BILL ANALYSIS                                                                                                                                                                                                    Ó



                                                                     SB 556


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          Date of Hearing:  June 30, 2015


          Counsel:               Sandy Uribe








                         ASSEMBLY COMMITTEE ON PUBLIC SAFETY


                                  Bill Quirk, Chair





          SB  
          556 (De León) - As Amended May 4, 2015





          SUMMARY:  Defines "application processing time" for the approval  
          or denial of a victim's compensation claim by the California  
          Victim Compensation Program (CalVCP).  Specifically, this bill:   




          1)States that, for purposes of processing victim compensation  
            applications under the CalVCP, "time of processing  
            applications" means "the period of time, including all  
            calendar days, that begins when the board first receives an  








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            application and ends when a determination is made to approve  
            or deny the application and notice of that determination is  
            sent to the applicant."

          2)Requires the Victim Compensation and Government Claims Board  
            (board) to annually post on its Internet Web site its current  
            average time of processing applications, the number of  
            applications approved and denied, and the number of incomplete  
            applications received.





          EXISTING LAW:



          1)Establishes the board to operate the CalVCP.  (Gov. Code, §  
            13950 et. seq.)  

          2)Provides than an application for compensation shall be filed  
            with the board in the manner determined by the board.  (Gov.  
            Code, § 13952, subd.(a).)

          3)States that, except as provided by specified sections of the  
            Government Code, a person shall be eligible for compensation  
            when all of the following requirements are met:

             a)   The person form whom compensation is being sought any of  
               the following:

               i)     A victim.

               ii)    A derivative victim.

               iii)    A person who is entitled to reimbursement for  
                 funeral, burial or crime scene clean-up expenses pursuant  
                 to specified sections of the Government Code.








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             b)   Either of the following conditions is met:

               i)     The crime occurred within California, whether or not  
                 the victim is a resident of California.  This only  
                 applies when the VCGCB determines that there are federal  
                 funds available to the state for the compensation of  
                 crime victims. 

               ii)    Whether or not the crime occurred within the State  
                 of California, the victim was any of the following:

                  (1)       A California resident.  

                  (2)       A member of the military stationed in  
                    California.

                  (3)       A family member living with a member of the  
                    military stationed in California.  

             c)   If compensation is being sought for derivative victim,  
               the derivative victim is a resident of California, or the  
               resident of another state who is any of the following:

               i)     At the time of the crimes was the parent,  
                 grandparent, sibling, spouse, child or grandchild of the  
                 victim.  

               ii)    At the time of the crime was living in the household  
                 of the victim.  

               iii)   At the time of the crime was a person who had  
                 previously lived in the house of the victim for a person  
                 of not less than two years in a relationship  
                 substantially similar to a previously listed  
                 relationship.  

               iv)    Another family member of the victim including, but  
                 not limited to, the victim's fiancé or fiancée, and who  








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                 witnessed the crime.  

               v)     Is the primary caretaker of a minor victim, but was  
                 not the primary caretaker at the time of the crime.

             d)   And other specified requirements.  (Gov. Code, § 13955.)

          4)States that an application shall be denied if the board finds  
            that the victim failed to reasonably cooperate with law  
            enforcement in prosecution of the crime.  (Gov. Code, § 13956,  
            subd. (b)(1).)

          5)Authorizes the board to reimburse for pecuniary loss for the  
            following types of losses (Gov. Code, § 13957, subd. (a)):

             a)   The amount of medical or medical-related expenses  
               incurred by the victim, subject to specified limitations.

             b)   The amount of out-patient psychiatric, psychological or  
               other mental health counseling-related expenses incurred by  
               the victim, as specified, including peer counseling  
               services provided by a rape crisis center.

             c)   The expenses of non-medical remedial care and treatment  
               rendered in accordance with a religious method of healing  
               recognized by state law.

             d)   Compensation equal to the loss of income or loss of  
               support, or both, that a victim or derivative victim incurs  
               as a direct result of the victim's injury or the victim's  
               death, subject to specified limitations.

