This e-publication provides essential background information about the International Terrorism Victim Expense Reimbursement Program (ITVERP)—how it came into existence, its role in assisting victims of international terrorism and mass violence, and how the reimbursement process works. Companion reports summarizing annual program activities and statistics are also available, starting with the September 2008–August 2009 reporting period.
About This Report
The establishment of the International Terrorism Victim Expense Reimbursement Program (ITVERP) in 2006 enabled the Office for Victims of Crime (OVC) to take an important step forward in responding to the needs of victims of international terrorism. The creation of ITVERP broke new ground in the field of victim services and filled a critical gap in outreach for this population of crime victims.As mandated by Congress, OVC must submit annual reports on ITVERP activities that include the following:
- An explanation of the procedures for filing and processing applications for reimbursement.
- A statistical analysis of the assistance provided under the program, including—
- The number of applications for reimbursement submitted.
- The number of applications approved and the amount of each award.
- The number of applications denied and the reasons for denial.
- The average length of time needed to process an application.
- The number of applications in process.
- The estimated future liability of the program.
- A description of the procedures and policies instituted to promote public awareness of the program.
- An analysis of future program needs and suggested program improvements.
Message From the Director
We live in a world where international terrorism is a constant threat to our national security and personal safety. U.S. citizens living, working, or traveling abroad, and foreign nationals working on behalf of the United States Government, are often targets of international terrorist attacks. The physical and psychological effects experienced by victims of international terrorism are devastating and long lasting.
In the past, the only resource for many victims of acts of international terrorism was their state victim compensation program, as provided by the 1984 Victims of Crime Act (VOCA). Because each state and territory determined its own level of funding and assistance, victims of the same act of terrorism occurring abroad, who were residents of different states, received different levels of compensation from these programs.
In 2000, in response to inconsistencies in crime victim compensation benefits across state lines, Congress established the International Terrorism Victim Expense Reimbursement Program (ITVERP). ITVERP ensures that all eligible victims of acts of international terrorism and their families receive equitable financial assistance, regardless of the victim’s legal state of residence. ITVERP became fully operational in October 2006, and has since been among the Office for Victims of Crime’s (OVC) most important initiatives. As a unique, federal direct service program, ITVERP enables OVC to reimburse victims of international terrorism for certain expenses they incur as a direct result of their victimization.
For many years, OVC has worked to address gaps in victim services and provided funding to administer state-based compensation programs for victims of crime. OVC’s expertise in this area enhances ITVERP’s ability to address the significant financial hardships often encountered by U.S. citizens victimized by international terrorism. As a payer of last resort, ITVERP may reimburse eligible victims for medical, mental health, funeral and burial, property loss, and certain miscellaneous expenses.
In recent years, coordination with other federal agencies such as the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the National Security Division, and the U.S. Department of State, has substantially increased ITVERP’s ability to conduct outreach to potential claimants and increase public awareness of the program and the benefits it provides. It is our goal to make ITVERP known to all victims who can be helped by the program and to ensure that OVC will be able to provide the assistance they need well into the 21st century.
Joye E. Frost
Office for Victims of Crime
ITVERP Program Description
Legislation and Funding
In 2000, Congress amended the Victims of Crime Act (VOCA) of 1984, Public Law 98-473 (codified at 42 U.S.C.§ 10601 et seq.), to include authorization for OVC to establish a federal program that would uniformly and equitably provide assistance to victims of designated terrorist acts for certain expenses, regardless of the victim’s legal state of residence. This program became the International Terrorism Victim Expense Reimbursement Program (ITVERP). Eligible victims include U.S. nationals, and foreign nationals working for the U.S. Government at the time of the terrorist act. The program became operational on October 6, 2006, when final regulations (28 C.F.R. part 94) governing the program went into effect.
