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Clarification regarding the applicability of the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996 to VOCA victim compensation and victim assistance programs

June 28, 2010

TO:         VOCA Administrators

FROM:   Joye E. Frost
              Acting Director
              Office for Victims of Crime

The purpose of this message is to provide clarification regarding the applicability of the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996 to Victims of Crime Act (VOCA) victim compensation and victim assistance programs.

This issue has been raised in the past and has been under review for quite some time. On May 12, 2010, the Office for Victims of Crime (OVC) received the final legal opinion related to this matter, and as such we are providing this information to you.

As you may know, the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996 provides that an alien who is not a “qualified alien” (as defined in section 431(b) thereof) is not eligible for any “Federal public benefit.” Federal public benefit, in turn, is defined in section 401(c)(1) to mean -

  1. any grant, contract, loan, professional license, or commercial license provided by an agency of the United States or by appropriated funds of the United States; and
  2. any retirement, welfare, health, disability, public or assisted housing, post secondary education, food assistance, unemployment benefit, or any other similar benefit for which payments or assistance are provided to an individual, household, or family eligibility unit by an agency of the United States or by appropriated funds of the United States.

We have determined that neither compensation nor assistance funded by VOCA victim compensation or victim assistance grants are “Federal public benefits” within the meaning of the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996, and therefore should not be denied to an individual on the ground that the person is not a “qualified alien” under that Act.

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