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 October 2013September 2014
This report provides a summary of the International Terrorism Victim Expense Reimbursement Program’s (ITVERP) activities from October 1, 2013, to September 30, 2014. It covers two critical areas of ITVERP assistanceapplication processing and claims payment, and public awareness activities undertaken to reach potential claimants—and concludes with a discussion of future program needs and suggested improvements.
- ITVERP began utilizing the Claimant Feedback Tool to obtain information about the application and claims review process.
- OVC and the Office of Justice Programs’ Office of the Chief Information Officer continued working together to develop a more comprehensive case management system.
- ITVERP increased outreach to foreign victims and surviving nuclear family members.
- ITVERP increased collaboration with other federal agencies for victims and surviving family members of current terrorist incidents.
This section highlights the activities and accomplishments related to ITVERP’s main function of processing applications for reimbursement, including
- 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 31 new applications for reimbursement. The applications reflect terrorist incidents dating from September 4, 1997, to April 24, 2014. Exhibit 5 illustrates the number of applications received during each ITVERP reporting period since the program’s inception in 2006
As claims proceed through the application process, the Office for Victims of Crime (OVC) assigns them one of four related statuses:
- Active. Claims may be in process while OVC verifies eligibility, expenses, and gathers additional information; or active pending designation by the National Security Division (NSD).
- Claimant Unresponsive. 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.
- Denied. A claim is considered denied if the OVC Director determines that no reimbursement may be paid. Such claims are also considered inactive.
- Paid. A claim is considered paid after a claimant receives reimbursement. Once a claim is paid, it is also considered inactive.
At the end of this reporting period, there were 19 active claims: 13 claims in process and 1 claim pending designation by NSD. ITVERP paid 227 claims, denied 55 claims, and designated 30 claims as claimant unresponsive (inactive) since the implementation of the program in 2006. Exhibit 6 presents the status of all ITVERP claims.
During this reporting period, ITVERP did not receive any claims from Foreign Service Nationals.
To process claims, ITVERP requires verification of the claimant’s eligibility and confirmation that the expenses submitted have been processed in compliance with ITVERP regulations. Generally, claims that are denied because of claimant ineligibility require less time to process because ITVERP’s claim review is not contingent upon completion of the application or expense verification. However, depending on the reason for the denial, claims may undergo victim verification and the incident designation process before being denied. For example, if victim verification requires coordination with an investigating agency other than the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), it may take time to identify the agency responsible for verification. Also, if an incident is submitted to NSD for designation as an act of terrorism, it may take time for NSD to determine whether the incident qualifies as a terrorist act for the purpose of ITVERP. Each of the scenarios described above may affect review time. Exhibit 7 shows the average length of time it took to process the 27 paid claims and 5 denied claims completed during this reporting period.
Exhibits 8 and 9 show the average number of days it took for paid and denied claims to move through different steps in the claims process.
Potential claimants who 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 fully identify their needs to ensure they receive the maximum reimbursement allowable. Exhibit 10 shows the dollar amount of reimbursements requested in the 31 new applications received during this reporting period, by expense category. Many claimants applied for reimbursement under multiple expense categories.
During this reporting period, ITVERP paid a total of $175,900.17 in reimbursement requests. Exhibit 11 shows the dollar amount of reimbursements paid to the 27 claimants by each expense category during the reporting period. Some claimants were reimbursed in multiple expense categories.
Under ITVERP regulations, claimants may file an appeal within 30 days of receipt of the OVC Director’s determination of their claim. Since the inception of the program, ITVERP has received only one appeal. No appeals were filed during this reporting period.
Claims that are in process represent an estimate of ITVERP’s potential future liability. If all the claims that are in process are paid in the amounts requested, ITVERP’s potential future liability is $337,175.23. Exhibit 12 shows ITVERP’s estimated future liability by type of expense reimbursement category.
The OVC Director is authorized to use discretion to extend the filing deadline for ITVERP applications based on a showing of good cause. Of the 31 new applications received during this reporting period, one extension of the 3-year filing deadline was requested, and was granted upon a showing of good cause.
Claimants who have received reimbursement for their itemized claim are eligible to file a supplemental claim for their ongoing expenses related to the incident. Three of the 31 claims received by ITVERP during the reporting period were supplemental claims.
Victims of terrorism must focus on their immediate medical, mental health, family, housing, and other needs and those of their loved ones. Unfortunately, many victims and their families are not aware of the resources available to them. A critical ongoing effort for ITVERP is to reach out to victims of international terrorist incidents and their families to inform them of the assistance this program offers. Outreach activities are primarily focused on two specific groups: victims, survivors, and families of terrorism victims who are considered potential claimants; and collaborating agencies and organizations that may come into contact with potential claimants. This section describes ITVERP’s outreach efforts during this reporting period.
ITVERP’s 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) within the FBI and the U.S. Department of State (DOS) to identify potential claimants. When terrorism incidents occur outside of the United States, DOS is the first agency to respond, locating and identifying U.S. citizens. In the aftermath of an incident and when appropriate, OVA provides victims or their families with information about ITVERP as a potential resource. For the victims and family members who choose to apply for benefits, ITVERP case managers verify eligibility and deliver support and assistance throughout the application intake and claims verification process. During this reporting period, ITVERP sent individual outreach letters to 53 potential claimants.
ITVERP received and processed four claims in this reporting period by claimants who were kidnapped. ITVERP provided outreach to more direct victims or surviving family members from this type of terrorist incident. ITVERP was proactive in working with OVA to obtain contact information for, and provide direct assistance to, victims or surviving family members of kidnapping, which is a trending type of terrorism.