- To fund ITVERP;
- To support compensation and assistance services for victims of domestic terrorism or mass violence;
- To support assistance services to victims of international terrorism; and
- To transfer funds to U.S. district courts to cover the costs of special masters appointed to hear damage claims in certain cases brought under the terrorism exception to foreign sovereign immunity.
Through ITVERP, OVC provides reimbursement to victims of international terrorism and their families for expenses related to medical care, funeral and burial expenses, repatriation of remains, mental health counseling, property loss, and miscellaneous expenses, such as emergency travel.
ITVERP is authorized to reimburse eligible victims of acts of international terrorism that occur outside the United States for expenses incurred as a direct result of their victimization. Individuals eligible for reimbursement include U.S. nationals and officers, employees, and contractors of the Federal Government, including foreign nationals.ii In the case of a victim who is incompetent, incapacitated, deceased, or a minor, a family member (spouse, parent, child, sibling, or other person at the discretion of the OVC Director) or legal guardian may apply for and receive reimbursement on behalf of the victim. A victim, family member, or legal guardian who applies for ITVERP reimbursement is referred to as a claimant.
Exhibit 1 identifies the types of expenses for which eligible claimants may request reimbursement.
- Attorneys’ fees and other legal expenses;
- Lost wages;
- Payments for pain and suffering; and
- The loss of enjoyment of life or of consortium.
ITVERP regulations also stipulate that OVC cannot provide reimbursement for expenses for which the claimant already received compensation or reimbursement. These ineligible expenses are referred to as collateral sources. Examples of collateral sources include workers’ compensation payments and insurance benefits. Life insurance proceeds are generally not considered a collateral source because they do not compensate claimants for specific out-of-pocket expenses. The definition of collateral sources for ITVERP’s purposes is consistent with other provisions relating to crime victim compensation programs under VOCA.
- Interim Emergency—For claimants seeking funds for an immediate need, such as medical treatment, short-term lodging, or emergency transportation. Emergency requests are processed based on the determination by the OVC Director that a payment will avoid or mitigate substantial hardship that may arise from delaying reimbursement.
- Itemized—For claimants making a first-time request to be reimbursed for out-of-pocket expenses.
- Supplemental—For claimants incurring additional expenses or whose expenses have changed since they first applied for funding (e.g., bills received late or for newly required services).
The deadline to submit an application for ITVERP reimbursement is based on the date of the act of international terrorism, as illustrated in exhibit 2.
Procedures for Filing and Processing an Application
OVC has an established procedure for receiving, tracking, and processing applications for reimbursement. The average processing time for paid claims is 285 days. The ITVERP claims process is described below and illustrated in exhibit 3.
Intake begins when OVC receives the application for reimbursement, which the claimant must complete and submit by mail. Application materials can be downloaded and printed from the ITVERP Web page or obtained by request via the ITVERP toll free line (1–800–363–0441).
Eligibility of Claimant
- Application review: All applications are assigned to a case manager, who reviews the information submitted by the claimant to assess the completeness of the application. Within 5 business days of receipt of the application, the case manager mails the claimant a letter acknowledging receipt of the application. The case manager also contacts the claimant to obtain any missing or additional information needed to process the claim. The claimant has 120 calendar days to provide the requested information; otherwise, the claim will be moved to inactive status until the information is provided. The claimant is notified of this deadline every 30 days via written correspondence.
ITVERP regulations allow only one application per victim to be filed. A claim is ordinarily filed by the direct victim of the terrorist act; however, a family member can file the claim on behalf of the direct victim. When a family member files, they have to collect information for all qualifying expenses from those who incurred expenses on behalf of the victim. Although only the direct victim or a family member (or legal guardian) is authorized to file the claim and receive reimbursement, the funds reimbursed by the program may then be distributed among others who incurred expenses. While such expenses were initially paid by others, the claim for reimbursement is based on the injury suffered by the direct victim.
