PART II: ITVERP Assistance and Outreach: Reporting Period of October 2015–September 2016
This report provides a summary of the International Terrorism Victim Expense Reimbursement Program's (ITVERP) activities from October 1, 2015, through September 30, 2016. It covers two critical areas of ITVERP assistance—application processing and claims payment, and public awareness activities intended to reach out to potential claimants. The report concludes with a discussion of future program needs and suggested improvements.
- ITVERP continued development of and collaboration on a comprehensive ITVERP data management system.
- ITVERP conducted outreach to current victims for ongoing medical and mental health expenses.
- ITVERP increased collaboration with other federal agency 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.
Applications Received and Processed
During the reporting period, ITVERP received 47 new applications for reimbursement. The applications reflect terrorist incidents dating from April 12, 1999, to July 14, 2016. Exhibit 5 illustrates the number of applications received during each ITVERP reporting period since the program's inception in 2006.
Status of Claims
As claims proceed through the application process, the Office for Victims of Crime (OVC) assigns them one of four related statuses:
Active. laims 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 the reporting period, there were 28 active claims, of which 13 were in process. ITVERP has paid 303 claims, denied 57 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.
Claims From Foreign Service Nationals
During the 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 denied because the victims were deemed ineligible have shorter processing times because ITVERP's review is not contingent on claimants completing the application or on verification of 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 designation as an act of terrorism, it may take time for NSD to determine whether an incident qualifies as an act of terrorism for the purpose of ITVERP. Each of the elements above affects review time. Exhibit 7 shows the average length of time it took to process the 46 paid claims and 1 denied claim during the 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.
Reimbursements Requested, by Expense Category
Potential claimants who incurred multiple expenses may apply for reimbursement under 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, by expense category, for the 47 new applications received during the reporting period. Seventeen claimants applied for reimbursement under multiple expense categories.
Reimbursements Paid, by Expense Category
During the reporting period, ITVERP paid a total of $250,207.10 in reimbursement requests. Exhibit 11 shows the dollar amount of reimbursements paid to the 46 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 only received one appeal. No appeals were filed during the reporting period.
Claims that are in process represent an estimate of ITVERP's potential future liability. If the 28 active claims are paid in the amounts requested, ITVERP's potential future liability is $228,778.02. Exhibit 12 shows ITVERP's estimated future liability, by type of expense reimbursement category.
The OVC Director, at her discretion, is authorized to extend the filing deadline for ITVERP applications based on a showing of good cause. Of the 47 new applications received during the reporting period, 2 applicants requested—and were granted, upon a showing of good cause—an extension to the 3-year filing deadline.
Claimants who receive reimbursement for their claim are eligible to file a supplemental claim for ongoing expenses related to the incident. Nine of the 47 claims received by ITVERP during the reporting period were supplemental claims; 5 of the 9 supplemental claims requested reimbursement for ongoing mental health expenses.
Promoting Public Awareness
Victims of terrorism must focus on their immediate medical, mental health, family, housing, and other needs and those of their loved ones. 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 primarily focus on two specific groups: victims, survivors, and families of terrorism victims who are considered potential claimants; and collaborating agencies and organizations that may have contact with potential claimants. This section describes ITVERP's outreach efforts during the reporting period.
Outreach to Potential Claimants
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 FBI's Office for Victim Assistance (OVA), NSD's Office of Justice for Victims of Overseas Terrorism (OVT), and the U.S. Department of State (DOS) to identify potential claimants. When terrorism incidents occur outside the United States, DOS is the first to respond, locating and identifying U.S. citizens. OVA then responds, where appropriate, to provide victims and their families with information about ITVERP as a potential resource. For individuals 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 the reporting period, ITVERP sent individual outreach letters to 24 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.
Outreach to Collaborating Agencies and Organizations
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 to international nongovernmental organizations (NGO), as well as to individuals who may come into contact with victims of international terrorism, OVC increases awareness about ITVERP and the financial support available.
DITVERP staff attended the annual VOCA conference in August 2016. This provided an opportunity for case managers to meet and exchange information with individual state victim compensation program representatives. State programs also received contact information for ITVERP, which resulted in victims connecting with the program who otherwise would not have known about it.
