Today, a judiciary hearing was held in the New York State Assembly to evaluate legislation proposed by Pitta & Baione to benefit the 9/11 community that is still suffering from horrible cancers, lung diseases, and respiratory illnesses to this day. This is in furtherance of Pitta & Baione’s commitment to provide meaningful justice for our 9/11 victims and the family of our deceased victims. We have made significant investments in our internal structure to meet the needs of our clients and continue our legislative efforts to change the law for the benefit of our victims and family.
Over the years, Pitta & Baione’s attorneys have closely monitored the needs of our 9/11 victims and the surviving family members. There are two major issues the firm had identified: (1) the need for estate planning or government benefits planning once a 9/11 award is issued; and (2) handling the estate issues of a deceased victim. While Pitta & Baione is well-known for its excellence in the field of 9/11 compensation, the firm was not able to directly assist with those issues until 2019 when Lian Kuang-Maoga, Esq. joined the team. Through experience, Pitta & Baione knows that having an attorney in-house to handle those issues is another way for the firm to improve the experience of our clients while handling this uniquely difficult process.
Lian Kuang-Maoga, Esq.’s skills and experience in the areas of Elder Law, Trust and Estates, Probate and Estate Administration and now 9/11 compensation made her a tremendous asset to our clients. For those clients who are interested in estate planning after receiving an award or those who are concerned about dying before an award is issued, Lian Kuang-Maoga, Esq. can assist in the planning and preparation of legal documents such as Health Care Proxy, Power of Attorney, Last Will and Testament, and trusts.
For those victims (or beneficiaries of deceased victims), who are in receipt of various government benefits and are concerned about the impact of the receipt of any funds, Lian Kuang-Maoga, Esq. can review the benefits eligibility and advise on the options. For the survivors of deceased victims, Lian Kuang-Maoga, Esq. can assist in the estate issues such as the initial application to the court for a personal representative of the estate to pursue the 9/11 claim.
Also, towards the end, after an award is issued, Lian Kuang-Maoga, Esq., can assist in an application to the court for an order to allow the distribution of the award. She is able to help surviving family members understand the intricate rules of allocation relating to the distribution of the 9/11 award. Lian Kuang-Maoga, Esq.’s ability to speak Cantonese, Mandarin, and Taishanese is a bonus to our Chinese-speaking clients and their families.
Besides continuing efforts to improve our internal structure, Pitta & Baione again presented a set of proposed changes to the law to the legislature for the Session 2021-2022. The proposed changes seek to address three main issues that Pitta & Baione had identified: (1) eliminate impact of the award on essential government benefits that a victim might be receiving, (2) protect the victim’s compensation from judgment creditors, and; (3) simplifying administrative process and minimizing administrative delay in New York Surrogate’s Court.
To have meaningful justice, the receipt of a 9/11 award, as a compensation for victims of a crime, should not negatively impact the continuing eligibility for other government benefits that a victim may be receiving and should not be subject to monetary judgements against the victim. For example, the Senior Rent Increase Exemption is a benefit received by many New Yorkers. The receipt of the award should not be considered as income which would impact the continuing eligibility of the benefit. Regarding judgement creditors of the victim, the receipt of the 9/11 award should be used to satisfy those judgements because the award should be exempt as crime victim’s reparation.
Lastly, family members of deceased victims who lived in New York State are often shocked that after an award is issued by the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund (VCF) the funds could not be released for another year to one-and-a-half to two years. This is due to the additional step of having to make an application to the court with jurisdiction of the victim’s estate, the Surrogate’s court, and requesting approval of the settlement and proposed distribution of the award.
Once the court issues an order with its approval, the order is submitted to the VCF, then the VCF will take additional months to finally release the funds. The Surrogate’s court is charged with the responsibility of protecting all parties to an estate therefore is uniquely able to handle the issues relating to who is entitled to an award issued to a deceased victim. However, Pitta & Baione has identified a few areas that can help simplify the administrative process and minimize administrative delay in the Surrogate’s court which will help relieve some administrative burden on the court and the family to be able to see the compensation far sooner.
Our proposed changes are designed with our clients in mind to deliver much needed closure to grieving families as soon as possible. We will continue to provide updates as our efforts progress.
Contact Pitta & Baione Today For a Free Consultation
If you believe you are eligible to pursue a 9/11 wrongful death claim on behalf of a lost loved one, now is the time to act to discuss your situation with the 9/11 lawyers of Pitta & Baione. Lian Kuang-Maoga has proven she has the skill, dedication, and experience to help clients whose loved ones were 9/11 survivors and first responders. To find out how Ms. Kuang-Maoga and her fellow 9/11 lawyers at Pitta & Baione can help you, reach out to our office today by calling to schedule your free consultation. You may also contact us by calling (212) 210-1775.