PART II: ITVERP Assistance and Outreach: Reporting Period of October 2014–September 2015
This report provides a summary of the International Terrorism Victim Expense Reimbursement Program’s (ITVERP) activities from October 1, 2014, to September 30, 2015. It covers two critical areas of ITVERP assistance—application processing and claims payment, and public awareness activities intended to reach potential claimants—and concludes with a discussion of future program needs and suggested improvements.
- 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 conducted outreach to current victims for ongoing medical and mental health expenses.
- ITVERP increased collaboration with other federal partners.
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 33 new applications for reimbursement. The applications reflect terrorist incidents dating from September 4, 1997, to May 13, 2015. 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 21 active claims, of which 13 were in process. ITVERP has paid 256 claims, denied 56 claims, and designated 31 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 are 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 29 paid claims and 1 denied claim 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 the steps in the application 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 assess and fully identify their needs to ensure they receive the maximum reimbursement allowable. Exhibit 10 shows the dollar amount of reimbursements requested in the 33 new applications received during this reporting period, by expense category. Seventeen claimants applied for reimbursement under multiple expense categories.
During this reporting period, ITVERP paid a total of $256,746.14 in reimbursement requests. Exhibit 11 shows the dollar amount of reimbursements paid to the 29 claimants during the reporting period, by each expense category. 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 the 21 claims that are in process are paid in the amounts requested, ITVERP’s potential future liability is $223,808.51. 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 33 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. Fifteen of the 33 claims received by ITVERP during the reporting period were supplemental claims; 11 of the 15 supplemental claims requested reimbursement for ongoing mental health expenses.
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. 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 74 potential claimants.
During this reporting period, ITVERP embarked on an initiative to reach out to claimants who had filed and received reimbursement for medical and/or mental health expenses in their itemized claim, but had not reached the category cap for their medical and/or mental health expenses. ITVERP contacted these claimants about potentially filing supplemental claims for ongoing medical and mental health services. As a result, 15 of the 33 claims received by ITVERP during the reporting period were supplemental claims. In two cases, the claimants filed second supplemental claims for more ongoing medical and mental health expenses. This initiative has become a program practice to ensure ITVERP provides ongoing assistance to victims and their families in the aftermath of international terrorist incidents.
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.
During this reporting period, ITVERP continued to receive and process an increasing number of claims by direct victims and surviving family members of terrorist kidnapping incidents. Kidnappings and hostage cases are unique because these incidents tend to happen over an extended period of time, rather than within a single day like most designated incidents. Because of the prolonged timeframe of these incidents, ITVERP must work closely with its government partners, OVA and NSD, to explain to victims and surviving family members that expenses incurred during the range of time that the victim was held captive may be considered for reimbursement; and to ensure that the incident designation includes the full length of captivity, from the time the victim is kidnapped until their captivity ends.
ITVERP also conducted direct outreach, updated contact information, and provided program information and materials to two U.S. Army Casualty Offices in Fort Irwin, California, and Fort Knox, Kentucky; Crime Victim State Compensation Programs; private government contractors; U.S. Embassies; and other DOS agencies, bureaus, and international NGOs.
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 and nongovernment organizations contact the Resource Center for information about the program's eligibility requirements on behalf of specific individuals, and to provide information about potential claimants that might qualify for ITVERP reimbursement.
ITVERP staff respond directly to victims who call the helpline for assistance with their applications and inquiries about the program’s eligibility requirements and the types of expenses the program covers. 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 to communicate 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 translation and verification from medical providers who spoke only Hebrew and Arabic.
During this reporting period, ITVERP utilized the Claimant Feedback Tool to obtain information about the application and claims review process from three claimants. All of the claimants responded with positive feedback regarding their overall experience with the ITVERP program. They reported that the most challenging part of their experience was understanding and properly completing their application because the paperwork was seen as “intimidating.” The claimants were clear that they felt supported by their case managers through the constant communication during the initial outreach and throughout the processing of their claim.
OVC and the Office of Justice Programs’ Office of the Chief Information Officer (OCIO) continue to work together to develop a more comprehensive case management system. In this reporting period, OVC provided updated feedback to OCIO regarding the internal and external user workflow improvements after conducting second and third rounds of tests on the system. Once completed, the new system will enhance service delivery to applicants by providing greater transparency in the ITVERP claims process for victims and allowing victims to submit applications and track their individual claims online. It will also provide internal program transparency for the purposes of reporting to OVC’s senior management.
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. One example of this, as previously stated, is the increase in the number of terrorist kidnapping incidents. These incidents add complexity to the program and require continual navigation of new issues arising from uncommon and sensitive reimbursement requests. In this way, ITVERP is unique in providing in-depth quality analysis of trending claimant requests, and then addressing and meeting claimants’ needs through policy revisions. As claims continue to be submitted, the program will continue to develop and evolve, as will the resulting policy decisions.
ITVERP is continually conducting outreach to ensure that potential claimants are aware of this unique program. OVA refers most of the potential claimants for ITVERP outreach activities; however, in the immediate aftermath of some mass violence incidents abroad, OVA makes an effort to involve ITVERP in providing assistance to identified victims. Most of these potential claimants inquire about receiving “compensation,” not reimbursement. In these cases, ITVERP must market the program with a focus on its policy to “reimburse” for incurred expenses as a direct result of the incident, but also provide alternatives to ITVERP for potential claimants who may need immediate compensation assistance. ITVERP and OVA meet regularly to refine this type of outreach and the process for serving victims. This initiative strengthens ITVERP’s partnership with OVA so they are working together with the shared goal of better serving victims and their surviving family members.