More COVID-19 Vaccine Injuries Approved for Compensation; Injured Still Waiting for Payouts

More COVID-19 Vaccine Injuries Approved for Compensation; Injured Still Waiting for Payouts
COVID-19 vaccines in a file photograph. (Joseph Prezioso/AFP via Getty Images)
Zachary Stieber
2/28/2023
Updated:
3/21/2023
0:00

More than a dozen COVID-19 vaccine injury claims have now been approved by U.S. authorities, but none of the injured have received compensation.

The U.S. government’s Countermeasures Injury Compensation Program has approved claims from 19 people, ruling that they proved their injuries were caused by the vaccines. The approvals are through Feb. 1.
All 19 injured people are eligible for compensation but none have received a payout yet, according to the program.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Health Resources and Services Administration, which runs the program, did not respond to a request for comment.

In 17 of the cases, a COVID-19 vaccine caused myocarditis, a form of heart inflammation, pericarditis, a related condition, or both. One of the remaining approvals was for severe allergic shock and one was for a type of skin swelling called angioedema.

On its website, the administration says that for claims that have been approved and are pending compensation, officials are either waiting for documentation to determine how much the injured will be paid, or it has already received enough information but has not completed a benefits determination.

“Approving claims but not actually compensating injured people is no different than denying claims,” Renee Gentry, a lawyer who represents some people who have filed claims but have not been approved, told The Epoch Times in an email.

“These people don’t need moral victories. They need their medical bills paid for and their loss of income reimbursed. That can really only happen in the VICP,” Gentry added.

Emergency Authorization Shifts Payments

Most people injured by vaccines in the United States can file claims in the Vaccine Injury Compensation Program, or VICP. The cases are adjudicated in the U.S. Court of Federal Claims, and regularly result in payments. The program was authorized by Congress in the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act of 1986. That law shielded vaccine manufacturers from liability for most vaccines. The U.S. government makes the payments, and has paid $4.9 billion to VICP applicants through 2021.

VICP applicants don’t always have to prove causation. About 60 percent of the compensation was awarded as a result of a settlement between the government and the applicant.

Many of the claims lead to rulings by one of eight special masters. The rulings are published for the public to peruse.

Because they were authorized during a public health emergency, COVID-19 vaccine claims are made to the Countermeasures Injury Compensation Program, or CICP.

Each applicant to the CICP must prove a “causal connection” between the vaccine and a serious physical injury, or death, according to the federal rule (pdf) declaring an emergency for COVID-19, which was entered during the Trump administration. The connection “must be supported by compelling, reliable, valid, medical and scientific evidence in order for the individual to be considered for compensation.” The rule also deemed manufacturers not liable unless the injury or death was found to be “caused by willful misconduct.”

There are key differences between the VICP and CICP.

Instead of special masters, the CICP itself decides whether to approve claims. Instead of releasing decisions for public perusal, the CICP decisions are not released, and Freedom of Information Act requests have thus far failed to shed much light on the process. CICP decisions cannot be appealed, unlike VICP.

A narrower set of benefits is also available to people whose claims are approved. For those who survived their injury, they can only receive medical expenses that aren’t reimbursed and up to $50,000 a year in lost income. Family members of dead people may be eligible for survivor death benefits.

Researchers have said housing the vaccine compensation program inside the Department of Health and Human Services, which also authorizes and recommends vaccines, is a potential “conflict of interest” and that it has major weaknesses such as its lack of transparency.
Congress could greenlight moving the COVID-19 vaccines to the VICP, but would need to clear an excise tax for them first. COVID-19 vaccines would also need to be added to the vaccine injury table (pdf). VICP already has a backlog of thousands of cases. The first step, adding the vaccines to the routine immunization schedule, has already been done.

“COVID-19 will be added to the VICP. It is not a matter of if but when,” Mark Sadaka, a lawyer who has helped people file COVID-19 vaccine injury claims, told The Epoch Times via email.

“That’s not what we’re hearing. I hope it’s true,” Gentry said. “But, right now there’s pushback on adding it. And I think if it’s added it will only be the future doses and not anyone injured by a prior version. But it’s all speculative right now.”

Attempts to Improve

Some members of Congress have moved to improve the system.
A Senate bill introduced in the previous Congress, for example, would have established a temporary commission to identify injuries caused by COVID-19 vaccines and forced health officials to include the injuries on the vaccine injury table, which can speed up the adjudication of claims. The legislation did not make it out of the Senate Health Committee.

Critics say the CICP needs fixing. Out of more than 8,000 claims of COVID-19 vaccine injury or death, under 100 have been adjudicated. Seventy have been rejected.

“I will work with my colleagues in the 118th to improve this flawed program,” Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Miss.), a co-sponsor of the bill, told The Epoch Times in an emailed statement. “It concerns me how a program designed to help takes months and years to answer claims. These people who have been adversely affected deserve to be assisted in a timely and transparent manner.”

Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) was also a sponsor of the legislation.

“Senator Johnson understands the first step in making sure the vaccine injured are compensated is getting federal agencies and the medical establishment to admit that COVID-19 vaccine injuries are real. Once vaccine injuries are acknowledged, he plans to assess all possible avenues to get support and compensation for the vaccine injured. It is completely unacceptable that the federal government and others imposed mandates and simultaneously refuse to acknowledge and compensate those harmed by them,” Corinne Day, a spokeswoman for the senator, told The Epoch Times in an email.

Pressed during a recent meeting on how long the process is taking, Dr. George Reed Grimes, the official in charge of the Department of Health and Human Services’ Division of Injury Compensation Programs, said that “we wholeheartedly agree that expeditious processing of claims is of paramount importance.”

“We have been processing claims as expeditiously as possible,” he said, “and fully agree that we'll continue that effort moving forward.”

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