New York State marks Crime Victims’ Rights Week, highlights important safety net available to crime victims and their families

April 13, 2011 - 9:00am

Office of Victim Services provides compensation, funds a network of 189 victims’ assistance programs across the state

The New York State Office of Victim Services (OVS) provided nearly $27 million in compensation – including payment of unreimbursed medical and dental bills, funeral and moving expenses, and lost wages and support – to more than 11,000 crime victims and their families in 2010.

New York State joins the federal government in marking this week (Sunday, April 10 through Saturday, April 16) as Crime Victims’ Rights Week. Recognized nationally since 1981, the week is designed to call attention to the life-changing impact crime has on victims and their loved ones, to highlight services available to assist crime victims and to reinforce the message that victims’ voices need to be heard throughout the criminal justice process.

“For more than 40 years, New York State has offered compensation to crime victims and their families, ensuring an important safety net when they have nowhere else to turn,” OVS Director Tina M. Stanford said. “This assistance provides help, hope and healing to men, women and children who, through no fault of their own, have been victimized. The entire agency is committed to doing everything we can to ensure that crime victims know that help is available and we will continue to work in partnership with law enforcement and victims’ assistance programs across the state to meet this important need.”

The Office of Victim Services offers compensation related to personal injury, death and loss of essential personal property (such as eyeglasses) to eligible crime victims, all at no cost to taxpayers.

Funding for crime victims’ compensation – as well as OVS operations and grants the agency provides to a network of 189 victims’ assistance programs across the state – comes entirely from fines, mandatory surcharges and crime victim assistance fees that certain offenders pay after conviction in either New York State or federal court. For example, an individual convicted of a felony in New York State must pay a $300 mandatory surcharge and a $25 crime victim assistance fee.

The agency paid a total of 11,127 claims in 2010, assisting men, women and children who lived in each of the state’s 62 counties, as well as those who were out-of state residents. That number represents both claims awarded and paid for the first time in 2010, and claims awarded in prior years – for ongoing medical bills, for example – that continued to be paid last year.

The bulk of the $27 million – more than $22 million – was paid in connection with 8,073 personal injury claims. Another $4.3 million was paid on 904 death claims and $505,085, on 2,150 essential personal property claims. Claims paid by county in 2010.

The amount of the awards varied, depending on each individual’s or family’s circumstances or needs, and claims are confidential under state law; the majority of claims paid statewide were filed in connection with assaults, burglaries, robberies or larcenies, sexual assault or child sexual abuse, and homicide cases. Most claims – 32 percent – were for victims between the ages of 18 and 29, and the fewest – 13 percent – were for children who were 17 years old or younger.

More than half of the claims – 54 percent – paid by OVS in 2010 involved male victims. Of those claims: 35 percent of victims were between the ages of 18 and 29; 23 percent between the ages of 30 and 44; 12 percent between the ages of 45 and 59; 13 percent, over 60 years old; and 12 percent, 17 and under.

Of the claims involving female victims: 30 percent of victims were between the ages of 18 and 29; 22 percent between the ages of 30 and 44; 19 percent, over 60 years old; 15 percent between the ages of 45 and 59; and 14 percent, 17 and under.
There is a cap on some payments made by the agency: the maximum amount for a loss of wages or support claim is $30,000; funeral expenses, $6,000; and essential personal property, $500. There is no cap on medical/therapy payments. For example, if an individual suffers a traumatic brain injury as a result of a shooting, and he or she is deemed eligible for assistance, the agency will pay medical bills indefinitely.

OVS is a payer of last resort, which means all other sources of compensation must be exhausted before the agency can pay a victim or their family for “out-of-pocket” losses related to the crime.

Benefits must first be obtained from sources such as workers’ compensation, health insurance and automobile and home owner’s insurance before the agency can pay an eligible claimant for losses associated with a crime.

Forensic Rape Examination claims are the exception. The agency will directly reimburse providers – typically, hospitals – for the cost of exams when victims do not have access to private health insurance, or they choose not to use private health care insurance to pay for exams. This ensures the personal privacy of sexual assault victims.

Last year, the agency paid 6,330 forensic rape examination claims on behalf of victims in each of the state’s 62 counties, totaling $4.84 million. In 2009, OVS paid 4,189 forensic rape exam claims, totaling $3.2 million.

OVS also provides emergency assistance to individuals if they are deemed potentially eligible for compensation but would suffer undue hardship if they didn’t receive immediate payment.

In 2010, the agency also made 600 emergency awards, about 20 percent more than the year before, to crime victims in 36 counties, totaling more than $1 million. An emergency award can allow a homicide victim’s family to make funeral arrangements or provide sexual assault victims with HIV post-exposure treatment medications, which are expensive and need to be taken in a timely manner to be effective.
Click on “Help for Crime Victims” to learn more about eligibility guidelines, frequently asked questions and the network of 189 victims’ assistance programs (VAPs) that the agency funds across New York State. Those VAPs serve more than 240,000 individuals statewide.