FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

General Information

Where are your offices?

Albany Office: AE Smith Building, 80 S. Swan Street, 2nd FL, Albany, NY 12210 (518) 457-8727
Brooklyn Office: 55 Hanson Place, Room 1000, Brooklyn, NY 11217 (718) 923-4325
Buffalo Office: 65 Court Street, Room 308, Buffalo, NY 14202 (716) 847-7992

I don't live near any of your offices, how can I be in contact with your office without incurring a high phone bill or travel expenses?

OVS has toll-free telephone for your convenience:
1-800-247-8035

How do I get to your nearest office?

Please go to our "Contact Us" page to obtain directions to the OVS office nearest you.  That page also contains links to certain public transportation services that may be available to you.

What services does OVS provide victims?

Does OVS provide any direct services to victims?

Each OVS office has a crime victim advocate that can provide direct assistance to victims and their families by helping in the completion of the a OVS claim application, obtaining Emergency Awards, referring to other agencies and services and helping them through the criminal justice process.  Please refer to our "Services" page for more information about OVS advocate services.

Compensation

Who may be eligible for compensation from the Office of Victim Services?

What kinds of expenses may I get  compensated for?

The OVS offers compensation related to: personal injury, death and loss of essential personal property. The specific expenses OVS may cover include:

What if my property was lost, damaged or destroyed because of the crime?

If you are under 18, 60 or over, disabled or were injured, you may apply for benefits to repair or replace your essential personal property lost, damaged or destroyed as a direct result of a crime that was not covered by any other source. Essential means necessary for your health and welfare, like eyeglasses, cash and clothes.

What are the steps to receive Office of Victim Services (OVS) compensation?

How do I apply for compensation?

You can apply for compensation using the NYS OVS Claim for Compensation Application, from the OVS website, or contact us to find a local victim assistance program near you. You may also get an application from any police station, precinct house, or hospital emergency room.    

Send us your completed OVS application along with photocopies of: 

What if I need compensation right away?

In limited cases, you may ask for an emergency award, up to $2,500.

What if I don't have some of the papers OVS needs? 

Send your application in right away. You can send the other documents later.

My experience as a crime victim is very personal and the information requested on the claim application is also very personal.  Will this information be kept confidential?

The New York State Office of Victim Services wants victims, claimants and potential claimants to know that the records compiled for their claims are confidential and exempt from disclosure with very limited exceptions.  These exceptions include: requests from law enforcement for legitimate criminal justice purposes, judicial orders and for purposes necessary for the OVS to appropriately process your claim.

The application is long.  Do you need all this information to review my claim?

We recognize that the application is lengthy. But, we ask that you complete it as thoroughly and accurately as you can.  The more information we have upfront as we review your application, the more quickly it can be reviewed and a decision made.  There are Victim Assistance Programs available in your community that can help you complete the application.  Go to Locate a Victim Assistance Program Near You to identify a VAP that can assist you.

Do I need to meet with or be in phone contact with the person reviewing my application?

Generally, no. Most of the information necessary to investigate the claim is contained in the completed application and all supporting documentation should be submitted, when possible, at the time the application is submitted.  Staff reviewing your claim will send you letters identifying any additional information necessary to make a determination on your application.  This correspondence is normally sufficient to process your claim. The staff member assigned to your claim will call you if necessary.

What else should I do to receive OVS benefits?

What is the HIPAA authorization form?

The HIPAA authorization form allows providers to discuss health information with OVS.  You must sign a HIPAA authorization form for EACH health care provider.

Who can sign the application?

The victim must sign the application unless s/he is under 18 or is physically or mentally incapable of signing; then the legal guardian must sign.

What does "OVS is the payer of last resort" mean?

This means that all others sources of compensation must be exhausted before OVS can pay the claimant for "out-of-pocket" losses relating to the crime.  For instance, benefits must first be obtained from sources such as workers' compensation, health insurance, automobile or home owner's/renter's insurance, disability, social security benefits, veteran's benefits and the like, before OVS can pay you for your losses associated with the crime.

When does a victim have to establish financial difficulty?