Recognizing that many family members can be affected by the loss of a loved one, ITVERP also created an initiative to raise awareness among nuclear family members who may have incurred expenses as a result of a terrorist incident, and are eligible for reimbursement through the ITVERP program. For example, a family had several members killed and injured in a terrorist incident. When OVA connected the family to an ITVERP case manager, 10 family members had incurred costs from two funerals and memorial services and were incurring ongoing medical expenses resulting from the incident. Because of the complexity of filing two claims under the same claimant for two different relatives, and linking each expense to the appropriate claim, ITVERP worked closely with the family members. First, providing them guidance on ITVERP regulations for what expenses were eligible for reimbursement (especially under the funeral and burial category), and second, affirming who is eligible to file claims for mental health expenses. This outreach effort resulted with the family submitting four of the five itemized claims in this reporting period. ITVERP has continued to work closely with the family members who are submitting the last itemized claim and supplemental claims for ongoing expenses.
Another goal of OVC’s outreach efforts is to educate the victim assistance community about ITVERP, including collaborating agencies and potential partners. By reaching out to branches of the military and international nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), and individuals who may come into contact with victims of international terrorism, OVC increases awareness about ITVERP and the financial support available.
During this reporting period, ITVERP conducted direct outreach, updated contact information, and provided program materials to 10 international NGOs: Africare, American Red Cross, Catholic Relief Services, Doctors Without Borders, International Committee for the Red Cross, Care International, Lutheran World Relief, Mercy Corps International, Oxfam America, and Save the Children.
The ITVERP Resource Center responds to questions and requests made through its dedicated toll free helpline and email address. Program staff are available to respond to inquiries Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. eastern time. Federal, state, and local government agency staff and NGOs contact the Resource Center on behalf of specific individuals for information about the program’s eligibility requirements and to inform the center about potential claimants who may qualify for ITVERP reimbursement.
ITVERP has increased assistance to potential foreign claimants who received ITVERP information from a U.S. Embassy or an FBI liaison. In this reporting period, ITVERP assisted claimants from the Philippines, China, Libya, and Thailand who were not affiliated directly with the U.S. Government abroad. In one case, a Chinese national inquired about filing on behalf of her deceased husband who was a U.S. citizen. All correspondence between ITVERP and the potential claimant was done over email in English, once it was established that the claimant was comfortable communicating in this language; however, all receipts submitted with her claim required translation from Mandarin into English for verification purposes. ITVERP utilized Language Line translation services to verify the expenses submitted by the claimant.
Similarly, ITVERP staff respond directly to victims who call the helpline for assistance with their applications, inquiries about the types of expenses the program covers, and the program’s eligibility requirements. For non-English speakers, the program provides translation support. ITVERP staff use their individual language capacity if the caller speaks Spanish. For other languages, the staff access the Language Line for assistance in communicating effectively with any caller or claimant. This allows for real-time communication with the caller. During this reporting period, ITVERP accessed the Language Line to obtain verification from medical providers who spoke only Arabic and Italian.
Enhancing customer service and communicating with claimants continue to be program priorities. OVC’s focus on customer service will include reviewing the mechanisms available to ITVERP to improve claims processing times and staff communication with victims and families applying for reimbursement. During this reporting period, ITVERP utilized the Claimant Feedback Tool to obtain information about the application and claims review process from 17 claimants. All of the claimants responded with positive feedback regarding their overall experience with the ITVERP program, highlighting that the constant communication with their case manager was extremely helpful in the long process. Six of the claimants indicated that the most challenging part of their experience was collecting the supporting documentation needed to process their claim. However, they understood its necessity for verification purposes.
As a further enhancement in customer service, OVC and the Office of Justice Programs’ Office of the Chief Information Officer (OCIO) continue to work closely together to develop a more comprehensive case management system. In this reporting period, OCIO completed the development of the intake portion of the new system for external users to submit an ITVERP claim. After testing the intake portion as an external user, OVC provided feedback to OCIO that included proper descriptions and user work flow improvements. Once completed, the new system will enhance service delivery to applicants by providing greater transparency in the ITVERP claims process for victims and by allowing them to submit applications and track their individual claims online. It will also afford program staff the increased capacity to enhance customer service delivery.
As a reimbursement program, ITVERP is not a typical claims or compensation program. ITVERP is unique because it requires significant due diligence and review of each expense before reimbursement can occur. This adds complexity to the program and requires continual navigation of new issues arising from uncommon and sensitive reimbursement requests. In this way, ITVERP is a program where the quality of the analysis and resulting claim determination is paramount, and swift processing is not always possible. As new claims continue to be submitted, the program will continue to develop and evolve, as will the resulting policy decisions.
ITVERP is also continually conducting outreach to ensure that potential claimants are aware of this unique program. ITVERP must promote the program among governmental and nongovernmental agencies on an ongoing basis and conduct consistent outreach by attending conferences and meetings and building relationships with other organizations. Such exposure is essential to ensuring that organizations that come into contact with victims are aware of the ITVERP program and can refer potential claimants to its resources.
Recognizing that many claimants file supplemental claims for ongoing mental health services, ITVERP will launch an outreach initiative to claimants who were reimbursed for mental health expenses in their itemized claim. This initiative will enhance customer service efforts as ITVERP provides continued assistance to victims and their families in the aftermath of international terrorist incidents.