Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Money paid to Mentally Ill Victim's Families

Another twist in the shooting on Virginia Tech's campus. Whose money is being spent to pay these families of the victims? This would not be happening either if that young man had proper mental health care.

Not all pleased with state's proposed deal to families of Tech shooting victims

Posted to: News Virginia Tech Shootings Virginia

Dale Harris, background left, and John Meston, members of Nansemond River Baptist Church, hang ribbons April 19, 2007, in memory of Virginia Tech shooting victim Nicole White. (Genevieve Ross | The Virginian-Pilot)

A proposed multimillion-dollar settlement by Virginia to head off lawsuits over the Virginia Tech mass shooting offers $100,000 to each of the families of those killed; payment and insurance for medical and counseling expenses for families and surviving victims; and repeated opportunities to question the governor and university officials, in person, about the tragedy and its aftermath.

The mediated agreement isn't pleasing everyone, though.

"My people are pretty unhappy with it, and I don't blame them," said Edward Jazlowiecki, one of the lawyers representing the family of Henry Lee, a sophomore from Roanoke who was among the 32 students and professors killed by gunman Seung-Hui Cho in the April 16, 2007, attacks.

Like other families, Jazlowiecki's clients fault Virginia Tech for not better warning or protecting students after the first two students were killed.

"One hundred thousand dollars for a human life is an insult, an absolute insult," Jazlowiecki said.

It's also Virginia's legal maximum when suing the state in cases of simple negligence, as opposed to gross negligence or willful misconduct. Juries could be asked to determine which, if any, of these standards applies to the Virginia Tech tragedy if any families decide to sue.

Families and victims already have received payments ranging from $11,500 to $208,000 from the Hokie Spirit Memorial Fund, created from more than $8 million in donations that poured in for victims and the Blacksburg school after the shootings. Some recipients used part or all of the money to endow memorial scholarships.

The proposed state settlement is still being negotiated and revised, participants said. According to a copy obtained by The Virginian-Pilot and dated March 14, families have until Monday to decide whether to participate. If they do, they agree not to sue the state - including Virginia Tech - the town of Blacksburg, Montgomery County or the local New River Valley Community Services Board, which provides mental-health services.

Roger O'Dell of Roanoke, whose son, Derek, was wounded, said families were asked not to discuss the settlement negotiations. He added that his son has made no decision - he doesn't want to become adversarial toward the school that he loves, but he has been told his lifetime counseling costs could range from $125,000 to $500,000, plus higher health-insurance costs because of his pre-existing conditions.

Post-traumatic stress disorder "could flare up at any time and could be disabling without regular treatment," Roger O'Dell said. "He'll have constant reminders because he'll have the bullet holes."

The proposal seeks to have all agreements signed by April 15 - one day before the first anniversary of the shooting rampage in which disturbed senior Cho killed two students in a dorm and 30 more in Norris Hall classrooms, wounded or injured another 27, and then killed himself.

The proposal also states that "(p)articipation by nearly all claimants is necessary. The Commonwealth may withdraw the proposal if there is insufficient agreement for settling claims on these terms."

Among the terms:

- A Direct Payment Fund that, in addition to paying $100,000 each to representatives of the 32 deceased victims, would provide a total of $800,000 for the injured, with a maximum of $100,000 to any individual.

- A Special Damages Fund to reimburse or advance expenses for medical, psychological and psychiatric care for victims and immediate families that is not covered by insurance.

- An attempt to provide to "seriously injured victims" state employee health insurance at employee rates, which would require changes to the state budget and possibly state law. If that is impossible, negotiations would continue over ways to provide coverage.

- Attempts to provide free or reduced-fee treatment through the University of Virginia or Virginia Commonwealth University health systems, with fees covered by the Special Damages Fund.

- A two-pronged, state-administered $3.5 million Public Purpose Fund. Half of the money would be for charitable purposes, such as campus safety and related grants or remembrance activities, decided on by a board of victims, family members and state officials. The other half would be for payments to victims and family members suffering "severe hardship, injury or loss" from the shootings. A neutral party would evaluate requests, and payments to any individual would be capped at 7.5 percent of the hardship fund. Money left over from the Direct Payment Fund also would go into the Public Purpose Fund.

- The Hokie Spirit Memorial Fund, scheduled to close this past December, would remain open for at least five years for new contributions to its scholarship fund.

- Gov. Timothy M. Kaine would meet personally with victims and family members three more times in the next two years before he leaves office to review legislative and administrative actions taken in response to the shootings and other family concerns.

- Within six months of the settlement, victims and families would meet with senior Virginia Tech officials, including President Charles Steger and police Chief Wendell Flinchum, for an overview of campus changes, to ask questions, and to weigh in on April 16 remembrance activities. Also within that time, Flinchum and Virginia State Police would update victims and families on the shooting investigation and answer questions.

- Families would be able to contribute to and review contents of an electronic document archive relating to April 16.

- Lawyers from the Washington firm of Bode & Grenier, representing 20 families, would receive $750,000 in fees plus $50,000 for expenses. Others who had filed notices on behalf of families would receive $25,000.

Several of them, as well as a lawyer in the governor's office overseeing the mediation, either declined to comment or didn't return phone calls Monday.


Diane J Standiford said...

Security (liability) is BIG topic at universities now; Presidents scurrying to protect their jobs.

Anonymous said...

Most of you know me as “Dreamwriter.” I recently
Launched a new blog called, “Bipolar Speaks.” One day something came over me as I was reading websites called “Post Secret” and also a blog who had a post where they had quotes from other Bloggers with mental illness about how they felt.

It occurred to me that WE need an escape to let out our feelings and frustrations. I know that a lot of bloggers say what they feel within their own blogs, but you are welcome to share your thoughts, opinions, and feelings.

You are welcome to help raise awareness and put a stop to the Stigma that lies within mental illness. We can change the world - one story at a time.

I thought it would be interesting
To design a “Safe Haven” for those who battle with a Mental Illness; and allow them to come and let out their most darkest, painful, and emotional feelings. This would be a great way to spread awareness by letting society know what is REAL about mental illness.

If you are interested, you can submit a story or short piece as an “Anonymous” contributor, or if you don‘t care about what others think, then feel free to reveal your blogger identity; its purely up to you.. I tried this several times and the “Anonymous” button works and ends up in my email as an “Anonymous” comment.

The rules and regulations are in the blog within a post. Take the time to read them thoroughly and I hope that you become a constant contributor.

Remember, we all have things on our chest to let out and we all truly don’t want others to know. But now is an opportunity for YOU to speak up, speak out, and be heard!

I know that I have a lot of feelings and issues that I don’t want my husband, friends, or family to know about…this is my chance to get it off my chest and I WILL be a constant contributor.

Depending on the issue, I might submit the story under both “anonymous” and my name.
Go to “Bipolar Speaks” and look around, don’t forget to display the Bipolar Speaks button on your blog and link it back to us.

By the way, I still have my other blog, so don’t forget about me over there, too. :)