Advertisement

This solution isn't what victims need

April 02, 2002|BY BOB MAGINNIS

This solution isn't what victims need

Pennsylvania's Crime Victim's Compensation Fund now has almost $400,000 in claims awaiting payment, but only $300,000 in the bank. How that happened is important, but not as urgent as fixing the problem.

The fund was set up in 1976 to help crime victims and their relatives. Funded by a $15 surcharge placed on each criminal conviction, the fund pays for a number of crime-related expenses, including medical bills, counseling and even funerals, if necessary.

It is set up as a "last resort" fund, requiring those who seek payments to first file claims with insurance companies, Medicaid or Social Security.

Advertisement

So what happened? Six years ago, then Gov. Tom Ridge placed the funds under the executive branch. Every year since then, the claims have risen, with The Associated Press reporting they increased by 25 percent last year.

Payments have also been sent out faster. A claim that was once settled in six months is now paid in about three months. In all, last year's payouts sent $8.2 million to 3,512 people, most the victims of assaults who needed it to pay medical expenses and to replace lost wages.

To deal with the present shortfall, the Pennsylvania House's Judiciary Committee has proposed reducing the payments, and increasing the surcharge per conviction to $25, which lawmakers say would add $2 million annually to the fund.

Increase the surcharge, yes, but don't reduce the payments unless there's some reason to believe victims are getting more than is necessary. The shortfall can made up in other ways.

Instead of being an executive-branch department, the fund could become an independent non-profit organization. That would allow it to hold fund-raisers and accept donations from citizens.

An independent non-profit could also begin an endowment fund to supplement the money received from convictions. Whatever the solution, reducing legitimate payments to victims of crime should not be part of the answer.

The Herald-Mail Articles
|
|
|