Wednesday, April 16, 2008

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Attorney General Abbott Partners with Texas Hospital Association to Help Crime Victims

AUSTIN – Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott today partnered with the Texas Hospital Association to launch an educational campaign for Texas crime victims. The “Ask Me…” campaign was created to raise public awareness about the Crime Victims’ Compensation Program.

The Office of the Attorney General (OAG) and the Texas Hospital Association will distribute thousands of “Ask Me…” posters to hospitals and medical centers where crime victims might first seek care. “Ask Me…” encourages crime victims to ask doctors and medical personnel about the OAG’s Crime Victims’ Compensation Program, which helps crime victims and their families with the financial costs of violent crime. Through the Crime Victims’ Compensation Fund, eligible victims may be reimbursed for out-of-pocket expenses they incurred because of the crime, including medical and counseling bills, funeral costs and relocation expenses.

“By partnering with the Texas Hospital Association, we hope to increase public awareness about our Crime Victims’ Compensation Program,” Attorney General Abbott said. “Often, local hospitals or medical centers are the first responder to a crime victim’s call for help. Our joint effort will educate crime victims about their rights and will explain how to obtain the financial assistance they need to help rebuild their lives.”

Last year, the OAG received more than 37,000 applications for crime victims’ assistance and awarded more than $65 million in benefits to victims and their families. The Crime Victim Services Division also distributed nearly $36 million in grants to nonprofit organizations and public 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 victims and their families who cannot afford the financial cost of crime. The Fund receives its money from fees, court costs and restitution paid by those convicted of a felony or misdemeanor in a state court. When eligible victims and their families have exhausted all other outside means of financial support, including private insurance, the Fund helps them offset the expenses they incurred because of violent crime.

Claims under the Crime Victims’ Compensation Fund may be approved for benefits up to a total of $50,000. People who suffer total and permanent disability as a result of a crime may qualify for an additional $75,000, which could be used for specific and limited 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 and an application for financial assistance. Victims and survivors can also contact the OAG directly for an application.

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.