Chapter Two


"When asked to write a narrative about a case I have worked on this year... what comes to mind are the faces, the grief, and the ultimate strength of those people we have assisted over time. I think of the mother crying over her son's lifeless body. I see the fear of a six-year-old who witnessed the stabbing deaths of her mother and grandmother. I hear the eleven-year-old boy saying his last goodbyes to his only sister who is dying after being sexually assaulted and brutally beaten. I cringe at the bloody bruises on an eighty-two-year-old man, robbed and beaten while working in his own backyard. I weep with the mother who has lost her five-year-old in an apartment building fire.

Yet I put my own feelings aside to offer information about victim compensation, funeral arrangements, line-ups at the police department. Empowering them by informing them of their rights and community resources is somewhat akin to breathing new life into a dying soul."

--Faith Coburn, Crisis Response Specialist, Wisconsin Department of Justice

When crime strikes, its impact on victims and survivors is devastating and far reaching. For many victims, the aftermath of crime can be as traumatic as the crime itself. The inevitable emotional turmoil often is compounded by serious physical injuries and significant financial obligations.

For the past ten years, the Office for Victims of Crime (OVC) and state agencies designated by governors across the nation have joined together in a remarkable partnership fostered by VOCA to support direct services and financial assistance to crime victims. Each year, nearly 90 percent of the money deposited into the Crime Victims Fund is distributed to the states by formula grants for funding of victim compensation and assistance programs. Appendix B lists state-by-state VOCA victim compensation awards for the past ten years, while Appendix C lists state-by-state VOCA victim assistance awards.

Together, these two programs provide immediate financial and emotional assistance to victims. As a financial resource of last resort, victim compensation payments cover out-of-pocket expenses commonly incurred by crime victims. Victim assistance funds support local victim services agencies across the nation, which in turn help victims to cope with the impact of their victimization.

These two formula grant programs have greatly improved victim accessibility to services nationwide by expanding the range and location of services offered. They make a significant difference in the lives of more than two million people victimized by crime each year.

VOCA Victim Compensation Grant Program

Jim was murdered during a robbery, and his wife, Helen, was severely beaten. For Helen, getting physical therapy meant time away from work, and her depression meant counseling that she could not afford. The state's victim compensation program helped her pay for the services she needed to heal.

While no amount of money or services can adequately compensate victims for the physical and emotional trauma caused by violent crime, the financial assistance provided by state compensation programs is intended to assist victims with the economic costs of crime, such as lost wages and counseling, as well as funeral and medical costs that are not covered by other resources such as public or private medical insurance or offender restitution.

All 50 states, the District of Columbia, the Virgin Islands, and Guam have established their own victim compensation programs. During FY 1994, 47 states and the District of Columbia and the Virgin Islands were eligible to receive federal VOCA compensation grant funds. Newly established programs in South Dakota and Maine became eligible to receive VOCA compensation awards in FY 1995 and FY 1996 respectively. Although the State of Nevada operates a compensation program, this state has chosen not to make compensation available to non-residents. As a result, Nevada is not eligible to participate in the VOCA crime victim compensation program.

Through VOCA, approximately $415 million has been awarded to eligible state compensation programs between FY 1986, the first year that federal supplements were awarded, and FY 1994. (See Chart 3, VOCA Compensation Grants to States, 1986-1994.)

Chart 3

Eligibility Requirements for Compensation Program

VOCA sets minimum program eligibility requirements for state agencies that administer the VOCA Crime Victim Compensation grant. These requirements enhance accessibility to compensation benefits for crime victims; prohibit categorical exclusions of certain crime victims, such as victims of domestic violence and drunk driving; promote victim cooperation with criminal justice officials, and identify expenses for which victims must be reimbursed. These program requirements are specified in Appendix D.

