Search The Site
A Message from the Special Master for the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund
June 21st, 2011 Posted by

Today Sheila L. Birnbaum, the Special Master for the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund sent the following email outlining her priorities for administering the fund. She also announced the posting of draft rules on regulations.gov. Read the email below. For more information on the fund, visit justice.gov/vcf

———-

Dear Friend,

When I was appointed to serve as Special Master for the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund, I set two initial priorities. First, I would meet with the men and women who would be most affected by the VCF, so that we could construct a program that best meets their needs and interests. Second, I wanted to publish proposed rules to govern the VCF as soon as possible, in draft form, so that there would be ample time for others to review them and give me comments on them, before I have to finalize the rules and open the VCF later this year.

Over the past month, I have received invaluable input from the many individuals I have met with, and I hope to meet with many more over the coming months. Today, I have published my proposed rules, and would like to invite the public to comment on them.

The rules, and a process for commenting on them, are available at: http://www.regulations.gov/#!documentDetail;D=DOJ-CIV-2011-0017-0001

Among other things, the new regulations propose a process by which claimants from the first VCF can amend their claims to reflect new injuries, and also provide for the VCF to cover additional diseases as scientific knowledge evolves.

My goal is for the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund to be fair, transparent, and easy to navigate. In order to achieve that goal, I intend to build on the strong foundation that was established by Special Master Kenneth Feinberg in the first iteration of the Victim Compensation Fund and listen carefully to the views and concerns expressed by those who will be most affected by the program. Given the Victim Compensation Fund’s success in its previous iteration, I propose to implement the original processes where I can and to propose additional or different procedures where the Zadroga Act requires a different approach.

At the outset, I would highlight some key principles that will guide my effort to create a process that is fair, transparent, and easy to navigate. First, I intend to make decisions based on the best scientific and medical evidence that is available. The Zadroga Act requires the Special Master to make a number of decisions about who is eligible to bring a claim, based on the nature of the individual’s injuries, how it was caused, and whether the individual was present in an area where there was a demonstrable risk of physical harm resulting from the crashes.

In order to make these determinations in a fair manner, I intend to look to the evidence that scientists and medical professionals rely on in exercising their best professional judgment. I also intend for the Victim Compensation Fund to keep pace with the evolving science and to ensure that as we learn more about conditions that may have been caused by the crashes or related debris-removal efforts, we are able to compensate claimants accordingly.

Second, Congress has appropriated a capped amount – $2.775 billion payable over a period of years – for this program. Only $875 million may be spent in the first five years of the program with the remainder being paid out in the sixth year. It is important therefore to assure that funds are targeted to the payment of eligible claims and to avoid procedures or guidelines that will dilute those payments.

Funds used to process ineligible claims or for unnecessary administrative costs result in fewer funds available to pay intended and deserving claimants. In implementing the program, I intend to initiate procedures that will permit efficiency without sacrificing fairness, and to seek ways to minimize administrative expenses, thereby maximizing the amount available for distribution to eligible claimants.

Third, it is exceedingly important, in my view, to fully investigate the facts and circumstances surrounding the response, clean-up and debris removal activities necessitated by the attacks and the injuries that have resulted from these activities.

To achieve these goals over the next several months, I will hold meetings with interested parties to explain the Victim Compensation Fund and the proposed regulations, to hear your thoughts, and to answer as many questions as I can.

I also look forward to reviewing your written comments about these proposed regulations, so that I can make the best decisions possible to refine the regulations and administer the program.

Yours,

Sheila

POSTED IN: Civil Division  |  PERMALINK
International Cooperation & Collaboration on Asset Forfeiture
June 21st, 2011 Posted by

It is becoming increasingly common for criminals to commit their crimes in one country and launder illicit proceeds in another.  Law enforcement partners from around the globe must work together to locate and forfeit the proceeds of these criminal activities, increasing the need for cooperation and collaboration.

To foster this cooperation and collaboration, forfeiture experts from the United States and Latin American countries are gathering in Lima, Peru, to discuss the use of asset forfeiture to fight international crime, including drug cartel operations in Latin America. The event is hosted by the Asset Forfeiture and Money Laundering Section in the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, in partnership with the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement (INL) of the U.S. Department of State and the Public Ministry-Fiscalia de la Nacion of Peru.

Many of the countries represented at the conference have successfully investigated and assisted in the restraint and forfeiture of criminal funds related to narcotics trafficking, fraud, smuggling and other serious crimes.  Speakers from Colombia, Mexico and the United States, as well as panelists from Peru, Paraguay, Brazil and Guatemala, will describe their experiences in using asset forfeiture as a tool in combating these types of crimes, including sharing successful investigative techniques and discussing current challenges.

U.S. Ambassador to Peru Rose M. Likins and U.S. Deputy Assistant Attorney General Kenneth Blanco from the Justice Department’s Criminal Division stressed in their opening remarks the importance of international cooperation, the need to understand national confiscation procedures throughout the region, and the importance of fostering international collaboration to effectively fight organized crime.  Peruvian Attorney General José Peláez Bardales also addressed the more than 60 attendees of the conference, which is scheduled to run from June 21 through June 23, 2011.

POSTED IN: Criminal Division  |  PERMALINK
Continuing the Dialogue: The National Advisory Committee on Violence Against Women
June 20th, 2011 Posted by

The following post appears courtesy of Susan B. Carbon, Director, Office on Violence Against Women

An important second meeting of the National Advisory Committee on Violence Against Women brought the 15-member group together in earlier this month to begin developing concrete ideas for ways to address the tragic realities of teen dating violence and children exposed to violence in America and worldwide.