State law requires that for claims at $5,000 or above, a claim may only be approved if the OVS determines that the claimant will experience financial difficulty without the award.

Do I need a lawyer to file a claim with OVS?

No. But, if you hire a lawyer to assist you with this claim, OVS may reimburse up to $1,000 of the legal fees.

What if I move?

Write to OVS and give us your new address and phone number.  Also, let us know if your email address changes. 

How will I be notified about the OVS decision on my claim application?

You will be issued a written determination or "decision" indicating whether or not you will be receiving an award and the reasons for the decision. The decision will state that the decision may be appealed in writing within 30 days of receipt of decision.  In addition, if the claimant is receiving a positive award, the decision will indicate the date when payment can be expected.

What do I do if I am unhappy with the OVS decision on my claim application?

A claimant has 30 days after receipt of a decision to file in writing an appeal to the Director  A panel of three OVS staff members will review the decision under appeal.  Appeal decisions may affirm or modify the original decision.  An appeal decision that modifies the original decision must explain the reasons for the decision. The appeal panel's decision represents OVS's final decision.  The final recourse available to a claimant who disagrees with an appeal panel's decision is to seek a review of OVS's final decision through article 78 of the civil practice law .

Are there other ways I can be compensated for my losses related to the crime?

Victim Assistance Programs

What is a Victim Assistance Program?

Victim Assistance Programs (VAPs) are programs which provide services to victims of crime.  VAPs can provide immediate help to victims and offer additional services that are not directly offered by OVS. Many of these services can be of great comfort and assistance to victims of crimes.  While not all VAPs are funded by OVS, nearly 200 VAPs are funded through the New York State OVS and are located throughout the State. These programs can assist you in filing your claim with OVS. For a listing of VAPs funded by OVS in your area, go to our Locate a Program Near You page.

What is the direct reimbursement Forensic Rape Exam (FRE) Program?

The FRE program is a direct reimbursement program to New York State accredited hospitals, accredited sexual assault examiner programs or licenses health care providers who provide, among other services, forensic rape examination services to a sexual assault survivor.  For the service provider to use this program, the victim must elect not to use health insurance and the health care provider must submit a completed FRE form to OVS. See our Frequently Asked Questions page for the FRE program on our Services page for more information.

Crime Victim Rights

Do I have any legal rights as a crime victim?  Do different victims have different rights?

Yes, you have many, many rights as a crime victim.  Child victims have additional rights beyond those of adult victims, and there are some specific rights afforded domestic violence victims and rape and sexual assault victims. Please see the Rights of Crime Victims pamphlet for a comprehensive answer to these questions. 

Do I have the right to know what is happening to the person accused of committing the crime against me?

Yes, you do have many rights to know about the status of the judicial proceedings for the person accused of committing the crime against you.  You have the right, too, to know the final disposition of the case and, in certain cases, you may be entitled to know of an inmate's release from jail.  Please see the Rights of Crime Victims pamphlet for a detailed answer to this and many other questions on victims' rights.  Also, to learn about the services of the Victim Information and Notification Everyday (VINE) program, see our Help for Crime Victims page or go to http://www.doccs.ny.gov/VictimSvc/vsoverview.html.

I wish the person who committed this crime could understand what it has done to my life and the lives of my loved ones.  How can I explain this to him/her?

In certain cases, the DA shall consult the victim to obtain the views of the victim regarding the disposition of the criminal case.  In addition, you may have the right to submit a "victim impact statement" in which your version of the offense and the extent of your injury out-of-pocket and other economic losses are summarized for the court.  In cases where the defendant is imprisoned, you will be notified of your right to submit a victim impact statement to the Division of Parole or to meet with a member of the Parole Board.  For specifics about your rights regarding victim impact statements, please see the Rights of Crime Victims pamphlet.

I am afraid of the person who committed the crime against me.  How can I be protected?

You have the right to be protected from threats, physical injury, or other kinds of intimidation.  The police, sheriff's department or DA can over advice regarding appropriate measures to keep you safe.

I may be asked to be a witness at the trial of the person accused of the crime against me, but I am afraid of seeing the defendant and others involved with the crime.  How can I go to the trial but remain safe?