The only exception to this occurs when family members such as the spouse, children, parents, and siblings of the direct victim are eligible to file individual claims for mental health counseling on their own behalf. This applies when the direct victim dies as a result of the act of terrorism; when the direct victim is under 18 years of age or is incompetent or incapacitated at the time of the act of terrorism; or when the direct victim is rendered incompetent or incapacitated as a result of the act of terrorism.
- Verification of victim/claimant: ITVERP will verify, through the applicable investigating law enforcement agency, that the victim and claimant listed on the application are associated with the act of terrorism. In most instances, this information is obtained from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Office for Victim Assistance (OVA). For family members applying for reimbursement on behalf of their loved ones, ITVERP will review documentation to verify the relationship between the applying family member, or designated legal representative, and the direct victim.
- Designation of an incident as an act of international terrorism: The corresponding incident must first be designated as an act of international terrorism for the purposes of ITVERP before the Director of OVC may authorize reimbursement. The authority to make this determination is delegated to the Assistant Attorney General for National Security. A current list of designated incidents can be found online. Upon receipt of an application linked to an incident not yet designated as an act of terrorism, OVC submits a request for designation to the National Security Division.
Eligibility of Expenses
- Expense verification: A claimant must submit their application with an original signature and copies of original receipts for each expense. At the OVC Director’s discretion, a claimant may submit a signed statement that explains why receipts are unavailable, itemizes and describes each individual expense, and certifies that the information and expenses listed are accurate to the best of the claimant’s knowledge. Based on the information submitted, the OVC Director may consider an itemized statement of expenses in lieu of receipts. ITVERP will verify each expense submitted by contacting service providers and vendors to confirm the amount of the expense and that it is directly linked to the terrorist act.
- Collateral source verification: The claimant must also submit complete and accurate information regarding all other financial resources that are or may be available to offset expenses. ITVERP will work with the claimant to review all potential resources for payment or financial assistance, which often include—
- Insurance (health, disability, property, etc.);
- Workers’ compensation;
- Medicare or Medicaid;
- Social Security benefits;
- Foreign governments or private entities; and
- Other victim assistance or emergency assistance programs (state compensation programs, etc.).
It is important to note that, if a claimant has been awarded compensation through a court judgment against a foreign government that has not yet been paid, the amount of this judgment is considered a collateral source under ITVERP, and the ITVERP reimbursement will be reduced accordingly.
Once the claimant’s eligibility and expenses have been verified, ITVERP staff make a recommendation for disposition of the claim to OVC. Final determination of the ITVERP award is made by the OVC Director.
Claim Determination and Payment
Exhibit 4 lists the ways a claim can be decided by the OVC Director.
For those claims that are processed as full or partial payment, claimants in the United States receive payment via direct deposit; claimants outside the United States receive payment via an international electronic funds transfer. All reimbursements are made in U.S. dollars. If a claimant submits a request in a currency other than U.S. dollars, the payment is converted using the official U.S. Department of the Treasury, Financial Management Service’s foreign currency exchange rates.
Once a claim has been approved or denied, OVC sends a letter to the claimant outlining the decision and explaining the appeals process. Claimants have the right to appeal a final decision within 30 days of receiving the determination of their claim. Appeal requests are sent to the Assistant Attorney General for the Office of Justice Programs, who reviews the claim and renders a final determination.
PART II: ITVERP Assistance and Outreach: Reporting Period of September 2010–August 2011
This report provides a summary of the International Terrorism Victim Expense Reimbursement Program’s (ITVERP) activities during the September 2010 through August 2011 reporting period. It covers two main areas of ITVERP assistance—application processing and claims payment, and public awareness activities undertaken to reach out to potential claimants. A discussion of future program needs and improvements is included at the end of the report.
- The number of applications received;
- The status of claims;
- The current processing time for claims;
- Details regarding reimbursements paid to claimants; and
- The number of appeals under the program to date.
During this reporting period, ITVERP received 38 new applications for reimbursement. The applications reflect terrorist incidents dating from June 14, 1985, to December 18, 2010. Exhibit 5 illustrates the number of applications received during each ITVERP reporting period since the program’s inception in 2006.