Implementation at the State Level

The administrative structure of crime victim compensation programs varies from state to state. Today, most programs are located within executive branch agencies. Roughly one-third are affiliated with criminal justice-related offices, and another one-fifth operate within state Offices of Attorneys General. Nine programs function within independent state agencies. Seven states administer their compensation program in connection with the state workers' compensation bureau, and four states operate their programs within court systems. The States of Colorado and Arizona are unique in administering decentralized compensation programs. In Colorado, victims apply directly to, and receive benefits from, 22 district compensation boards. Similarly, in Arizona, 15 independent county boards provide services and financial compensation to crime victims.

Each state crime victim compensation program establishes its own administrative procedures and rules in accordance with state statutes. However, most states have similar eligibility requirements and offer a comparable range of benefits. Maximum awards generally range between $10,000 and $25,000, although some states have higher or lower award limits.

In accordance with VOCA, state compensation programs compensate eligible victims and survivors of victims of criminal violence for specific costs incurred as a direct result of the victimization. Certain expenses such as property loss, theft, or damage are usually not covered by compensation programs. Each state specifies by statute the types of expenses for which compensation may be awarded. See Chart 4, Crime Victim Expenses Paid by States (including VOCA funds) by Expense Category.

Chart 4

Several basic requirements for victims to receive compensation are common to most state compensation programs:

The crime must be reported promptly to law enforcement, and the victim must be willing to cooperate with the reasonable requests of law enforcement.

The victim or the survivors of crime victims must file a claim to receive compensation.

The claim must be filed within a specified period of time. About three-fourth of state programs may waive the typical two-year deadline in certain instances, such as child sexual abuse and domestic violence cases. In addition, a few states have changed the mandatory reporting requirement to allow flexibility in cases where the victim has a legitimate fear of retaliation if the crime is reported to law enforcement.

A crime must have been perpetrated against a person who is innocent of illegal activity or "contributory conduct."

Claim Processing Time

The speed with which a compensation program provides reimbursement for crime-related expenses is fundamental to serving crime victims. Processing of compensation claims in a timely manner contributes significantly to helping victims stabilize their lives following a victimization. However, limited staffing resources and difficulties in obtaining necessary verification and documentation often result in claim processing delays. On average, claim processing time ranges from 3-6 months. However, in some cases, processing can take up to 2 years.

Programs can do many things to improve their processing speed and efficacy. The availability of advanced technologies such as computers and automated application-tracking systems has decreased the average length of time required to process victim applications. In 1992, OVC initiated a State Crime Victim Compensation Tracking System project to assist states in the administration of their crime victim compensation programs. In June 1993, a comprehensive tracking system and user's manual was distributed to 31 states. Evaluations of the system by participating states indicate improved productivity with automation, as well as savings in resources and system development costs. Ultimately, crime victims across the nation will benefit most when states are able to process applications for compensation more expeditiously.

The software provided by the Office for Victims of Crime is much cleaner and more manageable than our present case management software. Overall, the claims tracking system software is a tremendous gift to compensation programs. -- New Jersey Violent Crimes Compensation Board

Funding Compensation Programs

Each year, VOCA funds supplement state resources already dedicated to compensating crime victims. States receive a grant based on 40 percent of the amount of compensation payments made by the state 2 years prior to the grant year. Although the total amount of state funds awarded to crime victims has nearly tripled since the enactment of VOCA, many states continue to confront funding crises that are exacerbated by budget cutbacks and public demands for expanded compensation coverage. (See Chart 5, State Certified Payments to Crime Victims Between 1984-1994.)

Chart 5

To maintain adequate funding levels, more than four-fifths of the states have adopted the federal Crime Victims Fund framework as a model funding vehicle rather than relying exclusively on state revenue appropriations. Therefore, states increasingly are receiving the bulk of their victim compensation funding from criminal fines and penalty assessments levied against state offenders. Nearly three-quarters of all state compensation programs are funded exclusively in this way.

