VCF Update - Non-Economic Loss Claims and Appeals for Non-Cancer Conditions
The VCF has further revised its policy with regard to non-economic loss claims for non-cancer conditions, and our ability to appeal those awards.
Since the VCF was reauthorized last year, claims for non-cancer conditions have routinely been awarded the lowest possible amount, absent medical records to support the severity of the condition. Chronic rhinosinusitis has typically been awarded $10,000, and aerodigestive disorders (GERD, Asthma, Sleep Apnea) bring the award up to $20,000. The conditions that (up until last year) had been presumptively treated as severe (COPD, Chronic Bronchitis, Barrett's Esophagus) are also typically awarded $20,000.
When we are able to provide medical evidence in support of these claims, the awards have been as high as $40,000. We have not seen a single award for more than $40,000 (for these types of conditions), since the VCF was reauthorized. Further, the presence of non-cancer conditions, even those with significant impact on claimants' quality of life, have not enhanced cancer claims that were otherwise awarded $250,000.
The appeals process has been frustrating. Appeals typically take several months to resolve, and we have seen only modest increases, with no awards higher than $40,000. Up until recently, the VCF has allowed us to submit additional medical evidence in support of our appeals, but will no longer. Award letters issued the past week do not even give us the opportunity to appeal, unless medical records were previously provided as part of the claim. Accordingly, we strongly recommend that our clients provide us with any relevant medical records, including test results, treatment notes, operative reports and prescription records, so that we can incorporate that evidence into the claim and hopefully see higher awards.
Medical evidence can be sent to our office by email to firstname.lastname@example.org, or by fax to (212) 766-6200. Our mail service has been inconsistent due to the pandemic, so please refrain from mailing medical records until we are able to return to the office.
While these awards are dramatically lower than they once were, the trade off is that the VCF has been extended through our lifetimes. Non-cancer conditions have been radically devalued, but claimants can rest assured that they and their families are protected going forward in the event they are diagnosed with cancer.
If you have any questions regarding your claim, please feel free to contact me by email at email@example.com.