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Thursday, Sep. 1, 2016

Fund reduces financial burden of crime victims

Sunday, June 2, 2002

BENTON - While crime does not pay, being a victim often has its costs.

The Crime Victim's Compensation Fund was created in Missouri to reduce the financial burden placed on victims of violent crimes and their families by reimbursing them for a portion of their loss.

"Crime Victim's Compensation does pay," affirmed Taryn Merideth, victim advocate for the 33rd judicial circuit in Scott County. "One of the requirements of the Victims of Crime Act, which is where my grant funding comes from, is to provide assistance with Crime Victims' Compensation."

"There is a lengthy application to fill out," she explained. "One of the main goals of the Scott County Assistance to Victims Program is to ensure victims served by the project receive information on and assistance with filing claims for compensation."

Since assuming her duties Nov. 19, Merideth has already helped one murder victim's family receive reimbursement for funeral expenses and several victims obtain reimbursement for medical bills.

Compensation is not provided for stolen or damaged property nor for pain and suffering, but approved CVC claims can provide compensation to victims and their families for lost wages or support, drug prescriptions, and counseling in addition to funeral expenses and medical bills related to a violent crime.

While the fund is primarily for people who sustain personal bodily injury either as the victim of a violent crime or as the result of going to the aid of another person or peace officer or while attempting to prevent a crime from occurring, relatives of a sexual assault victim who require counseling in order to help a victim in their recovery may also be eligible.

The fund is intended to be a secondary source for out-of-pocket expenses not covered by insurance, workers' compensation, sick leave and vacation time, or court-ordered restitution. Victims who receive court-ordered restitution covering expenses paid by the fund may be required to reimburse the fund.

Also, in the event of a successful civil suit against the offender or a third-party suit, the claimant must reimburse the fund.

Surviving family members who were living with a deceased victim at the time of the crime and require counseling as a direct result of the death may also apply.

The fund covers Missouri residents who suffer personal injury or death in another state which does not have a crime victims' compensation program, assuming they would have been eligible if the incident occurred in Missouri, and Missouri residents injured by an act of terrorism committed outside of the United States.

Those injured in a motor vehicle accident are not eligible unless the injury was intentionally inflicted by the driver, the driver was charged with driving while intoxicated, or it was a "hit and run" incident.

Individuals who committed a crime in connection with the incident or were themselves an offender or accessory to the incident are also excluded.

Victims determined to have contributed to the infliction of the injuries or death may have their award denied or reduced depending on the circumstance.

Victims injured while in jail or prison are not eligible, nor are those who have been convicted of two felonies within the last 10 years.

The incident must be reported to the proper law enforcement agency within 48 hours unless the victim was a minor or there is good cause shown for reporting late. Additionally, the claim must be filed within two years of the incident or within two years of discovery if the victim is a minor.

Victims must cooperate with law enforcement officials during the investigation and prosecution of the crime.

Claims can only be filed for out-of-pocket expenses over $50 or the loss of two continuous weeks of earning or support. The total recovery may not exceed $15,000 and wage loss may not exceed $200 per week.

Reimbursement for funeral expenses is capped at $5,000 and psychological expenses at $2,500.

There is a $50 deduction from each award unless the claimant is age 65 or older.

Once the claim forms are received, the Crime Victim's Compensation Unit conducts an investigation for verification before making their decision. Claimants who have their claim denied or are awarded an unacceptable settlement may appeal the decision, however.

When defendants are found guilty, the judge orders them to pay money to the fund - $68 for class A and B felonies; $46 for class C and D felonies; and $10 for misdemeanors - along with a $5 CVC surcharge.

Money collected from the circuit courts is placed in a statewide pool along with federal funding which varies in amount from year to year, according to Joann Lindemann, spokesperson for the fund.

Last fiscal year the fund brought in a bit less than previous years at $4.19 million. "That same year they paid out $5.6 million," Lindemann said, with the money going toward 1,224 awards.