Boston Bombing Victims’ Fund Unveils Draft Compensation Plan

By Steve LeBlanc | May 9, 2013

The families of those who lost loved ones and individuals who suffered double amputations or permanent brain damage in the Boston Marathon bombing would receive the highest payments from a fund created to help people injured in the twin blasts, according to a draft proposal of payouts from the One Fund Boston, which has already taken in more than $28 million in donations.

The fund administrator, Kenneth Feinberg, unveiled the draft proposal at a public meeting at the Boston Public Library, across the street from the bombing site.

Those who received physical injuries and suffered the amputation of a limb will be the next highest priority for funds followed by those who were physically injured and hospitalized overnight.

Three people were killed and more than 260 injured in the April 15 bombing.

Feinberg conceded that the fund, despite its size, will be inadequate to the task of caring for those injured and the families of the dead.

“I’ve learned over the years … (that) money is a pretty poor substitute for what you are going through,” Feinberg told the 100 or so victims and family members who gathered for the hearing. “If you had a billion dollars you could not have enough money to deal with all of the problems that ought to be addressed by these attacks.”

Feinberg said he deliberately did not include specific dollars amounts that would be awarded from the fund in part because there isn’t a secure tally yet of the injuries and in part because the fund could still grow. He said the fund has $11 million in cash now and has a total of $28 million when pledged money is added in.

He said the families of the three killed in the bombing and of MIT Police Officer Sean Collier who was shot to death by the alleged bombers as they attempted to flee are obviously entitled to compensation as are those who had limbs amputated or who suffered other serious physical injuries. He said there may be as many as 15 to 20 victims who suffered single or double amputations.

Although he did not propose specific dollar amounts for compensation, Feinberg said the families of those killed or those who had limbs amputated could end up receiving as much as $1 million or more from the fund.

“After that you begin to wonder if there is enough money to go beyond that,” he said.

Feinberg said compensation for those who were injured but not hospitalized, or those who suffered mental trauma is still an open question, as is compensation for business owners who had to shut their doors for days during the investigation.

Feinberg said he was struck by the generosity of those who pledged money to the fund, noting similar funds for the victims of the shootings at Virginia Tech, Aurora, Colo., and Newtown, Conn., were far less.

During the meeting, family members of victims presented sometimes excruciating dilemmas, including one woman who said her daughter lost one leg and doctors were working to save her second leg. She asked whether she should file for compensation as a single or double amputee. Feinberg said she should include a doctor’s note with her claim.

Liz Norden, whose two adult sons each lost a leg in the bombing, attended the hearing. One of her sons in still hospitalized and the other is in rehab.

“I really am just focusing on the care of my sons,” she said after the meeting. “This is new to me. I don’t know what questions I’m supposed to be asking or not asking.’

James Costello, whose 30-year-old son received burns along the right side of his body from the blast and is currently in rehab, said he was satisfied with what he heard.

“I thought that he left things open. He said what he had to say. I thought it was fair,” Costello said of Feinberg. “I think overall he covered it. I don’t think there was much left to, in my mind, to question.”

Feinberg said it’s sometimes unclear who is eligible to receive money. He said in some cases, divisions in a family can make it difficult.

“In cases where there are conflicting claims, we may just take the money and put it the probate court and go fight it out there,” he said. “We’re not going to settle those disputes and they come up all the time.”

He said his goal is to get the money to victims as quickly as possible. He said he’s set a May 15 deadline to get final claim forms into the hands all those who are eligible, who will then have one month to file. Those claims will need to include records from hospitals showing how long an individual was hospitalized and that the injuries were related to the bombing, he said.

Feinberg said that after June 15, when all claims are submitted, he and his team will work out who gets how much from the fund over the following ten days. He said during that time he’ll meet with any victim who wants to talk to him.

He said he hopes to send out the checks by July 1.

He said there will be an independent audit of the fund after the payments are made.

Feinberg said no final decision has been made on whether there should be “means testing” with poorer victims receiving more than wealthier victims or victims whose injuries were covered by insurance. He said victims won’t waive their rights to file lawsuits by accepting payments from the fund.

He also said no one will likely be compensated for 100 percent of their medical bills.

“There’s not enough money,” he said.

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