The United States’ first compensation program was established in California in 1965 and by 1993 all fifty states including the Virgin Islands and District of Columbia had operating programs.
While these Compensation Boards also assist crime victims who have survived their attacks, we will confine our guidance below to the assistance provided to families who have suffered the death of a loved one by violence.
And even though it is the responsibility of the police, sheriff, or district attorney to alert you to this program, the crime victim/witness program within their jurisdiction is an excellent source of knowledge for you and your family.
Applications are usually available through law enforcement agencies, prosecutor/district attorney’s offices, or crime victim/witness program which is usually located within a police department, sheriff’s office, or district attorney’s office. Victim/Witness counselors act as liaison between you and criminal justice officials.
If you have not received information from the above sources, or cannot locate a victim/witness counselor to help you complete these forms, call the Crime Victims’ Board in your state or nearest county to obtain an application and benefit information. They can supply you with the name of someone nearby to help.
Submit a timely application, usually within one year of the crime.
If a victim was engaged in criminal activity, the family generally will not be eligible for any benefits.
Apprehension and/or conviction of a perpetrator is not a prerequisite to receiving compensation. Therefore if your loved one was killed by a hit-and-run crash, drunk driver, or murderer and no one has been apprehended, you are still eligible for benefits.
I especially encourage families who have pending and unsolved cases to contact your crime victims’ board directly for information on benefits. It is not uncommon for families yet to be involved in the criminal justice system to ‘fall through the cracks’ and compensation forms and benefit information is not forwarded to them. Be vigilant and apply.
Compensation programs are ‘payors of last resort’. Payments and benefits provided through medical insurance, other public assistance programs, employee benefits and automobile insurance will be exhausted first before any compensation benefits begin.
An application for benefits should be filed in the state where the crime was committed. Therefore, if you loved one was killed in Ohio and you live in New York, you would contact the Ohio Compensation Board, request an application and file in Ohio.
Crimes falling under federal jurisdiction, such as crimes on Indian reservations, should also apply to the state where the crime was committed.
The following expenses are covered in all compensation programs, each having various limits to their assistance:
Mental Health Counseling
Lost support for dependents of homicide and vehicular homicide victims
Additional Limited Assistance:
Moving and relocation expenses for those in imminent danger
Cleanup of crime scene, the cost of securing a home or restoring it to its pre-crime condition
Emergency financial assistance
Transportation expenses to courthouse and counseling
Programs have limited funding and limited staffs. Consequently payments may be slow. They are partially funding by VOCA (Victims of Crime Act of 1984) grants from the federal government. States then add financial resources through fees to criminals and appropriations from legislatures.
If you are in need of emergency assistance for burial or other expenses, don’t hesitate to request immediate help. Victim/Witness counselors can contact funeral directors to confirm potential benefits. They can also refer you to local community resources.
Mary Mac specializes in helping executives and entrepreneurs understand and navigate through their grieving process after a significant tragedy. If you are suffering emotionally, physically, financially and/or spiritually because you've tried to take care of everyone else but yourself, this is your time and this is the place.