The U.S. Victims of State Sponsored Terrorism Fund was established in 2015 to compensate people injured in acts of international state-sponsored terrorism. It allocated about $3.3 billion in payments across three rounds—in 2017, 2019, and 2020.
Certain 9/11 victims, spouses, and dependents became eligible for the Fund in 2019. Legislation in 2020 required us to estimate the amount of "catch-up" payments—lump sums for newly eligible groups to align with payments that other 9/11 family members got in rounds 1 and 2. Such catch-up payments would still require authorization in law.
We estimated that these payments would total about $2.7 billion.
What GAO Found
GAO estimated that lump sum catch-up payments to 5,364 9/11 victims, spouses, and dependents would total about $2.7 billion. This amount would result in the proportion of payments provided for claims submitted by 9/11 victims, spouses, and dependents to be equal to the proportion of payments provided for claims submitted by 9/11 family members (for example, a nondependent sibling or parent). GAO estimated that the amount of payments that 9/11 family members received (about $1.2 billion), as a percentage of their net eligible claims during the first two rounds of the Fund distributions (about $19.7 billion), was 5.8573 percent. GAO applied the percentage to the net eligible claims of 9/11 victims, spouses, and dependents (about $45.3 billion) to estimate the lump sum catch-up payments.
GAO also estimated that, if authorized, lump sum catch-up payments to these 5,364 9/11 victims, spouses, and dependents would vary widely based on their net eligible claims and other factors, such as court awarded compensation related to the act of international terrorism that gave rise to a claimant's final judgement. Below is a summary of how estimated lump sum catch-up payments could vary across all groups:
- Victims: The minimum amount is $45,056 and maximum amount is $1,171,460, with an average of $445,634;
- Spouses: The minimum amount is $281,601 and maximum amount is $732,163, with an average of $675,423; and
- Dependents: The minimum amount is $179,644 and maximum amount is $497,871, with an average of $432,303.
Why GAO Did This Study
In 2015, the Justice for United States Victims of State Sponsored Terrorism Act (Terrorism Act) was enacted, which established the United States Victims of State Sponsored Terrorism Fund (Fund) to provide compensation for persons injured in acts of international state-sponsored terrorism. The Fund, which is administered by the Special Master and supported by U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) personnel, has allocated approximately $3.3 billion in three payment rounds, which began in 2017, 2019, and 2020. In 2019, the United States Victims of State Sponsored Terrorism Fund Clarification Act amended the groups of individuals who were eligible to claim payments from the Fund. These changes affected the amounts that 9/11 victims, spouses, and dependents could claim from the Fund, compared with 9/11 family members.
The Sudan Claims Resolution Act includes provisions for GAO to (1) estimate lump sum catch-up payments to eligible 9/11 victims, spouses, and dependents, that would result in the percentage of claims received from the Fund being equal to the percentage of claims of 9/11 family members received from the Fund; and (2) estimate amounts of lump sum catch-up payments for 9/11 victims, spouses, and dependents. To conduct this work, GAO reviewed relevant documents, interviewed DOJ officials who support the Fund, and analyzed Fund data. In March 2021 and June 2021, GAO published Federal Register notices requesting public comments on GAO's methodology for calculating lump sum catch-up payments and estimated lump sum catch-up payments.