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When you’re the victim of a violent crime, including domestic violence, you’re not only recovering from the physical and emotional after-effects, you may also be facing challenges related to your finances. Medical or dental bills, lost wages or child support, counseling or therapy costs, damage to or loss of your home — the list goes on. Luckily, programs exist in every state to help compensate you financially during this rough time.
State crime victim compensation programs intend to cover expenses that insurance or other public benefit programs won’t. Each state’s program varies slightly, so it’s important to refer to the program guidelines in the state where the crime occurred in order to determine what benefits are available and how exactly to apply for them.
Dan Eddy is the executive director of the National Association of Crime Victim Compensation Boards. For the last three decades, the organization has worked to continually improve services for crime victims and survivors.
“All 50 states have a program, including D.C., the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico. It goes back as far as 50 years — California had the first program in 1965 and, since then, other states followed suit. The idea was that these crime victims are a special population, and it naturally fit into the need of the state to help those victims.”
Eddy estimates about 40 percent of all assault claims for crime victim compensation are related to domestic violence. “A domestic violence victim may have been taken to a hospital and doesn’t have health insurance, or has copays or deductibles they can’t pay. They may seek counseling in the aftermath. They may not be able to return to their job.” Eddy estimates about half of all states also cover relocation expenses if there was a need for a survivor to get to another residence for safety reasons.
Each state has its own website related to their crime victim compensation program. Find your state’s website here. But, generally speaking, says Eddy, those who are eligible are victims of violent crimes, not property crimes. The crime must be reported to the police and the victim must file a compensation claim within a certain period of time, usually one to three years. The claimant’s expenses and loses must be out of pocket and not covered by another insurance or Medicaid. Also, the victim can not have committed a criminal act that caused the crime or their own victimization, such as being a drug dealer and then getting killed by another drug dealer, says Eddy.
However, in the case of a young woman, under 21, who passed out after drinking and woke up to find she was sexually assaulted, that claim would most likely not be denied, says Eddy. “At most, her conduct made her more vulnerable, but it did not cause the assault to happen.”
Families of those affected by violent crime are eligible as well as the victims themselves. Underage, or child victims, may also file a claim through their parent or dependent.
Who is Paying?
Compensation programs pay out close to $500 million a year to more than 200,000 victims and most of this money comes from offenders. Many of the state programs are funded through fees and fines charged against those who are convicted of violent crimes.
Eddy says the limit for each claim varies by state, but on average, the maximum amount paid out is typically $25,000. The compensation is also not contingent on the offender being apprehended or convicted.
You can find each state’s eligibility requirements and application process here. You must file a claim in the state where the crime was committed. For help with process, Eddy suggests reaching out to a domestic violence advocate or any person trained in working with victims of crimes as they can help a survivor or a survivor’s family navigate the paperwork.
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