             e)   Cash payment to, or on behalf of, the victim for job  
               retraining or similar employment-oriented services.

             f)   The expense of installing or increasing residential  
               security, not to exceed $1,000, with respect to a crime  
               that occurred in the victim's residence, upon verification  
               by law enforcement to be necessary for the personal safety  








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               of the victim or by a mental health treatment provider to  
               be necessary for the emotional well-being of the victim.

             g)   The expense of renovating or retrofitting a victim's  
               residence or a vehicle to make them accessible or  
               operational, if it is medically necessary.

             h)   Expenses incurred in relocating, as specified, if the  
               expenses are determined by law enforcement to be necessary  
               for the personal safety or by a mental health treatment  
               provider to be necessary for the emotional well-being of  
               the victim.

          6)Requires the board to approve or deny applications, based on  
            recommendations by the board staff, within an average of 90  
            calendar days and no later than 180 calendar days of  
            acceptance by the board.  (Gov. Code, § 13958, subd. (a).)

          7)Requires the board, if it fails to meet the 90-day average, to  
            report to the Legislature on a quarterly basis its progress  
            and current average processing time.  (Gov. Code, § 13958,  
            subd. (b).)





          FISCAL EFFECT:  Unknown





          COMMENTS:  



          1)Author's Statement:  According to the author, "Through the  
            California Victim Compensation Program (CalVCP), California  








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            has been helping victims by covering the cost of bills and  
            expenses resulting from certain violent crimes.  Many times,  
            these expenses include medical treatment, mental health  
            services, and lost income.  A person seeking assistance must  
            first submit an application to the program to determine  
            eligibility. However, for reasons such as leaving a box  
            unchecked on whether the victim intends to file a civil suit  
            or not signing the form, some applications get held up in the  
            process for extended lengths of time. For these and other  
            minor deficiencies, many eligible victims are stuck with  
            paying bills out of pocket or otherwise unable to receive  
            treatment or services.

          "To curb delays, the Legislature required that CalVCP approve or  
            deny applications within an average of 90 day and that the  
            program report to the Legislature whenever the 90-day-average  
            standard was not being met. CalVCP's current method of  
            calculating application processing time, however, starts only  
            when a completed application is received, leaving the time an  
            application is first received, but not fully filled out,  
            outside of the official processing time. This method is not a  
            true reflection of how long it takes the program to process  
            applications and may be masking issues of lengthy processing  
            times that hinder crime victims in their efforts towards  
            rehabilitation and moving on with their lives.

          "SB 556 will help ensure that crime victims receive the  
            financial assistance they are owed in a timely manner by  
            clarifying the start and end times that CalVCP uses in  
            processing applications to determine eligibility and requiring  
            this data be made available on the program's website."

          2)Background:  The CalVCP provides compensation for victims of  
            violent crime.  It reimburses eligible victims for many  
            crime-related expenses, such as medical treatment, mental  
            health services, funeral expenses, home security, and  
            relocation services.  Funding for the board comes from  
            restitution fines and penalty assessments paid by criminal  
            offenders, as well as federal matching funds.  (See CVGCB  








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            Website <  http://www.vcgcb.ca.gov/board  >.) 

          3)Bureau of State Audit Recommendations:  In 2008, the Bureau of  
            State Audits conducted a review of the CalVCP.  (Victim  
            Compensation and Government Claims Board: It Has Begun  
            Improving the Victim Compensation Program, but More Remains to  
            Be Done, (Dec. 2008),  
            <  http://www.bsa.ca.gov/pdfs/reports/2008-113.pdf  >.)  One of  
            the areas the bureau considered was how long it took the board  
            to process applications.  The bureau concluded that, at times,  
            applications were not processed in a timely manner:

               State law related to eligibility determinations for  
               the program requires the board to approve or deny  
               applications, based on the recommendation of board  
               staff, within an average of 90 calendar days, and no  
               later than 180 calendar days after the acceptance date  
               for an individual application.  For the 49  
               applications we reviewed, the board's average  
               processing time was 76 days, which is well within the  
               statutory average.  However, the board did not make a  
               determination within 180 days in two instances.  We  
               also noted various instances in which the board did  
               not demonstrate that it approved or denied the  
               applications as promptly as it could have after  
               receiving the information necessary to make the  
               determination.  (Id. at pp. 30-31.)

