60 police officers, Port Authority police officers and emergency workers. But Mr. Feinberg said that the fund had received only 48 death claims from the families of uniformed officers, or about 11 percent of those eligible, compared with an application rate of 42 percent for all families nationwide.

In addition, 260 claims for injuries were filed on behalf of uniformed officers, about 20 percent of those eligible, he said.

Mr. Feinberg said that he planned to meet this month with families across the New York City metropolitan area, and that he would place advertisements in local newspapers. He also said that he hoped to work with the lawyers who represent many of the victims' families.

Mr. Feinberg said he tells the families: "Do not compound this tragedy. There are small children here who survive, elderly parents who need help. This is tax-free money that can begin in a small way, only in a small way but in an important way, to bring some degree of closure to these families."

Mayor Bloomberg said that the families of uniformed officers would fare better from the fund than from suing the city.

"Most lawyers think that they would not win and it would be a 10-year litigation period," the mayor said, adding that if they applied to the victims' fund, "they can get their money right away."

Michael Block, a lawyer who represents about 70 families of firefighters who died in the trade center attack, said that he expected nearly all of his clients to apply to the fund by the end of October.

He said that calculating damages took time, and that families had been waiting for the firefighters' wage increases to be finalized in contract negotiations last spring to calculate lost earnings and benefits.

There was also general reluctance to be first, he said, with many people waiting to see what type of award would be given out by the fund before submitting a claim.

Representatives of the Uniformed Firefighters Association did not return telephone calls. The New York City Patrolmen's Benevolent Association declined to comment.

Christy Ferer, who is Mayor Bloomberg's liaison to the families of Sept. 11 victims, said that some families had also delayed applying because they were still coming to terms with their grief. Ms. Ferer's husband, Neil D. Levin, the executive director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, was killed on Sept. 11.

"I myself am just going to try to file this month," she said.