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What Does That Mean? The Alphabet Soup of the NVICP?

Lawyers frequently use highly specific terminology, referred to as “legalese”, that can make it hard to understand what they’re really saying. When it comes to the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program (NVICP), there is the additional challenge of being in a federal program in Washington DC, where using acronyms (like “NVICP”) as short-hand is routine. Below are some common acronyms used in the NVICP.

CFC: US Court of Federal Claims. The Court of Federal Claims is authorized to hear primarily money claims founded upon the Constitution, federal statutes, executive regulations, or contracts, express or implied in fact, with the United States. The CFC has jurisdiction over vaccine injury claims via the Office of Special Masters (OSM). You will likely hear your attorney refer to the Special Masters more often than the Court of Federal Claims. However, first level appeals of vaccine decisions go the CFC judges, so you may hear that as well.

CICP: Countermeasures Injury Compensation Program. The Covid-19 vaccine and associated injuries is currently restricted to the CICP. As of this date – your only remedy for an injury from a Covid-19 vaccine is to file an application for benefits in the CICP. There are significant differences between the CICP and the NVICP. Unlike the NVICP, the CICP is not a judicial process. You have no right to an attorney, no right to appeal. There is also no pain & suffering in the CICP. Further, in the CICP you must file your claim within 1 year of the date of vaccination.

DOJ: Department of Justice. Vaccine injury cases are claims against the US Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS). In cases like this the Secretary is represented by DOJ attorneys. They are our opposing counsel.

HITECH: The Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act. We will ask you to sign a HITECH form when you become a client. It is one of two forms (the other being a HIPAA form) that will allow us to request your complete medical record, which is required as part of your claim. The HITECH form allows us to request records in electronic format. Most providers agree to this. Some still require the HIPAA form or a form their facility has provided. You may end up having to sign multiple HIPAA forms to get the medical records.

HIPAA: The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA). A HIPAA form is another version of a medical records request form that many health care providers require. You will be asked to sign a HIPAA form as well as a HITECH form to ensure we can get the complete medical record required for your claim.

HHS: Health and Human Services. HHS is a department of the US Government. The Secretary is appointed by the President. HHS’ responsibilities involve the health and well-being of Americans. Vaccine claims are filed against the Secretary of HHS.

HRSA: Health Resources and Services Administration. HRSA is an agency within HHS that administers both the NVICP and the CICP. Once we file a petition, medical reviewers within HRSA review the claim and give an opinion as to whether or not it should be compensated. They do not have the final say, however, they are simply giving the Secretary’s position. While they administer the Program they are the opposing side.

NVICP: National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program. The NVICP is where you file all vaccine injury claims related to covered vaccines. A detailed explanation of the NVICP can be found here.

OSM: Office of Special Masters. This is the Vaccine Court. There are 8 special masters who are appointed by CFC judges for 4 year terms, which are frequently renewed on an ongoing basis. The Special Masters act as the judicial officer in your case. They are our versions of judges – although they are not judges. They will make the decision whether or not you were injured by the vaccine and the amount of any compensation you will receive.

PAR: Pre-Assignment Review. In an effort to address ongoing substantial delays, the OSM implemented a process called the Pre-Assignment Review or PAR process. Essentially, the PAR process suspends deadlines at the beginning of the case until the OSM staff determine that Petitioner has filed a complete petition along with their affidavit and complete medical records (for an adult this means all records, related and unrelated to the vaccine injury, from three years prior to the injury to the present), and that they have met all the jurisdictional requirements. Once we have done so, and filed a statement of completion, the OSM will activate the case and “assign” it to either the Chief Special Master’s docket if it is a Table injury or quasi-Table injury or to another special master if it is any other injury. This starts the clock on the deadlines for opposing counsel. The PAR process includes having a client fill out a PAR Questionnaire, which is primarily a list of medical providers that will be used to ensure all records are filed. You must fill out this questionnaire and sign it so that it may be filed with the Court.

QAIs: Qualifications and Aids to Interpretation. The QAIs relate to Table injuries, such as SIRVA. In order to qualify for a Table injury (meaning you get a presumption of causation), you must not only have the covered vaccine and the reaction occurred within the timing listed on the Table, your injury must fit the definitions in the QAIs. Even if your doctor diagnoses you with a SIRVA – you may still fail to meet the QAI definition. If that happens you must proceed with your case as a causation-in-fact case, frequently with expert testimony. It is commonplace for the DOJ to challenge cases based on the QAIs.

SPU: Special Processing Unit. The SPU was created to expedite and streamline those cases that were Table cases or “quasi” Table cases, meaning cases that were routinely settled in the past. In addition, cases where the claim involved a non-covered vaccine, e.g. anthrax. SPU cases are all assigned the Chief Special Master’s docket. However, the day to day management of the case docket falls to staff attorneys. All judicial decisions, however, are made by the Chief Special Master.

For more information contact The Law Office of Renée J. Gentry, Esq.

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