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Financial Assistance for Victims of Violent Crime
If you, a loved one, or someone you know has been a victim of a violent crime, you are familiar with not only the physical pain but the mental anguish and financial aftermath of a violent crime, also. Often, intervention only occurs with rape and domestic violence, but there are other types of crime that are considered violent—drunk driving accidents, various types of assault, vehicular manslaughter, child abuse and, sometimes, robbery. Unknown by many of these victims, due to the lack of intervention, is that each state has a victim’s compensation fund, assisting victims and families with the costs of recovery. Costs are not limited to only medical care and therapy, but include a wide variety of financial assistance and reimbursement for lost wages, child care, moving expenses, and much more.
Many individual states throughout the country had established some sort of victim’s compensation fund prior to a federal law enacted in 1984, but through the Victims of Crime Act (VOCA), every state has a victim’s compensation fund. Each state receives federal funds to administer the program, and additional funding is obtained from states via penalties assessed to people convicted of misdemeanors and fines associated with traffic offenses, infractions, and civil violations.
Because each state is responsible in administering the compensation fund, the type of crime that is eligible for reimbursement and amount of reimbursement will vary. Some states will pay for a wide variety of expenses, like new locks and a home security system for victims of robbery, lost wages for a parent caring for a child or spouse that is a victim of a violent crime, moving expenses for victims of domestic violence, and modifications to a home if someone suffers a permanent disability.
VIOLENT CRIMES COVERED:
Generally, victims of rape, domestic violence, drunk-driving accidents, vehicular manslaughter, child abuse, and homicide all qualify for financial assistance. Various types of assault qualifies, too, including being a victim of intoxicated assault. Some states cover victims of robbery.
Most states require that you file an application where the crime occurred; however, some states like California and Ohio will cover its residents that were victims of violent crime regardless of where the crime took place, even if the crime occurred outside of the United States.
In order to be eligible for assistance, all states require that the crime be reported and that you cooperate with law enforcement. An application must be filed in a timely manner (timely filing requirements vary depending on state), though sometimes there are waivers for children that are victims of crime.
Reimbursement is limited to costs not covered by other types of insurance, like homeowner's and health insurance. However, out of pocket medical expenses will usually be reimbursed, as well as gas and other travel expenses to receive medical care.
TYPES OF REIMBURSEMENT AND FINANCIAL ASSISTANCE:
Reimbursement and financial assistance is not limited to the person that was victim of the crime. Often, the victim's children and spouse will qualify for assistance. For example, if your spouse was hit by a drunk driver and required hospitalization, both of you could be reimbursed for lost wages. Additionally, if your spouse is employed, loss of support could be claimed for the entire family.
Also, if your child was injured and required hospitalization from a covered violent crime, some states will reimburse lost wages up to 30 days for both parents..
Medical Care/Mental Health Care:
Each state's compensation fund must be used as the last resort. If you have insurance, your insurance must be billed, but states will usually pay for out-of-pocket expenses, like copayments, deductibles, coinsurance amounts, and items that are not covered under your health plan.
For those without medical insurance, an application to Medicaid would be necessary, but states will often reimburse the cost-sharing portion under Medicaid.
For people that do not qualify for Medicaid, the state will usually pay the providers directly, and reimbursement is based on a contract amount, ranging from Medicare rates to a percentage of billed charges. Providers must accept payment as payment in full, and not bill the victim or responsible party for any balance (unless the maximum amount for medical expenses has been reached). You must verify that the provider utilized is contracted with your state’s compensation fund.
Regardless of who was the victim in your family, all immediate family members can qualify for counseling or therapy to help in the recovery process.
Most states have a limit on the maximum reimbursement for both medical and mental health care; however, some states are extremely generous; New York does not put a cap on medical and mental health costs.
Lost wages due to hospitalization, doctor’s appointments, and court-mandated appearances can be recouped through the program. Also, parents and spouses are able to obtain reimbursement for lost wages if the victim (spouse or child) has been hospitalized and/or needs to be driven to doctor's appointments.
Funeral and Burial Expenses:
If your spouse or child died as a result of a violent crime, each state will pay for funeral and burial expenses up to a maximum amount. Most states will cover lost wages for taking time off of work in order to make funeral arrangements and time off from work to attend the funeral.
For victims of domestic violence and rape (when the rape occurred in the residence), there is reimbursement for moving expenses. Most states will pay for home security systems and new locks for victims of rape, domestic violence and, sometimes, victims of robbery.
Home Modifications and Job Retraining:
If you or your loved one has been permanently disabled due to a violent crime, several states will pay for job retraining and home modifications. For example, if you, your child, or spouse has been injured and are required to be in a wheelchair (permanently), costs for construction of ramps and widening of doorways and/or hallways can be reimbursed.
All states pay for crime scene clean-ups. Some states will reimburse you for items taken into custody, like beds and doors.
Child care expenses are often reimbursed, as well as travel expenses for court-mandated appearances and temporary lodging expenses.
HOW TO DETERMINE WHAT IS COVERED AND HOW TO APPLY:
The website to obtain general information on the victim compensation fund, information on what each state will cover, and a link to each state’s agency that handles claims can be found here: NACVCB.
Click on “program directory”, and a map pops up. By clicking on the state where the crime occurred, an outline of the crimes that are covered and the amount of financial assistance is available. This page will also provide you with the link to the state agency that handles claims, as well as the application. It is also important to check the state where you reside. As I indicated earlier, some states cover residents regardless of where the crime occurred.
If you need help filling out the application, your local law enforcement agency, a social worker, or an organization in your area that assists victims and families dealing with violent crimes should be able to help you, free of charge. You can also call the state agency or the National Association of Crime Victim Compensation Boards, directly.
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