OVC is committed to identifying "promising practices" in funding programs at the state and local levels and to disseminating that information to the field. For example, California and Iowa have made significant strides in identifying alternate sources of funding through aggressive pursuit of criminal restitution payments owed to crime victims, collection of fines, and community outreach:

California State Board of Control Revenue: When the California State Board of Control began to experience fiscal problems because demand for victim compensation was out-pacing revenue, a review of the criminal fine and penalty structure was undertaken, and significant activities were developed to hold offenders accountable for their actions. This generated several million dollars of additional revenue annually to meet the needs of crime victims. The California Board also undertook innovative outreach activities, including personal meetings with each county's presiding judge, district attorney, chief probation officer, and court administrators to emphasize the importance of fine collections. Additional innovations include:

a rebate program allowing a 10-percent reimbursement to counties on all restitution fines remitted to the Restitution Fund;

a wage garnishment program, which enables the Department of Corrections to deduct 20 percent of inmates' wages to pay outstanding restitution fines;

two laws that establish a minimum restitution fine for misdemeanors of $100;

an overpayment collection program, which investigates, monitors, and collects on claims when it is later learned that other sources of payment, such as insurance, have already reimbursed certain costs; and

an increase in the number of liens filed and dollars recovered as a result of new legislation requiring attorneys to provide sufficient notice and information to the Board about civil suits or benefits received.

Iowa's Compensation Program: As in many other states, compensation claims have soared dramatically in Iowa in the past several fiscal years, skyrocketing from 350 claims in 1989 to 1,823 in 1994. Iowa recognized that in order to maintain adequate funds, it was critical to initiate aggressive efforts to recover restitution payments and enforce subrogation rights.

Collection efforts in Iowa currently include asking prosecutors to seek restitution orders, urging probation and parole officials to collect restitution, and contacting offenders directly for payments. An automated computer system aids in garnishing wages and seizing income tax refunds from delinquent offenders.

Due to these collection efforts, restitution and subrogation revenues have more than doubled in the past two and a half years, and funding for compensation benefits available to crime victims have increased significantly. As a result, the state has been able to increase its payment ceiling for funeral and burial costs from $2,500 to $5,000, and an expense category for homicide site clean-up and homicide survivor counseling has been added to the program list of eligible expenses.

The efforts in California and Iowa represent only two of the positive actions undertaken by states to increase revenues for crime victims and the programs that serve them. Following the remarkable funding innovation initiated by Congress with the establishment of the Crime Victims Fund, a majority of states are now gaining most of their income from offenders. In most states, no state or federal tax dollars are involved in either the administration of the program or in the financial compensation provided to victims. This is precisely what Congress intended -- to hold offenders accountable to their victims by making them pay and by using those payments to benefit crime victims.

VOCA Victim Assistance Grant Program

Maria's husband had beaten her for the last time. He hit her in the face, breaking her nose in front of their children. With no resources of her own, she knew that leaving him would not be easy. She called her local domestic violence shelter, which provided housing for her and the children, and helped her obtain a restraining order.

Throughout the United States, more than 8,000 local organizations provide services to victims like Maria.(1) An estimated 2,500 of these local organizations and nearly 40,000 volunteers and staff each year are funded in part by the VOCA victim assistance state block grant program. VOCA authorizes each state to subaward VOCA federal funds to the agencies and nonprofit organizations they believe will best meet the unique needs of crime victims. See Chart 6, VOCA Assistance Grants to States, 1986-1994.

Chart 6

These organizations include domestic violence shelters; rape crisis centers; child abuse programs; victim services departments within law enforcement agencies, prosecutor-based programs, hospitals, and social service agencies. Services provided include crisis intervention, counseling, emergency shelter, court notification and accompaniment, case information, referral for services, and a host of other critical services which help crime victims heal and seek justice.

All 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam, American Samoa, the Northern Mariana Islands, and the Republic of Palau receive an annual VOCA victim assistance grant. Each state and territory (except Palau) receives a base amount of $200,000. The remainder of the available funds are then distributed to the states on the basis of population. From 1986 through 1994, states and territories received more than $477.7 million in VOCA victim assistance grant funds. See Chart 7, Number of Victims Receiving Services Supported by VOCA Assistance Funds, 1992-1993.(2)