As claims reach certain phases in the application process, OVC assigns them one of four related statuses. Claims may be in process for several weeks while eligibility and expenses are verified, additional information is requested, etc. Frequently, claimants initiate the application process but do not provide complete information. Claimants have 120 calendar days from the time ITVERP receives their initial application to provide the necessary information or the claim will become inactive. A claim is considered paid after a claimant receives payment. A claim is considered inactive if the claim is denied.
At the end of this reporting period, there were 71 active claims, of which 59 claims were in process, 6 claims were pending National Security Division (NSD) designation, and 6 claims were partially paid. ITVERP has paid 107 claims, denied 27 claims, and designated 7 claims inactive/unresponsive. Exhibit 6 presents the status of all ITVERP claims.
Processing ITVERP claims requires verification of claimant eligibility and that the expenses submitted are processed in compliance with ITVERP regulations. Denied claims typically require less time to process because ITVERP does not have to wait for the application to be completed by the claimant or for expenses to be verified in order to determine the applicant’s eligibility. Exhibit 7 shows the average length of time it took to process the 107 paid claims and the 27 denied claims completed at the end of this reporting period.
Exhibit 8 shows the percentage of time spent on different steps in the claims process, broken down by paid and denied claims.
Potential claimants who have incurred multiple expenses as a result of their victimization may apply for reimbursement in more than one expense category. ITVERP case managers work closely with claimants and potential claimants to assess and fully identify their needs to ensure they receive the maximum reimbursement allowable. Exhibit 9 shows the number of reimbursements requested, by category, during this reporting period; many claimants applied for reimbursement under multiple expense categories.
To date, ITVERP paid 107 requests for reimbursement and made 6 partial payments. Those payments totaled $1,117,164.47. Exhibit 10 shows the percentage of reimbursements paid out by each expense category during the reporting period; many claimants applied for reimbursement under multiple expense categories.
Under ITVERP regulations, claimants may file an appeal within 30 days of receipt of a final determination of their claim. During this reporting period, no official appeals were filed.
In process claims represent an estimate of ITVERP’s future liability. If all in process claims are paid at the amounts requested, including the remaining balances on partial payments, ITVERP’s future liability is $773,632.00. Exhibit 11 shows ITVERP’s estimated future liability by type of reimbursement.
Victims of terrorism must focus on the immediate medical, mental health, family, housing, and other needs for themselves and their loved ones. Many victims and their families are not aware of resources available to them. A critical component of ITVERP includes ongoing outreach to inform victims of international terrorist incidents and their families of the assistance this program offers. Outreach activities are focused on two primary groups: potential claimants, and collaborating agencies and organizations that may have contact with potential claimants. This section details the outreach efforts that took place during this reporting period and provides information on the ITVERP Resource Center.
ITVERP outreach efforts focus on victims of international acts of terrorism and their family members who may be eligible for reimbursement under the program. OVC coordinates with the Office for Victim Assistance (OVA) in the Federal Office of Investigation (FBI) and the U.S. Department of State (DOS) to identify potential claimants. When terrorist incidents occur outside the United States and involve U.S. citizens, DOS is the first to respond, locating and identifying the victims. DOS coordinates and communicates with OVA, which provides immediate and ongoing victim assistance support to victims and their families. Where appropriate, OVA identifies ITVERP as a potential resource and provides victims or their family members with program information. For the victims and family members who choose to apply, ITVERP determines eligibility.
Interagency coordination enhances ITVERP’s outreach efforts and gives potential claimants access to needed resources. During this reporting period, OVC, OVA, and DOS coordinated efforts to identify and reach out to 298 potential claimants. With materials provided by OVC, OVA was able to disseminate ITVERP information in the immediate aftermath of a terrorist incident in Frankfurt, Germany, on March 2, 2011.
