PART II: ITVERP Assistance and Outreach: Reporting Period of October 2017–September 2018
This report provides a summary of the International Terrorism Victim Expense Reimbursement Program's (ITVERP) activities from October 1, 2017, through September 30, 2018. 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.
- Continued development of and collaboration on a comprehensive ITVERP data management system.
- Outreach to current victims for ongoing medical and mental health expenses.
- 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 36 new applications for reimbursement. The applications reflect terrorist incidents dating from July 6, 1989, to January 20, 2018. 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) classifies them into one of four related statuses:
Active. Active claims are those in process by ITVERP staff while eligibility and expenses are verified and additional information is gathered. A claim that is pending the U.S. Department of Justice's (DOJ) National Security Division (NSD) designation is 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. A claim is considered denied after 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 37 active claims, of which 19 were in process. ITVERP has paid 356 claims, denied 61 claims, and designated 34 claims as claimant unresponsive (inactive) since the implementation of the program in 2006. Exhibit 6 presents the status of all ITVERP claims.
Foreign Service National Claims
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 victim was deemed ineligible have shorter processing times since ITVERP's review is not contingent on a claimant completing the application or on expenses being verified; 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, for an act of terrorism, NSD must conduct its investigation 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 31 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 during the reporting period.
Reimbursement Requests, by Expense Category
Potential claimants who incurred multiple expenses 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 by expense category for the 36 new applications received during the reporting period. Eleven claimants applied for reimbursement under multiple expense categories.
Reimbursements Paid, by Expense Category
During the reporting period, ITVERP paid a total of $145,046.93 in reimbursement requests. Exhibit 11 shows the dollar amount of reimbursements paid to the 26 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 this reporting period.
Claims that are in process represent an estimate of ITVERP's potential future liability. If the 37 active claims are paid in the amounts requested, ITVERP's potential future liability is $255,334.39. 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 36 new applications received during the reporting period, 4 applicants requested—and were granted, upon a showing of good cause—an extension of the 3-year filing deadline.
Claimants who received reimbursement for their itemized claim are eligible to file a supplemental claim for their ongoing expenses related to the incident. Eleven of the 29 claims received by ITVERP during the reporting period were supplemental claims; 5 of the 11 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 focus primarily on two specific groups: victims and survivors of terrorist incidents, and families of 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 Victim Services Division (VSD) within the FBI 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. VSD is then able to respond, where appropriate, and identify ITVERP as a potential resource. In the aftermath of an incident, and where appropriate, VSD provides victims or their families with information about the program. 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 the reporting period, ITVERP sent individual outreach letters to 14 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 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.
ITVERP attended the annual Victims of Crime Act (VOCA) conference in August 2018. This provided an opportunity for ITVERP staff to meet individual state victim compensation program representatives and exchange information. State programs were given contact information for ITVERP, and provided information about the program and processes, which was intended to increase awareness of the program among those would not have otherwise known about it.
ITVERP also attended the annual National Center for Victims of Crime training conference in Portland, Oregon. The case manager attended trainings that focused on secondary trauma and compassion fatigue, as well as trainings that examined other victim services.
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 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 the program covers, and questions about the program's eligibility requirements. For helpline callers who do not speak English, the staff accesses LanguageLine Solutions for assistance to communicate effectively with any caller or claimant. This allows for real-time communication with the caller. During the reporting period, ITVERP accessed LanguageLine to obtain translations and verification from medical providers who spoke only Hebrew. Additionally, ITVERP used LanguageLine to speak with a potential claimant whose primary language was Arabic.
ITVERP Customer Service
ITVERP uses the Claimant Feedback Tool to obtain information about the application and claims review process from claimants' perspectives, in order to identify areas for improvement and areas in which claimants are satisfied with ITVERP performance. No claimants responded to the requests to complete the Claimant Feedback Tool during the reporting period. However, one claimant relayed general comments to ITVERP staff, providing positive feedback regarding their overall experience with the ITVERP program. The overall theme of the claimant's feedback was that ITVERP was a great program with helpful case managers. However, the claimant found the process of submitting supplemental applications to be difficult, and said she would like to see a higher category cap for mental health services. She also suggested that ITVERP connect victims of terrorism so that they could create support groups.
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. During the reporting period, after completing the second and third rounds of tests on the system, OVC provided updated feedback to OCIO regarding the internal and external user workflow improvements. Once completed, the new system will enhance service delivery to applicants by providing greater transparency in 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 purposes to OVC's 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 in frequency, injuries, and casualties. These incidents add complexity to the program and require continual navigation of and decisionmaking 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; 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 recommendations for policy revisions. As claims continue to be submitted, the program will continue to develop and evolve, as will the resulting policy decisions.
Additionally, ITVERP case managers interact directly with victims and their families, as well as other hotline callers, and they 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.
Outreach and Program Partnerships
ITVERP continually conducts outreach to ensure potential claimants know about this unique program. VSD provides most of the potential claimants for ITVERP's outreach activities; however, in the immediate aftermath of some mass violence incidents abroad, VSD 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 expenses incurred as a direct result of an eligible incident, but also provide alternatives to ITVERP for potential claimants who may need immediate compensation assistance. ITVERP and VSD meet regularly to refine this type of outreach and the process for serving victims most effectively. This initiative strengthens ITVERP's partnership with VSD so they are working together on their shared goal to better serve victims and their surviving family members. ITVERP can also enhance its partnerships with state programs by continuing to attend the annual VOCA conference to provide information and establish connections with every state program.