ITVERP Report to Congress: Period of October 2016 to September 2017
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.
Each annual report showcases OVC’s efforts to implement ITVERP and enhance benefits and services to victims of international terrorism during a 12-month period. Although previous reports have been published in print format, the current report and successive reports are being made available online for users’ ease of reference and cost-effectiveness. Copies may be downloaded by those preferring print versions of the reports.
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.
ITVERP is funded through the Antiterrorism Emergency Reserve (the Emergency Reserve), a component of the Crime Victims Fund (the Fund).i The Fund is financed by fines, forfeitures, and penalties paid by convicted federal criminal offenders, as well as gifts, donations, and private bequests. It does not use tax dollars. The OVC Director may authorize the use of funds from the Emergency Reserve for the following purposes:
- 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.
The following expenses are not eligible for 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.
Claimants may request reimbursement using one of three types of applications:
- 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
Upon receipt of an application, ITVERP reviews the documentation provided to assess whether the claimant is eligible for reimbursement. This involves—
- 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
Once claimant eligibility is established, OVC reviews all expenses for eligibility under the ITVERP program. This two-part process involves—
- 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 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.
Exhibits 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 e-mail 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.