PART II: ITVERP Assistance and Outreach: Reporting Period of October 2012September 2013
This report provides a summary of the International Terrorism Victim Expense Reimbursement Program’s (ITVERP) activities from October 1, 2012, through September 30, 2013. It covers two critical areas of ITVERP assistance—application processing and claims payment, and public awareness activities undertaken to reach out to potential claimants—and concludes with a discussion of future program needs and suggested improvements.
- ITVERP launched a new website with revised materials.
- The Office for Management and Budget approved the new ITVERP Claimant Feedback Tool.
- ITVERP began planning and development of its Data Management System.
- ITVERP increased outreach to military and international nongovernmental organizations.
- ITVERP increased collaboration with other federal agencies that provide support to victims and surviving family members.
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 38 new applications for reimbursement. The applications reflect terrorist incidents dating from November 24, 1992, to August 21, 2013. 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:
- Active. Claims may be in process while OVC verifies eligibility and 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: 19 claims in process and 2 claims pending designation by NSD. One of the claims pending NSD designation is inactive due to an unresponsive claimant. ITVERP has paid 200 claims, denied 50 claims, and designated 29 claims as inactive/unresponsive since the implementation of the program in 2006. Exhibit 6 presents the status of all ITVERP claims.
During this reporting period, ITVERP completed eight claims received from Foreign Service Nationals (FSN) (also known as locally employed staff). Seven of the claimants were FSNs victimized in the bombings of the U.S. Embassy in Nairobi, Kenya, on August 7, 1998. The remaining claim was submitted on behalf of a deceased FSN killed in Sana’a, Yemen. The total amount reimbursed to FSNs during this reporting period was $53,034.
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 designation of the claim is not contingent upon completion of the application or verification of the expenses. 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 a designation of terrorism, it may take time for NSD to determine whether the event qualifies as a terrorist incident 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 28 paid claims* and 11 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 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 38 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 $123,185 in reimbursement requests. Exhibit 11 shows the amount of reimbursements paid out by each expense category during the reporting period. Many claimants were reimbursed under multiple expense categories.
Under ITVERP regulations, claimants may file an appeal within 30 days of receipt of the OVC Director’s final determination of their claim. In April 2013, ITVERP received and processed its first appeal. The appeal was specific to NSD’s decision not to designate the event as a terrorist incident for the purposes of ITVERP. The final determination affirmed the OVC Director’s dismissal of the claim, and the claimant was informed of this by letter, dated May 31, 2013.
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 $164,588. Exhibit 12 shows ITVERP’s estimated future liability by type of expense reimbursement category.
The OVC Director is authorized to use discretion in extending the filing deadline for ITVERP applications based on a showing of good cause. Of the 38 new applications received during this reporting period, 14 requested—and were granted upon a showing of good cause—an extension to the 3-year filing deadline.
In addition to the 38 new claims received during the reporting period, ITVERP received 8 supplemental applications from 5 claimants.
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 with the U.S. Department of State (DOS) to identify potential claimants. When a terrorist incident occurs outside the United States, DOS is the first agency to respond, locating and identifying U.S. citizens. When appropriate, OVA then provides victims or their families with information about ITVERP as a potential source of financial support. 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 163 potential claimants.
When a terrorism incident results in a large number of victims, the survivors of the event and their families may become the best source of outreach for the program. For example, an ITVERP claimant who was victimized in the 1998 attacks on the U.S. Embassy in Nairobi, Kenya, offered to distribute outreach materials, translated into Swahili, on a Kenyan listserv dedicated to victims of the bombing to help increase outreach. ITVERP worked closely with the claimant and hopes to work with other claimants in a similar capacity.
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 branches of the military and international nongovernmental organizations (NGO), as well as 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 provided direct outreach and 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.
ITVERP also has increased its outreach to various branches of the military. During this reporting period, ITVERP provided information and assistance to the U.S. Army Survivor Outreach Services Program in Fort Lee, Virginia; the U.S. Army Training Center and Casualty and Mortuary Affairs Operations Center in Fort Knox, Kentucky; the Marine Corps Casualty Section in Quantico, Virginia; the Air Force Headquarters, Mortuary Affairs Entitlements, Entitlements Branch, Air Force Mortuary Affairs Operations at Dover Air Force Base, Delaware; the U.S. Marine Corps Headquarters, Casualty Assistance, Benefits and Entitlements office in Arlington, Virginia; and the Office of the Chief Prosecutor at the Office of Military Commissions in Alexandria, Virginia.
ITVERP also conducted targeted outreach to the DOS Legal Claims Office, Office of Logistics Management, Bureau of Administration, Under Secretary for Management on behalf of ITVERP claimants, and the Peace Corps Office of Intergovernmental Affairs and Global Partnerships, Office of Safety and Security, and Office of Counseling and Outreach.
To further identify victims of previous terrorist attacks during this reporting period, ITVERP conducted outreach to the Ambassador to Pakistan, 2001–2002; the former Regional Affairs Officer in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, 1997; the Deputy Justice Attaché at the U.S. Embassy in Afghanistan; the DOS Legal Attaché in Pakistan; and the DOS Director of Human Resources at the U.S. Embassy in Sana’a, Yemen.
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 often contact the Resource Center for information about program eligibility requirements on behalf of specific individuals, and to provide information about potential claimants who may qualify for ITVERP reimbursement.
Similarly, ITVERP staff respond directly to victims who call the helpline for assistance with their applications or with 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 for callers who speak Spanish, Farsi, or Romanian. For callers who speak other languages, the staff access the language line for assistance 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 assist a claimant who spoke only Arabic.
During this reporting period, ITVERP launched its new website, with comprehensive updates to its content, including a program fact sheet, answers to frequently asked questions, various menu selections, and updated resource links. Claimants and potential claimants can obtain information from the ITVERP web page about the program, including eligibility criteria, reimbursement categories and types of expenses covered, and the claims process. Individuals who want to apply to the program can download the updated ITVERP application with integrated instructions, an updated application checklist, and supporting materials directly from the site. A current list of NSD-designated terrorist incident is also available.
Enhancing customer service and communicating with claimants are continuing program priorities. OVC’s focus on customer service will include reviewing the mechanisms available to ITVERP for improving claims processing times and staff communication with victims and families applying for reimbursement. During this reporting period, ITVERP introduced the Claimant Feedback Tool, which was approved by the Office for Management and Budget in September 2013. The Claimant Feedback Tool is designed to obtain information about the application and claim review process from claimants. Once a claimant receives a decision on their claim, they are asked about their experience so that ITVERP staff can improve and enhance program delivery.
OVC continues to ensure that resources are readily and easily accessible to victims and their families. During this reporting period, OVC and the Office of Justice Programs’ Office of the Chief Information Officer entered into an agreement to develop a more comprehensive case management system. The new system will enhance service delivery to applicants by providing greater transparency in the ITVERP claims process and allowing victims to submit applications and track their claims online. The system will also increase the program staff’s 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, as will the resulting policy decisions.
ITVERP is continually conducting outreach to ensure 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 financial support services available through ITVERP and can refer potential claimants to the program.