New provision allows eligible individuals to be reimbursed for counseling expenses
Governor Cuomo signed legislation that will expand services from the state to the grandchildren of homicide victims, who will now be able to receive reimbursement for counseling expenses. This expanded eligibility takes effect immediately for claims filed from today onward, and applies to grandchildren of any age.
“This new law extends compassion and care for those left in the wake of horrific and tragic circumstances," Governor Cuomo said. “I thank the sponsors of this bill for their hard work in ensuring that more New Yorkers will have the opportunity to get help during a difficult and painful time in their lives."
The state, through the Office of Victim Services, is committed to providing compensation to innocent victims of crime and will do so for certain eligible out-of-pocket losses associated with the crime. New York is the only state in the nation that has no limit on the reimbursement to crime victims or their family members seeking compensation for counseling – meaning eligible individuals can receive help as long as they need it.
This bill (S.5956 / A.8235) expands the eligibility requirements to include grandchildren for this counseling reimbursement, which is already available to most other family members, such as parents, stepparents, siblings and spouses, among others.
Senator Patrick M. Gallivan said, “As a former State Trooper and Sheriff of Erie County and current chair of the Senate Committee on Crime Victims, Crime and Correction, I have seen firsthand how the family of homicide victims are impacted by such acts of violence. The counseling services reimbursed by the Office of Victim Services are critically important and should be offered to all of the victim’s immediate family members, including grandchildren.”
Assemblywoman Crystal Peoples-Stokes said, “It is difficult to imagine the pain that a family goes through when a member is a victim of homicide. Mothers, fathers, children, and grandchildren alike should all be able to seek counseling or therapy, and that is why I was honored to sponsor this bill to bring that service to those who have lost a grandparent. I thank Governor Cuomo for signing this bill, which will help more New Yorkers throughout the grieving process and find solace after a tragic loss.”
Last year, the Office of Victim Services provided more than $20 million in compensation to crime victims and/or their family members. Funding for crime victims’ compensation and the cost of the agency’s day-to-day operations comes entirely from the fines, mandatory surcharges and crime victim assistance fees that certain offenders must pay following conviction in New York State or federal courts. Those fines and fees also fund nearly all of the $36.2 million provided to 228 victim assistance programs across the state.
Under state and federal law, those eligible for assistance must be innocent victims of crime. An award can be reduced or denied if the state determines that a victim’s conduct contributed to their injuries. In addition, the agency is a payer of last resort: all other sources of compensation must be exhausted before the agency can assist a victim or their family. For example, benefits must first be obtained from health or other insurance policies or workers’ compensation before the agency can provide assistance.
For more information about services offered by the Office of Victims Services, including eligibility guidelines and a list of victim assistance programs that provide direct help, such as counseling and crisis intervention, advocacy and legal assistance, to crime victims across all 62 counties in New York, visit www.ovs.ny.gov or call 1-800-247-8035.
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