Chart 7

The VOCA victim assistance grant program has helped local organizations increase their responsiveness to victims of crime through emergency services and crisis intervention immediately after the crime and to assist victims of crime throughout the criminal justice process. These services are provided by a network of victim services organizations throughout the nation and the territories. This network forms a lifeline of assistance to victims at a time when their sense of safety, security, and physical well-being has been abruptly shattered. The importance of this program was illustrated in a performance report submitted by the state VOCA victim assistance administrator from Illinois who wrote:

VOCA funds have been invaluable in helping Illinois meet the needs of many of its crime victims in tangible ways. On average, about $67 was spent per crime victim in Illinois last year. Most of the money helped provide badly needed staff support. Those staff, along with several hundred unpaid volunteers, helped more than 41,000 Illinois crime victims obtain medical evaluation and/or treatment, shelter, counseling, and much more.

State Eligibility for Victim Assistance Funds

Each state must meet the eligibility requirements set forth in VOCA to receive victim assistance funds. VOCA gives authority to the Director of OVC to develop the rules, guidelines, procedures, and reporting structures necessary to carry out VOCA provisions. In developing Program Guidelines, OVC consults with state administrators, nonprofit organizations, and national victim organizations. These Program Guidelines form the foundation of the grant program by identifying responsibilities of states and subrecipients and describing services and activities that can be supported with VOCA funds. A brief list of the VOCA eligibility requirements is provided in Appendix D.

Implementation at the State Level

States are given maximum discretion to set priorities, establish policies and procedures, and determine which programs within the state are to be funded, the level of funding, the services to be funded, and the conditions for continued funding. Hence, the state assumes full responsibility for determining state-wide crime victims' needs; targeting resources into the most needed areas; ensuring quality services; and improving services for crime victims.

Expansion of Victim Services

When VOCA was enacted, the majority of VOCA victim assistance funds supported direct services to victims of sexual assault, spousal abuse, or child abuse. VOCA requires the Director of OVC to certify that state victim assistance programs give priority when subawarding funds to eligible crime victim assistance programs providing assistance to these three categories of crime victims.

However, the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1988 (P.L. 100-690, Title VIII) expanded the three priority areas to include the "previously underserved." Previously underserved victims include survivors of homicide victims, victims of assault or robbery, victims of juvenile violence, victims of drunk driving crashes, victims with disabilities, adults molested as children, and other victims that were not included in the original three priority areas.

To facilitate implementation of the 1988 VOCA amendments, OVC issued Program Guidelines requiring each state to allocate at least 40 percent (10 percent to each of the four areas) of each year's VOCA victim assistance grant to providing services to victims of sexual assault, domestic violence, child abuse, and previously underserved victims of violent crime. To implement the new previously underserved victims category, states were given the latitude to identify previously underserved victims within their state by type of crime. The Guidelines were revised again for the FY 1994 grant cycle to permit states to have even greater flexibility in determining the amount of VOCA funds to allocate for priority and underserved services.

Since the inclusion of the 10-percent underserved minimum requirement for VOCA victim assistance programs, the percentage of VOCA funds allocated for underserved populations nationwide has grown from 12 percent of VOCA funds awarded in FY 1989 to 22 percent in 1993. During FY 1992 and FY 1993, approximately 1,133,515 underserved victims of violent crime nationwide received services through VOCA-funded projects. Between 1989 and 1993, services to underserved victims nearly doubled, from 369,000 victims served in 1989, to 719,000 victims served in 1993. This kind of program expansion appropriately reflects the intent of Congress in amending VOCA to ensure other categories of victims receive services and assistance.

Between 1989 and 1993, services to underserved victims nearly doubled, from 369,000 victims served in 1989, to 719,000 victims served in 1993.

Thus, VOCA encourages state victim assistance grantees to continue to expand into new service fields as victim services needs and demographics of crime change within the states. The following illustrations from programs receiving VOCA funds demonstrate the impact and importance of these expanded services:

Elderly crime victims are often unable and afraid to seek services outside of their local area. VOCA victim assistance funds address this problem in New York City through the Department for the Aging's Senior Security Services Unit. This program has developed 30 locally-based programs that work closely with the 75 precincts within New York City, providing supportive counseling, home security repairs, emergency financial assistance, shelter, food and property return.

