A Helping Hand to Victims of Crime
By Dave Rosenberg
Yolo County Supervisor (4th District) and
Board Member, California Victim Compensation and Government Claims Board
If you are the victim of a crime, and suffered an injury or threat of injury as a direct result of the crime, you may be eligible for up to $70,000 in compensation through the State of California's "Victims of Crime" Program.
The Victims of Crime (VOC) Program was first established in California in 1965 to provide reimbursement to victims for certain out-of-pocket losses sustained as a direct result of the commission of a crime. Actually, when it was established, the VOC Program was the first of its kind in the United States, preceded only by New Zealand in 19663 and England in 1964. Now, every State in the US has such a program. The program in California is administered by the Victim Compensation and Government Claims Board (formerly known as the Board of Control).
Who is eligible? The VOC Program is available to provide assistance to victims of crime who suffer physical injury or the threat of physical injury as a direct result of a crime (non-violent crimes are normally not covered by the program). Also, survivors of victims who died as a result of a crime, persons who are legally dependent on an inured or deceased victim and certain members of an eligible victim's family or other individuals who live or have lived with the victim may qualify for help. A victim who is a California resident may apply for benefits even if the crime occurred while out-of-state. A non-resident of the state may apply for program benefits if the crime occurred while the non-resident was in California.
There are rules that apply. To qualify, the victim must have cooperated with law enforcement in the investigation and prosecution of known suspects, and the victim cannot have participated in the crime, nor can the victim have been involved in events leading up to the crime.
What types of losses are recoverable? Only certain losses can be recovered under the VOC Program, including medical and medically-related expenses, mental-health counseling, loss of income, loss of support, funeral and burial costs, and job rehabilitation expenses. Property losses and compensation for pain and suffering are not recoverable. What this means is that if you are mugged, hit on the head and your wallet (with $300) is taken, you can seek to recover for your medical and hospital expenses and for missing two days of work while you recuperated, but you can't recover the $300 that was stolen nor can you recover for the terrible headache you had as a result of the crime. Also, the VOC Program is considered the "payor of last resort". So, losses that are covered by health insurance, social security benefits, civil judgements, and the like would not be covered by the VOC Program until total losses exceed total reimbursements.
As noted, the current maximum dollar amount that a victim can receive is $70,000 for crimes occurring after January 1, 2001. Prior to that date, the maximum was $46,000. There are other limits as well. For example, mental health counseling cannot exceed $10,000. During the 1999-2000 fiscal year, the VOC Program received 41,700 initial claims, and paid out $81.5 million in assistance to victims of crime. Over 85% of the claims which are received are approved.
If you are a victim of crime who may qualify for help under the VOC Program, the process is initiated by filling out a simple form available from the VOC Program, but also available at most police stations, sheriff's offices, and district attorney's offices. The process moves quite rapidly, and victims can expect that the initial review (and often, approval) will occur within 90 days. For more information, or to obtain forms, write the California Victim Compensation and Government Claims Board, 630 K Street, Sacramento, CA 95814.