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What Is the Victims of Crime Act?

Surviving a crime can take a physical and financial toll on victims and their loved ones. Medical costs, mental health counseling, and lost wages are just some of the financial consequences of surviving a crime. Congress passed the Victims of Crime Act (VOCA) in 1984 to help victims navigate these tangible costs of surviving a crime.

What Is VOCA?

VOCA established the Crime Victims Fund, administered by the Office for Victims of Crime (OVC). These are federal funds that can be used to support services for victims and survivors of gun violence.

Where Does VOCA Funding Come From?

Allocations for the Crime Victims Fund come from offenders convicted of federal crimes—not taxpayers. Sources for these dollars include:

  • Criminal fines
  • Forfeited appearance bonds (sometimes called “bail bonds”)
  • Special assessments by the federal government.

What Is the Difference Between Victim Compensation and Victim Assistance?

VOCA funds are primarily distributed to crime victims through two grant programs: 

  • Victim Compensation Grants

    The VOCA Victim Compensation Grant Program supplements state compensation programs that reimburse victims for crime-related out-of-pocket expenses. 

    The expenses can include:

    • Medical and dental care
    • Counseling
    • Funeral and burial expenses
    • Lost wages
    • Travel, temporary lodging, crime scene cleanup, and dependent care related to victimization.
  • Victim Assistance Grants

    The VOCA Victim Assistance Grant Program supports organizations that provide direct assistance to victims. Funding is first awarded to a state or territory. The state or territory then awards subgrants to organizations that provide direct assistance to victims. These services can include:

    • Crisis intervention
    • Crisis counseling
    • Information and referrals (via phone or in person)
    • Shelter
    • Therapy
    • Developing new programs to address gaps in services and/or training for victim service providers. 

Getting access to VOCA funding and victim compensation can be a challenging process. This is particularly true for gun violence survivors. Gun violence victims and survivors have not historically been granted VOCA funds. VOCA funding can and should support services to gun violence victims and help stem cycles of violence.

In 2021, Congress passed and President Biden signed into law what is effectively known as the VOCA Fix. This action sustains funding for the Crime Victims Fund and seeks to reduce barriers to accessing funds. 

Recently, the Everytown Survivor Network submitted a letter to the OVC regarding the VOCA Fix. This letter applauded the OVC for coming forward with strong recommendations that will address problematic barriers that have inhibited access to compensation and support services. We remain hopeful that the recommendations will be implemented, increasing the accessibility of VOCA funds for survivors. 

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