Since 1986, Abused Deaf Women's Advocacy Services (ADWAS) in Seattle, Washington has operated a 24-hour crisis line, provided safe homes for battered women, and offered counseling to sexually abused deaf children. ADWAS's mission is unique in this country and probably the world. The program has developed training for deaf and hearing crime victim service providers, as well as information for deaf and hearing-impaired victims.

Another promising example of a program benefiting underserved populations is the Senior Victim Assistance Team (SVAT), based in the Colorado Springs Police Department. It exemplifies the current trend toward increased use of volunteers in victim service programs. SVAT consists of some 40 senior citizens who volunteer their time to serve as the department's liaison to crime victims who are over 55 years old. Trained SVAT volunteers help victims of burglary, robbery, fraud, neglect, and abuse by providing emotional support, assistance in obtaining new credit cards in cases of theft, help in completing paperwork for the state's victim compensation program, and aid in dealing with the prosecutor's office and courts in the event of an arrest.

VOCA victim assistance programs have expanded into inner cities to support needed services to victims of urban violence. For example, the Chicago Housing Authority's Victim and Witness Assistance program received VOCA funds to serve violent crime victims in one of the nation's highest crime areas. The services were based within the public housing community.

Training For State Administrators

The role of state VOCA administrators is constantly changing and expanding. VOCA administrators are responsible for making critical decisions in developing strategies for effectively meeting the needs of crime victims within their state. To support state administrators in their efforts, OVC provides significant discretionary training and technical assistance funds to enhance their skills, expand their awareness of emerging issues, and increase their opportunities for collaboration.

OVC remains committed to supporting state VOCA administrators who wish to hold state or regional victim assistance conferences through its Conference Support Training Initiative. In FY 1993 and FY 1994, OVC awarded almost $255,000 in support of 25 conferences, which provided training for more than 6,000 attendees. The Conference Support Training Initiative was expanded in FY 1995 to include tracks of victim assistance training at national conferences of allied professionals.

In addition, OVC added two more technical assistance programs for state VOCA administrators. First, OVC's Regional Technical Assistance Meetings allow state VOCA administrators to plan, coordinate, and implement regional conferences for state administrators managing VOCA victim assistance and compensation formula grant programs. Second, OVC established a mentoring program that develops the skills, knowledge, and abilities of VOCA administrators and their staff. The Mentor Program allows state VOCA administrators who have demonstrated proficiency in a range of program management and operational areas to offer technical assistance and peer consultation to an administrator in another state. Technical assistance and peer consultation may be offered in many different areas, including use of administrative dollars to implement the VOCA grant program, planning statewide training, establishing program standards for both compensation and local victim assistance programs, and assessing needs and service delivery strategies, such as more efficient processing of compensation claims. In addition, the Mentor Program can facilitate one-on-one technical assistance and peer consultation for new state administrators.

State Funding For Victim Services

Sustaining adequate program funding is one of the greatest challenges confronting state administrators. The federal and state partnership established by VOCA funding has supported state efforts to enhance and expand services through existing victim services organizations. As one state victim assistance administrator wrote:

VOCA was the catalyst to the enactment of the Ohio State Victims Assistance Act and the establishment of the Attorney General's Crime Victims Assistance Office. VOCA is also the catalyst for the Ohio legislature's appropriation of more than $1,250,000 each year for crime victim assistance. This infusion of federal and state dollars has also resulted in greater commitments from the private sector and government at the local level. There are more resources, financial and human, now being committed to crime victim services than at any time in the past.

Although federal support of victim assistance programs continues to be significant, funding by state and local governments now predominates. States are taking an active role to ensure that state funding remains intact and gradually increases. From 1991 to 1993, state funding allocated to VOCA victim assistance projects increased by $22,184,928, as depicted in Chart 8.

Chart 8

Primary sources of state funding for victims' services are derived from state appropriations, criminal fines and penalties, and assessments, such as marriage license fees, birth certificate fees, local funding, and donations.

