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“Haven’t Crime Victims Paid Enough?” runs the headline on a color half-page newspaper ad from the California Victim Compensation Board. A terrified woman appears to be agreeing with the headline. The ad explains that “financial resources are available,” and “We cover: mental health treatment, medical expenses, funeral and burial, income loss, relocation expenses.” No word of any difficulties along the way.
As Lawrence McQuillan noted in 2003, the motto of CalVCB could be “thousands for lawyers and therapists, not a penny left for victims of crime.” The program “is bankrupt after spending its reserve fund of $96.7 million over the last four year.” CalVCB gave money to lawyers for “minimal services,” authorized mental health treatments at the highest benefit levels, and gave money to ineligible members of victims’ families. CalVCB “has become a pork barrel for government workers, therapists and lawyers.”
According to a 2008 report by California’s state auditor, from 2002-2005 compensation payments “decreased from $123.9 million to $61.6 million—a 50 percent decline.” At the same time, “the costs to support the program have increased. These costs make up a significant portion of the Restitution Fund disbursements—ranging from 26 percent to 42 percent annually.” In some cases, CalVCB staff took longer than 180 days to process applications and longer than 90 days to pay bills. The auditor found an “absence of controls that would prevent erroneous payments” and “no benchmarks, performance measures, or formal written procedures for workload management.”
As Richard Trainor of CalWatchdog noted in 2011, the $100 million CalVCB program sometimes took three years to discharge an approved claim. In some cases, “crime victims are left to twist in the wind on their own and provide their own legal, medical and rehabilitation services, at their own cost.” CalVCB administrative costs ran from 25-40 percent and the state bureaucracy remains lethargic.
A December 23, 2016 CalVCB press release hailing a $4 million grant for victims in San Bernardino came more than a year after the terrorist attack itself. No word about how much of the $4 million would actually go to legitimate victims and now much to government employees, therapists and lawyers. In similar style, the CalVCB newspaper ad omits key realities California’s crime victims and embattled taxpayers alike might want to know.