PART II: ITVERP Assistance and Outreach: Reporting Period of October 2016–September 2017
This report provides a summary of the International Terrorism Victim Expense Reimbursement Program's (ITVERP) activities from October 1, 2016, through September 30, 2017. It covers two critical areas of ITVERP assistance—application processing and claims payment, and public awareness activities intended to reach potential claimants. The report 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.
Applications Received and Processed
During the reporting period, ITVERP received 32 new applications for reimbursement. The applications reflect terrorist incidents dating from July 6, 1989, to April 24, 2017. 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 move through certain phases of the application process, the Office for Victims of Crime (OVC) assigns them one of four classifications:
Active. Active claims are those in process while ITVERP staff verifies eligibility and expenses and gathers additional information. Claims that are pending National Security Division (NSD) designation are also considered active.
Claimant unresponsive. Frequently, claimants initiate the application process but are not responsive when asked to provide additional information to complete their application. Claimants have 120 calendar days from the time ITVERP receives their initial application to provide the necessary information or the claim becomes inactive.
Denied. Claims are considered denied if the OVC Director determines that no reimbursement may be paid. Such claims are also considered inactive.
Paid. Claims are considered paid after the claimants receive reimbursement. Once claims are paid they are also considered inactive.
At the end of the reporting period, there were 25 active claims, of which 18 were in process. ITVERP has paid 332 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 comply 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 scenarios described above may affect review time. Exhibit 7 shows the average length of time it took to process the 31 paid claims and 1 denied claim during the reporting period.
Exhibit 8 shows the average number of days it took for paid claims to move through the steps in the application process.
Only one claim was denied during the reporting period, which was a supplemental claim. NSD had already designated the incident an act of terrorirsm prior to receipt of the application, however the expenses on the claim were ineligible, therefore the claim was denied.
Reimbursements Requested, by Expense Category
Potential claimants who incurred multiple expenses as a result of their victimization 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 9 shows the dollar amount of reimbursements requested, by expense category, for the 32 new applications received during the reporting period. Sixteen claimants applied for reimbursement under multiple expense categories.
Reimbursements Paid, by Expense Category
During the reporting period, ITVERP paid a total of $264,734.07 in reimbursement requests. Exhibit 10 shows the dollar amount of reimbursements paid to the 32 claimants during the reporting period, by 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 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 25 active claims are paid in the amounts requested, ITVERP's potential future liability is $140,528.24. Exhibit 11 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 32 new applications received during the reporting period, two applicants requested—and were granted upon a showing of good cause—an extension of 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. Four of the 32 claims received by ITVERP during the reporting period were supplemental claims; 2 of the 4 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 the needs 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 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 encounter 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) and the U.S. Department of State (DOS) to identify potential claimants. When terrorism incidents occur outside the United States, DOS is the first agency to respond, locating and identifying U.S. citizens. When appropriate, OVA provides victims and their families with information about ITVERP as a potential resource. For the 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 12 potential claimants.
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 national and international organizations (NGO), and individuals who may come into contact with victims of international terrorism, OVC increases awareness about ITVERP and the resources available. ITVERP staff attended the annual VOCA conference in August 2017. 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 email address. Program staff are available to respond to inquiries Monday through Friday. Federal, state, and local government agency staff and nongovernmental 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 who 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 covered. 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. Additionally, ITVERP used LanguageLine to speak with a potential claimant whose primary language was Arabic. LanguageLine also provides translation services for verification documents that require translation.
ITVERP Customer Service
The Claimant Feedback Tool is designed to obtain information from the claimant's perspective about their experience with the ITVERP application and claims review process. During the reporting period, however, no claimants responded to ITVERP's request to provide feedback using the tool. OVC will consider the non-response rate in its plans to explore ways to increase participation and response rates.
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 based on previous feedback. During the reporting period, OVC conducted the second and third rounds of tests on the system. 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 to enhance 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 severity. The complex and often unique circumstances surrounding these incidents require ITVERP to continuously navigate 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 care for family members if the victim survives, and the family member's request was therefore denied. As new claims are submitted, the program will continue to develop and evolve, as will the resulting policy decisions. ITVERP will provide in-depth quality analysis of trending claimant requests and then address their needs through policy revisions, when necessary.
ITVERP case managers who interact directly with victims, their families, and others who call the helpline 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 above the category caps maximums, and because of this, OVC has begun reviewing the percentage of claims submitted that are above the category maximums. OVC realizes that the application requests may not capture all of these additional needs. However, claimants frequently mention the low category caps to the case managers during the application processing. The category caps have not been revisited since the program's inception in 2006.
Outreach and Program Partnerships
ITVERP continually conducts outreach to ensure 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. When OVA does not have a victim list for an incident, ITVERP will reach out to OVT for information regarding potential claimants. ITVERP meets with OVT and OVA regularly to refine this type of outreach and the process for serving victims most effectively. This initiative strengthens ITVERP's partnership with OVA and OVT, so they are working together on the shared goal of better serving victims and their family members. ITVERP can also further its partnerships with state programs by continuing to attend the annual VOCA Conference, preferably hosting a workshop to provide information and establish connections with every state program.