OVC has encouraged state victim assistance administrators to develop effective funding strategies. Factors impacting state funding strategies include the range of victim services throughout the state, the demographic profile of crime victims, the coordinated and cooperative response to community organizations in organizing services for crime victims, the availability of services to crime victims throughout the criminal justice process, and the extent to which other sources of funding are available for services.

VOCA Subrecipients: Serving Victims at the Local Level

VOCA victim assistance grant funds are subawarded by the state VOCA grantee to eligible crime victim service organizations within the state. A complete list of eligibility requirements for victim service programs to receive VOCA funding is included in Appendix D. The growth in victim services organizations throughout the nation has resulted in crime victims having greater access to a wider variety of services. This growth has placed additional burdens upon state administrators to develop funding strategies that address the most effective means to distribute limited VOCA funds in a manner that reaches the greatest numbers of crime victims.

VOCA has supported the continuation of a number of promising practices and strategies for effective victim services at the local level. One example is a multidisciplinary center located in Jacksonville, Florida, where all crime victims can come to receive needed services. The Jacksonville Victim Services Center, one of more than 50 VOCA subrecipients in Florida, received over $160,000 between FY 1993 and FY 1994.

To create this innovative partnership, community leaders helped to secure land from the local hospital, and in coordination with all levels of government, obtained funds to build and maintain the Center in 1991. It is located in a Victorian home, a supportive environment for many different kinds of services for all adult crime victims, and provides services similar to those in the children's advocacy center a few blocks away. Mental health professionals provide therapy services for victims and assist the police in responding to homicides and major violent catastrophes. The Center is being expanded so that support groups, such as Mothers Against Drunk Driving and Parents of Murdered Children, can be co-located there. A state compensation representative maintains an office in the Center to streamline victims' compensation claims. Facility staff also maintain an emergency fund to pay for the repair of broken windows and locks, as well as needed food and medicines for crime victims.

A promising practice in the area of child sexual abuse that has been supported by VOCA subawards are children's advocacy centers. In 1985, Huntsville, Alabama District Attorney Bud Cramer recognized that children had to be treated in a different way by our criminal justice system if they could ever be expected to participate effectively in that system. To stop children from being re-victimized by the criminal justice process during numerous interviews by various agency officials in frightening settings such as police stations, he developed an advocacy center especially designed for kids, with small tables and chairs, as well as toys and colors that were comforting to children. His children's advocacy center became a safe place where governmental agencies worked together to reduce the number of interviews and coordinate cases. This vision led to a national movement, and today there are more than 300 children's advocacy centers across the country, some of which are supported by VOCA subgrants.

Training for VOCA Subrecipients

In addition to providing training opportunities for state VOCA administrators, beginning in FY 1994, OVC allowed state administrators to have the option of using $5,000, or 1 percent of the VOCA victim assistance grant, whichever is greater, to provide statewide training of direct services providers in their state. This option was extended to states to support training to all services providers -- not just those organizations that receive VOCA funds.

As a result of the 1994 Crime Act, VOCA administrators were given the authority to use up to 5 percent of their VOCA state formula grants for administrative costs. These costs must support expansion of the state's overall efforts in managing the VOCA grant program. OVC encourages states to use administrative funds to support local or statewide training opportunities for direct services providers, as well as state VOCA administrative staff.

Compensation and Assistance: Working Together to Serve Crime Victims

The effort to improve and expand services for crime victims often requires a return to basics, such as the cultivation of teamwork between a state's victim compensation and victim assistance programs. Local victim service programs have placed greater emphasis on working in concert with state compensation programs to respond to victims' needs. Today victim assistance programs notify crime victims of the availability of compensation and assist them with application forms and procedures to help them obtain the necessary documentation to receive benefits.

OVC sponsored the first joint training and technical assistance conference for both VOCA victim compensation and victim assistance state administrators in 1992. Since then, OVC has continued to encourage partnership between compensation and assistance programs by funding quality trainers and covering conference costs for statewide and regional network training and technical assistance efforts that bring compensation, assistance, and other allied professionals together. OVC is sponsoring another joint training and technical assistance conference for victim compensation and victim assistance state administrators with FY 1996 funding. This conference will offer guidance and technical assistance to advance their administration of the federal VOCA grant programs and foster further collaboration and coordination between the two programs.

