Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Reflections on Exciting Changes to Victim Compensation

By Julie Nauman, VCGCB Executive Officer

As we head into the busy holiday season, I wanted to take a moment to share with you all the important activities that have recently occurred at the Victim Compensation and Government Claims Board in the fall and my hope that they lead to improved support and added benefit for victims across California.

First, we had two successful conferences – one in Southern California at UCLA, the other, in Northern California, at UC Davis – that attracted more than 450 victim service advocates, compensation staff and law enforcement officers. Our subject – collaboration and how to best reach and help the State’s underserved victims – was well-received and embraced by our audience. These engaging events also provided great networking opportunities and motivation for all of us to continue to carry on the good work we do on behalf of California’s survivors. We are gathering feedback from the attendees and hope to build on the best of those events with another series of conferences next year.

We have also made great strides effecting positive change through our Modernization Initiative. As the nation’s first, and largest, victim compensation program in America, we want to continue to lead the nation by ensuring that our laws, regulations and policies support rather than impede our efforts to get victims the help they need.

One such new law, AB 1140, was authored by Assemblymember Rob Bonta of Oakland and goes into effect on January 1, 2016. This legislation modernizes program statutes, improves access to benefits and eliminates some eligibility restrictions for victims. The bill was the culmination of months of planning and collaboration, and involved many valuable contributors from the victim services community, along with the leadership of Assemblymember Bonta. We wish to thank Assemblymember Bonta and his staff, and all of you for your support of this important piece of legislation.

And just last month, our Board directed us to pursue a wide range of benefit changes to help victims of violent crime. These measures, which will involve either regulatory or legislative processes before they can become effective, include increasing a number of benefits, such as relocation and crime-scene cleanup, and extending new benefits to aid our claimants – child care, case management and transportation, to name just a few. We have also been given authorization from the Board to raise our overall benefit cap from $63,000 to $70,000 – the previous cap prior to the rough economic downturn that hit all of us hard.

We have begun work on these changes and will share more information with you about each proposed benefit enhancement as we move into the new year.

Looking ahead, we plan to work with you and other victim service leaders more collaboratively through a multi-faceted Collaboration Plan we developed through a grant provided by the federal Office for Victims of Crime. This Plan will feature new trainings, updated publications, educational videos and outreach designed to best reach underserved populations in the State.

I will share more updates as we move forward with these exciting new plans, and how you can get involved.

Thank you for all that you do to help our survivors. We can’t do it without you. And neither can they.

Have a wonderful and safe holiday with friends and family!

Julie Nauman is the Executive Officer for the Victim Compensation and Government Claims Board (VCGCB). VCGCB provides compensation for victims of violent crime and helps to resolve claims against the State.