Another goal of OVC’s outreach efforts is to educate the victim assistance community, including collaborating agencies and potential partners, about ITVERP. By reaching out to national and international organizations, and individuals that may come into contact with victims of international terrorism, OVC increases awareness about ITVERP and the resources available.
A change to the ITVERP regulation, effective April 11, 2011, allowed the OVC Director discretion in extending the filing of ITVERP applications under certain circumstances. During this reporting period, OVC coordinated with the victim witness coordinator in the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Southern District of New York in an effort to expand outreach efforts to victims of international terrorist attacks involved in U.S. federal court cases that may not be aware of the program. In August 2011, OVC identified methods of conducting targeted outreach to entities such as the Peace Corps, universities that facilitate study abroad programs, U.S. contractors and companies working abroad, Embassies, and various conferences in which OVC regularly participates.
The ITVERP Resource Center responds to questions and requests made through its dedicated toll free hotline and e-mail address. Program staff are available to respond to inquiries Monday through Friday between the hours of 8:30 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. eastern time. Federal, state, and local government agency staff contact the Resource Center to obtain information regarding the program’s rules and eligibility on behalf of specific victims, and to provide information about potential claimants and particular terrorist incidents that might qualify for ITVERP reimbursement. Similarly, nongovernmental organizations contact the ITVERP Resource Center to obtain information about the program to include in their own outreach efforts.
All congressional inquiries received by OVC are promptly directed to OJP’s Office of Communications. During the reporting period, OVC received no written inquiries from congressional offices requesting information on specific ITVERP claims submitted by their constituents.
Claimants and potential applicants can obtain information about the program, including eligibility criteria, reimbursable expenses, and instructions for filing an application, through the ITVERP Web page. Potential claimants can download the application for reimbursement, checklists, and supporting documents directly from the site, which also provides a list of answers to frequently asked questions to assist with the application process. During the reporting period, OVC enhanced the page to include an updated list of NSD-designated terrorist incidents.
While there have been important achievements since ITVERP began, we must ensure that resources continue to be readily and easily accessible to victims and their families. During this past year, OVC learned valuable information that will guide future enhancements to ITVERP.
Enhancing customer service and communication with claimants continues to be a program priority. OVC will continue to focus on customer service, including reviewing the ITVERP claim process and improving staff communication with victims and families applying for reimbursement. Additionally, OVC recognizes the importance of collaborating with other agencies and organizations and will continue to expand its partnership network.
As ITVERP continues to assist victims and their families in the aftermath of international terrorist incidents, OVC will refine and enhance its outreach and customer service efforts. In the coming year, OVC will focus on augmenting several program areas, including outreach efforts to victims of terrorist incidents occurring outside the United States, coordination with state compensation programs, and coordination with other federal agencies and organizations.
1 Congress established the Fund in 1984 and, in 1996, allowed $20 million of the Fund to be set aside for the Emergency Reserve. In 2001, the set-aside was increased to $50 million. The Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act (USA PATRIOT Act) of 2001 authorizes the OVC Director to replenish the Emergency Reserve in subsequent fiscal years by using up to 5 percent of the amount remaining in the Crime Victims Fund in any fiscal year after distributing amounts otherwise available for that year.
2 The original ITVERP legislation states that the individual victim must have “suffered direct physical or emotional injury or death as a result of international terrorism occurring on or after December 21, 1988, with respect to which an investigation or prosecution was ongoing after April 24, 1996.” The National Defense Reauthorization Act of 2008 (P.L. 110-181) amended VOCA, authorizing ITVERP to cover acts of terrorism that occurred “on or after October 23, 1983.” An event is considered an act of international terrorism if it is designated as such by the Assistant Attorney General (AAG) for National Security. This authority was delegated to the AAG for National Security by the Attorney General of the United States in 2007.
3 The National Defense Reauthorization Act for Fiscal Year 2008 modified ITVERP by extending coverage of ITVERP to designated events back to October 23, 1983.