Feedback from state VOCA recipients show the depth of these and other VOCA-encouraged linkages at the local level:

"Through the use of VOCA funding, a network of service providers has been developed across the nation and is currently offering services to victims throughout the state. The programs have expanded from basic services to include linkages with community resources, providing victims with enhanced possibilities in breaking away from abusive, destructive settings. "Child Protect" expanded basic services to adjoining counties that were not receiving services from a child advocacy center. The House of Ruth maintains working relationships with individuals and agencies in the community that provide services needed to assist victims of domestic violence and their children. Representatives from the food stamp program work closely with the staff to assure that shelter clients receive food stamps. The local legal service corporation makes a domestic violence prevention coordinator available. By providing a specific attorney to handle the multiple legal needs of battered women, there is no longer a six-month waiting period for legal services. Linkages also exist between the House of Ruth and the parent/child enrichment center, school system, FEMA funding, and other private and public resources. Several of the programs serve on the multidisciplinary team in their area. This insures that each agency is aware of its roles and responsibilities during the investigation process."

-- Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs

Two Case Studies

The following two cases involving actual crime victims illustrate the impact that VOCA victim compensation and assistance programs have had in many communities. The first case occurred before the enactment of VOCA, when limited services were available. The second case occurred in 1993, well after the enactment of VOCA, and exemplifies the dramatic changes that took place in some communities during that time period.

Case One: 1982 -- Prior to the Enactment of VOCA

In December 1982, a year-and-a-half prior to the enactment of VOCA, 21-year-old Richard was shot and killed during a robbery at a restaurant that he managed. The only other person in the restaurant was a waitress who was shot in the back of the head, execution style. The perpetrator, high on drugs and looking for Christmas money, was apprehended and convicted of murder.

Richard was a superior student. He skipped his senior year in high school, having all of the needed credits to enter college. With a business degree, he was about to be hired by a large corporation just after graduation.

Richard's family was forced not only to endure the pain and trauma of the loss of a child, but to go through a criminal justice system that was not designed to protect the rights or meet the needs of crime victims and their survivors. For Richard's family, there was no victim assistance agency to provide crisis intervention and supportive counseling; no advocate to provide an orientation to the criminal justice system and inform the family of their rights; and no crime victim compensation program to reimburse the family for the cost of the funeral and burial expenses. This family was completely alone.

Like many survivors, Richard's father was able to find healing and empowerment by working to bring about changes in the way the criminal justice system and social service agencies respond to crime victims. Since the 1982 tragedy, he has been a galvanizing force in the victims field. He has worked diligently to change the system so that more resources are designated for victims of violent crime. Richard's father, Augustus A. "Dick" Adams, formed a victim assistance network in his state, and he received one of the 1995 National Crime Victim Service Award from the President of the United States -- the highest federal honor for victim advocates in the nation.

Case Two: 1993 -- A Standard of Service for Victims

In May 1993, 16-year-old James and his two friends went to a high school basketball game. But instead of fun and games, the day turned into a nightmare when the crowd of approximately 200 people saw James shot, and his friend Michael severely stabbed with a knife.

The perpetrator was arrested, prosecuted, and found guilty of two counts of aggravated assault, but James' parents were left to deal with the tragic victimization of their son and his paralysis. They would not watch him fulfill his ambition of becoming a college basketball player and possibly playing professionally one day.

Fortunately, because of the many services now available to victims and survivors since the passage of VOCA and other victims rights legislation(3)

, James and his family did not have to undergo this crisis alone. Following the incident, six important things happened:

A police officer referred the family to a comprehensive, community-based victim assistance agency.

A crisis counselor at the agency's 24-hour hotline provided crisis intervention and supportive counseling, and recommended a support group for James and his family. The counselor also explained what to expect as they proceeded through the criminal justice system.