               For the 49 applications we reviewed from fiscal years  
               2003-04 through 200708, we found that the boards  
               average processing time was 76 days, which is well  
               within the 90day average required under state law.  
               However, we noted that in 16 of the 49 applications we  
               reviewed, the board took more than 90 days from  
               acceptance to notify the applicant of its recommended  
               decision to approve or deny the application. Although  
               taking more than 90 days to approve or deny an  
               individual application is not a violation of state  
               law, any unnecessary delays in processing contribute  








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               to crime victims waiting longer than necessary to be  
               reimbursed for outofpocket expenses. Delays may also  
               cause providers to become frustrated and stop  
               participating in the program, reducing services  
               available to crime victims and their families.  (Id.  
               at p. 31.)

            The bureau discussed the board's process as follows:

               The board considers the date of acceptance to be the  
               date that it determines it has received an application  
               that is 'complete' rather than the date that it  
               receives an application. State regulations describe a  
               complete application as including, among other things,  
               information requested from the applicant that allows  
               board staff to confirm that the applicant is qualified  
               and a crime report or other documentation necessary to  
               corroborate that a qualifying crime occurred.  Our  
               legal counsel advised us that the board's  
               interpretation does not conflict with any of the  
               statutes governing the processing of applications.  
               (Id. at p. 32.)

            This bill would specify that the application processing  
            time begins when the board first receives an application  
            and ends when notice of the determination to approve or  
            deny the claim is sent to the applicant.
            
          4)Argument in Support:  Californians for Safety and Justice, the  
            sponsor of this bill, write, "Current law requires the Victim  
            Compensation and Government Claim Board (VCGCB) to either  
            approve or deny a claim an average of 90 days after acceptance  
            by VCGCB.  However, there is no statutory definition of  
            'accepted,' leading to much longer response times for some  
            applicants.  For example, an application may not be 'accepted'  
            because the application hasn't been signed, or because the  
            applicant hasn't checked a box indicated whether or not a  
            civil suit will be filed.  These and other similar minor  
            deficiencies can lead to an application not being 'accepted,'  








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            leaving the applicant in limbo waiting for a response.  And  
            because they applications are not 'accepted' the time the  
            applicant is waiting for a response does not count towards the  
            statutorily required 90 day response time.  This can lead to  
            needless delays for the victim in receiving services he or she  
            is entitled to."

          5)Related Legislation:

             a)   AB 1140 (Bonta) revises various rules governing the  
               CalVCP.  AB 1140 is pending hearing in the Senate Public  
               Safety Committee.

             b)   SB 519 (Hancock) makes various changes to the CalVCP,  
               including but not limited to expanding eligibility for  
               compensation and revising processing standards.   SB 519 is  
               pending hearing in this committee.

          6)Prior Legislation:  

             a)   SB 972 (Poochigian), Chapter 238, Statutes of 2005, made  
               various changes to facilitate the recovery of restitution  
               for the VCGCB.   

             b)   SB 1423 (Chesbro), Chapter 1141, Statutes of 2002,  
               recast and revised numerous provisions of existing law  
               pertaining to the CalVCP, and made many technical and  
               substantive changes, including the time requirements for  
               approval or denial of an application.



          REGISTERED SUPPORT / OPPOSITION:





          Support








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          Californians for Safety and Justice (Sponsor)


          California Immigrant Policy Center



          Opposition


          


          None





          Analysis Prepared by:Sandy Uribe / PUB. S. / (916)  
          319-3744