ITVERP Resource Center
The ITVERP Resource Center responds to questions and requests made through its dedicated toll free helpline and via email. Program staff are available to respond to inquiries Monday through Friday. Federal, state, and local government agency staff and NGOs contact the Resource Center for information about the program's eligibility requirements on behalf of specific individuals, and to provide information about potential claimants who might qualify for ITVERP reimbursement.
ITVERP staff respond directly to victims who call the helpline for assistance with their applications, inquiries about the types of expenses covered, and information about program eligibility requirements. For helpline callers who do not speak English, the staff uses LanguageLine Solutions, which allows for effective, real-time communication with any caller or claimant. During the reporting period, ITVERP accessed LanguageLine to obtain translations and verifications from medical providers who spoke only Hebrew. LanguageLine also provides translation services for verification documents that require translation.
ITVERP Customer Service
During the reporting period, ITVERP used 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 indicated that their case managers were invaluable to the process, and that they were thankful for the program's assistance and their case managers' commitment to their individual claims and circumstances. The claimants noted that the application itself was at times confusing and difficult to navigate, and that they were frustrated with the amount of time it took to have their claims processed. However, overall, the claimants were clear that they felt supported by their case managers through their constant communication during the initial outreach and throughout the processing of their claims.
OVC and the Office of Justice Programs' Office of the Chief Information Officer (OCIO) continue to work together to develop a comprehensive case management system that will also allow the claimants to submit and track their claims online. The system will be designed to streamline the claims process and improve victims' experience. During the reporting period, OVC conducted the second and third rounds of tests on the system and provided updated feedback to OCIO regarding internal and external user work flow improvements. Once completed, the new system will enhance service delivery to applicants by providing greater transparency of the ITVERP claims process for victims and by allowing victims to submit applications and track their individual claims online. It will also provide internal program transparency for reporting to OVC senior management.
Future Program Needs and Improvements
Complexity of Claims
As a reimbursement program, ITVERP is not a typical claims or compensation program. ITVERP is unique in that it requires significant due diligence and review of each expense before reimbursement can occur. Around the world, terrorism incidents have increased both in frequency and in number of casualties, and the complex and often unique circumstances surrounding these incidents require ITVERP to continuously navigate and make decisions around new issues arising from uncommon and sensitive reimbursement requests. For example, a family member filed a claim for mental health treatment received during a 2-year time period when the victim was missing due to a kidnapping. However, ITVERP does not reimburse for mental health of family members if the victim survives, and therefore the family member's request was denied. In this way, ITVERP is unique in providing in-depth quality analysis of trending claimant requests, and then addressing and meeting their needs through policy revisions. As new claims are submitted, the program will continue to develop and evolve, as will the resulting policy decisions.
ITVERP case managers who interact directly with victims, their families, and others who may call the hotline often encounter distraught and emotional claimants. In order to maintain high levels of compassion and effectiveness in processing claims, ITVERP case managers may benefit from victim advocacy and crisis management training.
ITVERP case managers receive many requests for expense reimbursement in amounts that exceed the expense category maximums. (Category caps have not been revisited since the program's inception in 2006). Because of this, OVC has begun reviewing the percentage of claims submitted that exceed the category caps. OVC realizes that application requests may not capture all additional needs, but these needs are expressed to the case managers during the application processing.
Outreach and Program Partnerships
ITVERP continually conducts outreach to ensure potential claimants know about this unique program. OVA provides most of the potential claimants for ITVERP's 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. When an international act of terrorism occurs, if a case is not opened by the FBI, and OVA doesn't have an outreach list to share, ITVERP works with OVT to determine potential victims who may be in need of assistance. ITVERP, OVA, and OVT meet regularly to refine this type of outreach and the process for serving victims most effectively. This initiative strengthens ITVERP's partnerships with OVA and OVT and improves their capacity to work together on the shared goal of better serving victims and their family members. ITVERP will continue to further its partnerships with state programs at future VOCA conferences potentially hosting workshops to provide information and establish additional connections.