A caseworker assisted the family with their crime victim compensation claim so that they were able to receive reimbursement for medical expenses and lost wages. James's parents had to take off work during their son's rehabilitation.

A counselor accompanied the family to the preliminary hearing, pretrial conference, trial, and sentencing; and referred the family to a specialized post-trial advocacy department.

The post-trial advocate helped the family complete a victim impact statement. James and his parents were able to offer comments directly to the judge prior to the sentencing.

After the defendant was sentenced, the family was given a standardized form in the event that they wished to be notified of any decision to release the defendant or of the defendant's escape. The post-trial advocate continues to keep the family members aware of the defendant's status.

While there have been many accomplishments for crime victims since VOCA was enacted, much clearly remains to be done to attain the kind of consistent, comprehensive services crime victims deserve and need. In general, funding for victim compensation and assistance services is limited, and services still are not uniformly available in most localities, particularly rural areas. VOCA provides partial support to only about 30 percent of the identified 8,000 victim service programs nationwide. While more than 2 million victims receive assistance at VOCA-funded assistance programs each year, many more must be turned away or are never made aware that these services are available.

In addition, under current laws, many crime victims are not eligible for services. This includes telemarketing fraud victims, many of whom are elderly and lose their lives' savings, as well as child witnesses of crime. Throughout America, countless children every day witness violence in their own homes, their schools, and their streets. Therapy and other services are needed to help these victims or witnesses who are dramatically impacted by crime. The lack of services for these and other crime victims is an issue that should be examined.

The growing national awareness of the needs and rights of crime victims is leading to demands that all victims of crime are made aware of and receive essential compensation and assistance services.

Crime Law Provisions Impacting VOCA Compensation and Assistance Programs

The Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994 contains a number of victim-related provisions, including five amendments affecting the VOCA compensation and assistance formula grant programs:

As noted in Chapter 1, the new VOCA formula for allocation of Crime Victims Fund deposits awards 48.5 percent to victim compensation, 48.5 percent to victim assistance, and 3 percent for training and technical assistance.

The Director of OVC may retain as a reserve any portion of the Fund in excess of 110 percent of the total amount deposited during the preceding fiscal year. This reserve fund may not exceed $20 million. The intent of this reserve is to counterbalance any fluctuations in Fund deposits, which significantly hamper state planning and funding efforts and often results in the closing of needed victim assistance programs.

State victim compensation programs are designated as the payor of last resort.(4)

State compensation and assistance programs may use up to 5 percent of the VOCA grant for administrative costs.(5)

States are prohibited from using the 5 percent of administrative funds to supplant funds that were previously provided by the state.


Fiscal Year 1996 marks the start of a new decade of the ongoing federal-state-local partnership in advancing justice and healing on behalf of crime victims, their families, and survivors throughout the nation. When crime strikes, the VOCA crime victim compensation and assistance grant programs provide an opportunity for unique collaboration between the federal government, states, and local service providers to strike back by responding to the emotional, physical, and financial impact of crime on its victims. As one crime victim wrote to her state's compensation program:

"We would like to thank you for being there for victims that have faced a tragedy like this. It seems the criminals have all the rights and the victims have none. It is nice to know there is someone to turn to for help. This has been a great financial burden and we appreciate all your help."

(Letter to the Utah Office of Crime Victim Reparations)

1. Estimates from the National Organization for Victim Assistance.

2. Because VOCA victim assistance grants cover a two-year period, FY 1993 is the most recent year with complete data on victims receiving services supported by VOCA victim assistance funds.

3. The Victim-Witness Protection Act, the Victims Rights and Restitution Act, the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement

Act of 1994, and State Constitutional amendments.

4. Since crime victim compensation programs were never intended to serve as a substitute for health insurance plans or federal or federally funded benefit programs, this designation officially reinforces the reality that program funding is limited and meant only to fill service gaps in cases where there is either no health plan coverage or limited coverage for medical needs.

5. These programs were not previously allowed to use any VOCA funds to address critical administrative needs. This provision applied both to state VOCA victim compensation and assistance grants beginning in FY 1995.

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