The victims and other prosecution witnesses must, when possible, be provided, when awaiting court appearances, a secure waiting area that is separate from all other witnesses.

The police and DA have my property. They say they need it as evidence. When can I get my things back?

Law enforcement agencies and DA's shall promptly return property held for evidentiary purposes unless there is a compelling reason for retaining it relating to proof at trial.  The court will assist in and expedite the return of such property.

Restitution

What is restitution?
Restitution is compensation paid to a victim by the perpetrator of a criminal offense for the losses or injuries incurred as a result of the criminal offense.  It must be ordered by the Court at the time of sentencing, and is considered part of the sentence. Restitution may include but is not limited to reimbursement for medical bills, counseling expenses, loss of earnings and the replacement of stolen or damaged property.

Restitution is NOT for payment of damages for future losses, mental anguish or "pain and suffering".

Who is entitled to restitution?

Anyone who has been the victim of a criminal offense and has suffered injuries, economic losses or damages can seek restitution.  Many times, victims who deserve restitution do not request it.  This can occur because victims are not aware that they are entitled to restitution, or do not know what steps to take to go about receiving the restitution they deserve. 

How do I ask for restitution?

You should contact the DA's office and advise them of the extent of your injury, your out-of-pocket losses and the amount of damages you are requesting. 

IT IS YOUR RESPONSIBILITY to give the police, DA and upon request, the local probation department copies of the bills and other documents showing the extent of your injuries, your out-of-pocket losses and the amount of damages you want considered by the Court!  Your claim for restitution will be included in any probation investigation report (pre-sentence, pre-plea or pre-disposition report).  Be sure to:

You need to clearly explain your need for restitution as soon as possible to the DA, the victim/witness advocate, and the probation department.  Unless waived by mutual consent, plea agreements can occur within days of the actual criminal offense.If this information is not provided before sentencing, you may have to pursue reimbursement of your losses in Civil Court.

In most felony criminal cases, many misdemeanor criminal cases and all juvenile delinquency and persons in need of supervision (PINS) cases, a pre-sentence or predisposition investigation report is required. The local probation department will contact you about the issue of restitution as it pertains to your case.

How is restitution ordered?

The DA is under an obligation to petition the Court to order restitution on your behalf. 
When the District Attorney's (DA) office advises the Court that you have requested restitution or when the victim impact statement contained in the probation investigation report (pre-sentence, pre-plea or pre-disposition report) indicates that the victim seeks restitution, the Court must order restitution unless the interests of justice dictate otherwise.  When the judge does not order restitution, the judge must clearly state his/her reasons on the record.

How is restitution determined?

The amount of restitution is based on proof of your out-of-pocket losses incurred as a result of the criminal offense.  The perpetrator has a right to object to the amount of restitution.  The Court may hold a hearing on the issue of restitution where the Court may consider the perpetrator's ability to pay.  The DA's office may contact you and ask you to testify at the restitution hearing.  If you have a concern about appearing personally in Court, you should explore alternatives with the DA assigned to your case.

Are minors ordered to pay restitution?

Minors can be ordered to pay restitution typically by the Family Court. However, restitution from juvenile delinquents is limited to $1,500 and restitution from persons in need of supervision (PINS) is limited to $1,000.  Additional restitution may be pursued civilly under certain circumstances against the parent or guardian of the minor.

When can I expect to receive my restitution money?

Restitution payments are usually made to the local probation department by the perpetrator.  In New York City, non-probation restitution may be referred to Safe Horizon or another non-profit collection agency.  Payments are based on the amount ordered and disbursed according to the schedule of payments in the restitution order.  The appropriate restitution collection agency will then send a check to you accordingly. 

You must furnish the restitution collection agency with your current address.  Always notify the restitution collection agency of your change of address.

If the New York State Crime Office of Victim Services has paid your bills, the Court may order that restitution payments be made to the OVS for those paid items.

If you filed a claim with the New York State Office of Victim Services, it is important that you advise the OVS if the Court orders the perpetrator to pay restitution.