Crimes like assault, human trafficking, domestic violence, and homicide can be extremely traumatic for survivors and family members and often lead to expensive medical bills and lost wages. Fortunately, there is a government fund that may offset some of that financial burden.
The Victims of Crime Act (or “VOCA”) is a federal law that provides the state of Ohio with funds to compensate victims of “criminally injurious conduct,” which is defined as conduct that (1) poses substantial threat of personal injury or death and (2) is punishable by a fine, imprisonment, or death. Among those eligible to receive VOCA funds are the actual victims who were injured as a result of violent offense(s), dependents of homicide victims, and persons paying for the expenses that arise from a victim’s injuries. VOCA funds can cover things like medical expenses, therapy, lost wages, crime scene clean-up, damaged clothing, processed items used for evidence, mobility aids, dental expenses, hearing aids, funeral expenses, and financial support for the dependents of a deceased victim. There is, however, a cap of $50,000 per claim, as well as caps for certain types of expenses. Funding will not be awarded for pain and suffering or stolen, damaged, or lost property. It will also be denied for expenses already covered by insurance plans or other compensation methods. To date, over $371 million has been paid out from the fund to crime victims.
Survivors of violent crime may apply for these funds through Ohio’s Crime Victim Compensation program through the Ohio Attorney General’s office. The form itself is fairly simple to fill out; if your application is denied or underpaid, you may appeal the decision. Contact the attorneys in Equality Ohio’s free Legal Clinic if you would like assistance in completing the paperwork. For more information on VOCA eligibility, visit the Ohio Attorney General’s website.