Fund Chief: Changes Possible

terror victims fund Kenneth Feinberg Jan. 16 Princeton NJ meeting with relatives AP

The man in charge of the government's September 11th Victims Compensation Fund tells CBS News Correspondent Peter Maer he's considering changes in the "payout" procedure.

The deadline for submitting comments on the plan is Tuesday, and the final guidelines are expected to be released as early as February.

With the plan under fire from New York Governor George Pataki, Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, and some of the victims, attorney Kenneth Feinberg said, "in certain areas dealing with computations and eligibility criteria, I think we may very well make some adjustments."

However, in the exclusive interview at the White House, Feinberg denied claims that some people could receive no benefits. He also rejected suggestions that victims would fare better in the courts.

The fund's present rules subtract compensation from life insurance policies and pension funds. Families of World Trade Center victims and survivors say that severely limits the amount of money they can receive.

"They shouldn't penalize him because he had insurance," said Anthony Licciardi, whose brother, Ralph, died in the trade center attack.

Ralph Licciardi, an electrician, had two children and a wife.

Congress approved the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund as part of a bailout bill for the airline industry. The fund is intended to cover lost wages and victims' pain and suffering.

Victims of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and their families are eligible. Relatives and victims of the terrorist attacks must decide whether to accept compensation from the federal government or seek damages through the courts.

Feinberg told CBS Radio News his biggest problem is "the emotional reaction." He says the plan was established so soon after Sept. 11 that there's been no opportunity for the emotions to ease.

"These regulations do not do justice," Pataki said at a rally Thursday night with victims' families. "They are not appropriate."

Blumenthal takes issue with one rule defining victims who suffer physical harm in the attacks. Under the rule, a victim must have received medical treatment within 24 hours of the attack or within 24 hours after being rescued.

"I've spoken to families who have been very tragically and deeply hurt by the losses of loved ones and who feel these rules don't do justice," Blumenthal said Monday. "I feel there is a wrong that has to be righted and there is still time to do it."

In a letter to Kenneth L. Zwick, a U.S. Department of Justice official overseeing the fund, Blumenthal suggests more leeway in the threshold for someone who was a victim.

"There may be circumstances where a person was not treated within 24 hours of rescue or injury due to the confusion existing at that time," Blumenthal wrote.


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