Mass-mur­der com­pen­sa­tion cour­tesy of Un­cle Sam

Albuquerque Journal - - OP-ED - Diane Di­mond www.DianeDi­; e-mail to [email protected] DianeDi­

The Depart­ment of Jus­tice has an­nounced it’s send­ing the last in­stall­ment – nearly $17 mil­lion of a to­tal $20 mil­lion — to aid sur­vivors of last Oc­to­ber’s deadly mass shoot­ing in Las Ve­gas, Nev. The toll from that sniper at­tack was 58 dead and some 600 phys­i­cally in­jured af­ter a lone gun­man took up a high po­si­tion within the Man­dalay Bay Ho­tel and be­gan shoot­ing at a group that had gath­ered for an out­door coun­try mu­sic concert. It be­came the dead­li­est mass shoot­ing in U.S. his­tory.

But wait a minute. What about all the other vic­tims of mass shoot­ings? Do they get to dip into the gov­ern­ment cof­fers for mon­e­tary re­lief? Where does all this money come from?

Reader Dan Klein first brought this story to my at­ten­tion, and he asked some in­trigu­ing ques­tions. “Does this mean that ev­ery time there is a mass shoot­ing in Amer­ica the Depart­ment of Jus­tice will set aside mil­lions for the vic­tims? What DOJ pol­icy gov­erns this?” And this ob­ser­va­tion from Klein, “58 dead, but not 50? Las Ve­gas, Ne­vada but not Or­lando, Florida? A coun­try mu­sic concert, but not a gay night­club?” And Klein, a re­tired po­lice sergeant from Al­bu­querque, won­dered if the DOJ has enough money in its bud­get to of­fer this type of mul­ti­mil­lion grant to all cit­i­zens who fall vic­tim to the ever-grow­ing num­ber of mass shoot­ers and do­mes­tic ter­ror­ists.

Fol­low­ing bureau­cratic acronyms, I found that the DOJ has an Of­fice for Vic­tims of Crime (OVC) and within that is the Crime Vic­tims Fund (CVF), which is largely funded from crim­i­nal fines, penal­ties, spe­cial for­fei­tures and spe­cial as­sess­ments and not from tax­pay­ers. Then there is an an­cil­lary pro­gram called the An­titer­ror­ism Emer­gency As­sis­tance Pro­gram. AEAP has $50 mil­lion at its dis­posal ev­ery year to dis­trib­ute specif­i­cally to vic­tims of ter­ror­ism and mass vi­o­lence. The money can go to help sur­vivors with med­i­cal bills and lost wages, for law en­force­ment costs as­so­ci­ated with the crime, and some funds have gone to re­im­burse hospi­tals for their ex­tra­or­di­nary care dur­ing a mass-vi­o­lence cri­sis. AEAP is fund­ing the Las Ve­gas pay­out via grants to lo­cal and state crime vic­tim as­sis­tance pro­grams in Ne­vada.

The rel­a­tives of those mur­dered in Las Ve­gas, and those whose in­juries left them per­ma­nently dam­aged, will get a max­i­mum of $275,000 each. Also in line for com­pen­sa­tion are med­i­cal per­son­nel, first re­spon­ders, concert staff, ven­dors and wit­nesses to the deadly event. In mak­ing the an­nounce­ment about this lat­est grant, act­ing At­tor­ney Gen­eral Matthew Whi­taker said the money is to help de­fray costs of coun­sel­ing, ther­apy, re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion, trauma re­cov­ery and le­gal aid.

I con­tacted the DOJ to ask for more de­tails. What is the cri­te­ria for award­ing these mul­ti­mil­lion-dol­lar grants? Does a grant de­pend on the body count or the prop­erty dam­age in­curred? In gen­eral, my DOJ con­tact said, “The crim­i­nal act needs to be suf­fi­ciently large that the ju­ris­dic­tion can­not pro­vide needed ser­vices to vic­tims of the in­ci­dent with ex­ist­ing re­sources and the event places an un­due hard­ship on the ju­ris­dic­tion.” And, she said, AEAP funds don’t cover prop­erty dam­age, only hu­man loss.

So, back to Klein’s equal dis­tri­bu­tion ques­tion about grants to coun­try con­cert­go­ers in Ve­gas vs. gay night­club pa­trons in Or­lando. It turns out that af­ter the June 2016 ter­ror­ist at­tack at the Pulse Night­club, where 49 died and more than 50 oth­ers were in­jured, the AEAP sent $8.4 mil­lion in as­sis­tance.

To those vic­tims of the 2015 San Bernardino ter­ror­ist at­tack where a hus­ban­dand-wife team stormed a hol­i­day of­fice party, mur­der­ing 14 and se­ri­ously in­jur­ing 22 oth­ers, the AEAP dis­trib­uted more than $4 mil­lion.

Af­ter the Bos­ton Marathon bomb­ing AEAP awarded $500,000. Fol­low­ing the tragedy at Sandy Hook El­e­men­tary School in 2012 the fund sent grants to­tal­ing nearly $780,000 which cov­ered mental health ser­vices and other sup­port for vic­tims as well as en­hanced safety and se­cu­rity at lo­cal schools and parks.

Since 2015, the Emer­gency As­sis­tance Pro­gram has paid out $38,652,919 to vic­tims of mass vi­o­lence and do­mes­tic ter­ror­ism. And there is more to give if only state, lo­cal, tribal gov­ern­ments and non-profit vic­tims as­sis­tance pro­grams would ask. Typ­i­cally, the OVC reaches out to lo­ca­tions within one day of a mass-ca­su­alty event, but if groups don’t file an of­fi­cial ap­pli­ca­tion, they can’t get a grant.

“De­spite our best ef­forts,” my DOJ con­tact said, “many peo­ple are not aware of this valu­able tool used to sup­port vic­tims.”

We read a never-end­ing stream of sto­ries about these hor­rific acts and what reg­is­ters? The num­ber of dead and in­jured. Af­ter that it is easy to move on and for­get what hap­pens to those af­fected af­ter the po­lice tape comes down and the re­porters move on to other sto­ries. It says a lot about our coun­try that an emer­gency fund like this needs to ex­ist. One can’t help but won­der if the AEAP’s $50 mil­lion an­nual bud­get might be bet­ter used to some­how help curb the vi­o­lence be­fore it erupts.


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