Attorney General Merrick B. Garland today announced that he has chosen Allison Turkel to head the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund (VCF). Turkel, who has served in the Justice Department for over 14 years, most recently in the Office for Victims of Crime, will assume her new position effective March 12, 2023. She will be taking over from August Flentje, who on April 29, 2022, was appointed as Special Master on an interim basis following the departure of former Special Master Rupa Bhattacharyya.
“In administering the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund, the Justice Department is committed to honoring the victims and survivors of the 9/11 terror attacks, including those who bravely responded that day and in the years after, putting themselves at great risk,” said Attorney General Garland. “I am grateful for August’s service as interim VCF Special Master and I am confident that Allison’s leadership, vision, and commitment to serving victims will enable VCF to continue its essential mission.”
“As a native New Yorker, a former Philadelphia area police officer and lieutenant, and a prosecutor in the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office, it is an honor and privilege to be selected by the Attorney General for this important service,” Turkel said. “I recognize I am stepping into the position to carry on the legacy of those who held the role before me, while also focusing on the future of a program that must continue to meet the needs of claimants for decades to come. I look forward to working alongside the dedicated VCF staff to ensure that 9/11 claimants promptly receive the payments to which they are entitled. I also want to thank August for serving as interim Special Master over the past 10 months, leading the team and ensuring there was no slowdown in claims processing.”
The VCF has made tremendous progress since it re-opened in October 2011. As of Feb. 28, 2023, over $11.1 billion in compensation has been awarded to more than 50,000 responders and survivors who have been harmed because of their exposure to 9/11 toxins. Under Flentje’s leadership over the past 10 months, the VCF issued over 7,400 awards totaling over $1 billion dollars. Flentje continued to build upon the progress made during Bhattacharyya’s tenure, including reviewing and rendering decisions on nearly 800 appeals, meeting his goal to reduce to six months or less the waiting period for a decision after an appeal hearing is held. Flentje also saw that the VCF Transformation effort – initiated following the VCF’s Permanent Authorization in July 2019 – continued to move forward to ensure the program remains operational for decades to come.
Flentje is a career civil service attorney with the Department’s Civil Division and will support the VCF and Special Master Turkel as she steps into her new role. The Department does not expect any interruption in VCF claim review or in the issuance of awards during this transition.
Turkel’s career in public service has spanned decades, including her recent work with the Justice Department’s Office for Victims of Crime (OVC). Prior to this role, Turkel oversaw all grant functions for the Office of Sex Offender Sentencing, Monitoring, Apprehending, Registering, and Tracking. Her prior work also included oversight of the team working with American Indian Tribes to implement the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act, for which she and her team received the Assistant Attorney General Award for Exceptional Service.
Turkel previously served as the Deputy Director of the Federal, International, and Tribal Division at OVC. She oversaw the Antiterrorism Emergency Assistance Program, including the International Terrorism Victim Expense Reimbursement Program, National Mass Violence Victimization Center, and OVC’s Mass Violence victim support program. As Deputy Director, she also provided guidance and resources for federal partners’ victim services programs. In addition, she led the Tribal victims’ services program, including the creation of innovative and efficient processes to help the Department effectuate a massive increase in funding for the first ever Tribal Victim Services Set Aside Program, and the creation of the Tribal Financial Management Center.
Before her federal service, Turkel was the Director of the National District Attorneys Association’s (NDAA) National Center for Prosecution of Child Abuse (NCPCA), where she managed program activities and staff; and trained and provided technical assistance nationwide on child abuse, maltreatment, sexual exploitation, computer facilitated crimes against children, and domestic violence. Prior to her position at NDAA, Allison was a prosecutor for over 11 years, serving in New York and Illinois. She was an Assistant District Attorney in the New York County District Attorney’s Office for more than nine years, where she tried a wide variety of felony cases.
Turkel was born and raised in New York City, and although she has lived in the Washington D.C. area for the past 20 years, considers herself a lifetime New Yorker. Before beginning her legal career, she served as a police officer and lieutenant for eight years in the Philadelphia area. She received her B.A. from the University of Pennsylvania and her J.D. from Temple University School of Law.
“This is a program that has always operated with transparency and compassion, and this will not change as we continue to work to provide full compensation to those who have suffered as a result of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001,” said Turkel.
For additional information on the Victim Compensation Fund, please visit: www.vcf.gov.