Wednesday, April 29, 2009

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Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott Observes National Crime Victims’ Rights Week

AUSTIN – Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, state legislators and victim advocacy organizations today observed National Crime Victims’ Rights Week, which marks the passage of the federal Victims of Crime Act (VOCA) and “25 Years of Rebuilding Lives.”

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In 1984, the U.S. Congress passed the landmark VOCA statute to establish the Crime Victims Fund, which uses fines and fees paid by federal offenders to finance crime victim compensation, nationwide victim services and victim service provider training. Over the last 25 years, the federal Fund has grown from $68 million to more than $2 billion. Under VOCA, Texas Crime Victims’ Compensation Fund has received nearly $300 million in federal funds. A similar amount has been distributed to victim services programs through the Governor’s Office.

“Serving and protecting Texas crime victims is one of our most important and solemn duties,” Attorney General Abbott said. “As custodians of the Crime Victims’ Compensation Fund, we are committed to working with crime victim organizations to help victims down the path to recovery. Together, we can ensure Texas crime victims have access to the financial resources and victim services they need to triumph over adversity.”

The Office of the Attorney General administers the Crime Victims’ Compensation Fund, which helps crime victims and their families with the financial costs of violent crime. Eligible victims may be reimbursed for out-of-pocket expenses they incurred because of the crime. Reimbursable expenses include medical and counseling bills, funeral costs and victim relocation expenses.

Last year, the OAG received more than 37,000 applications for crime victims’ assistance and awarded more than $66 million to victims and their families. The OAG also distributed nearly $34 million in grants to entities that provide emergency shelter, crisis counseling, court accompaniment and other victim assistance.

The Crime Victims’ Compensation Fund was established by the Texas Legislature in 1979 to help those who cannot afford the financial cost of crime. Fees, court costs and restitution paid by individuals convicted of state felonies or misdemeanors are allocated to the Crime Victims’ Compensation Fund. When eligible victims and their families have exhausted all other outside means of financial support, including private insurance, the Fund helps them offset their crime-related expenses.

Individuals may be eligible for up to $50,000 in financial assistance from the Crime Victims’ Compensation Fund. Victims who suffer total and permanent disability as a result of a crime may qualify for an additional $75,000, which may be used to offset specific expenses, such as lost wages, prosthetics, rehabilitation or making a home accessible.

Local hospitals and medical centers can provide crime victims with applications for financial assistance through the Crime Victims’ Compensation Fund. In addition, every law enforcement agency in Texas is required by state law to provide crime victims information about the fund, including an application for financial assistance. Victims and survivors can also contact the OAG directly for an application.

To further serve victims of family violence, sexual assault, and stalking, the OAG administers the Texas Address Confidentiality Program (ACP). The ACP provides a substitute post office box address and free mail forwarding service for participants.

For more information about the Crime Victims’ Compensation Program, contact the Crime Victim Services Division at (800) 983-9933 or visit the agency’s Web site at www.texasattorneygeneral.gov.