NAC members spent two days sharing their perspectives on these issues and listening to compelling presentations from within and outside government.  Personal presentations by six young women from the National Crittenton Foundation included their depictions of myriad forms of violence they had experienced, and then overcame, to establish healthy and positive life goals.  These stories of tragedy-turned-triumph were both inspiring and informative. 

A presentation by Dr. David Wolfe, a psychologist and author specializing in issues affecting children and youth, provided background to NAC members and public participants on some of the research being conducted on the prevention and intervention of youth violence.  Representatives from the Stalking Resource Center and the National Network to End Domestic Violence also shared a cutting-edge presentation on how technology has changed all the crimes, specifically stalking among our teens and pre-teens. 

Several federal partners gave updates on the related and innovative work currently underway within the Administration.  Tina Tchen, Assistant to the President and Chief of Staff to First Lady Michelle Obama and Executive Director of the White House Council on Women and Girls, detailed the importance of these issues to the President and First Lady and described the critical work of the White House Council on Women and Girls. Lynn Rosenthal, the first-ever Advisor on Violence Against Women in the White House, shared some of the work being done in the White House on issues of youth violence.   Associate Attorney General Tom Perrelli engaged the NAC in a lively dialogue and challenged the members to “think big” in framing their recommendations.

Additional topical updates were presented on the Attorney General’s Defending Childhood Initiative; OVW’s Protective Parents Roundtable; The Office of Justice Programs’ Youth Violence Summit; the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ work on issues within the Administration on Children, Youth and Families; recent research from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; and the work of the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Safe and Drug Free Schools. 

In one of the more poignant moments of the meeting, 18-year-old NAC member and advocate Amber Johnson shared the poem, “Say Yes” by Andrea Gibson.   The theme of how hope is real and felt among people who give of themselves, and the difference that it makes to others, comes through in the excerpted lines below:

When two violins are placed in a room,
if a chord on one violin is struck,
the other violin will sound the note.
If this is your definition of hope, this is for you.
The ones who know how powerful we are,
who know we can sound the music in the people around us
simply by playing our own strings.

We at OVW are honored to have such an extraordinary group of experts serving on the NAC to address these critical issues and tirelessly working to end these crimes through research, advocacy and outreach. This group of individuals includes experts in domestic violence and sexual assault, from urban and rural communities, of all ages and different backgrounds.  Their diverse and unique perspectives will help guide how we begin to turn the tide for teens and children exposed to violence worldwide. We will continue to share updates as the NAC continues to meet and compile official recommendations for Attorney General Eric Holder and Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius.

The National Advisory Committee (NAC) is a federal advisory body chartered to provide guidance to the Department of Justice and Department of Health and Human Services on ways to help children and youth exposed to violence.  Its members are appointed by the Attorney General. The first meeting, held in January, 2011, brought this group together for initial introductions, presentations and small group discussions. 

More information is available at http://www.ovw.usdoj.gov/nac.html.

Protecting the Rights of Students with Diabetes
June 10th, 2011 Posted by

Children and adults with diabetes are protected by our nation’s disability rights laws, but they often face discrimination on the basis of their disability in decisions about where they may go to school, conditions of employment, or admission or access to the goods, programs, or benefits of state or local governments or businesses offering public accommodations.  The Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division has worked closely with the American Diabetes Association and other advocacy groups on behalf of children and adults with diabetes to ensure they are not subjected to illegal discrimination.

The department recently filed two major briefs in federal and state court explaining the department’s strong interest in enforcement of the rights of persons with diabetes, and children in particular. The Civil Rights Division will continue to actively fight discrimination on the basis of disability against adults and children with diabetes in any such situations.    

The Department has filed several briefs to enforce the ADA on behalf of children with diabetes, including:

On June 7, 2011, the department filed an amicus brief (PDF) in R.K. v. Scott County (6th Cir.), a case filed on behalf of a young boy in Kentucky who uses an insulin pump. The school board refused to train non-medical personnel at the boy’s neighborhood school to help him monitor his insulin pump and carbohydrate intake, and transferred him to another school, away from his siblings and neighborhood friends, so that a nurse could assist him with the insulin administration.  The school district argued that the state nurse practitioner laws prohibited training a school staff member to oversee the child=s administration of insulin. The department’s brief argued that the district court applied the wrong legal standard and that state regulations governing insulin administration are preempted by federal protections for students with disabilities.

On May 13, 2011, the department filed an amicus brief (PDF) in American Nurses Association (ANA) v. O’Connell, a case before the California State Supreme Court that challenges a settlement agreement between the American Diabetes Association and the State Superintendant of Education. That agreement allowed professional school employees to be trained to monitor administration of insulin for students with diabetes when a school nurse is not available. Many California schools have no nurses due to budget constraints, and without this agreement some students likely would not receive insulin doses that are medically necessary and required by federal laws protecting students with disabilities.  The ANA filed the case challenging the agreement, arguing that a nurse must be present in all situations to monitor insulin administration. The department’s brief argued that under the conditions described in the settlement, federal law requires that a trained school professional be permitted to administer insulin. The Department also reached a number of agreements with schools and child care centers on behalf of children with diabetes, including:

On June 1, 2011, the department reached a settlement agreement with a school in Alexandria, La., to resolve allegations that the school denied a six-year-old girl with Type I diabetes admission after her parents asked the school to supervise her in testing her blood glucose level and administering insulin, in addition to other daily diabetes care practices. Under the agreement, the school agreed to supervise any type of insulin administration for children with diabetes and not to discriminate in decisions about admission and participation in school programs by children with diabetes.

On August 30, 2010, the department reached a settlement agreement with a child care center in Hawthorne, Calif., to resolve a complaint filed by parents of a five-year-old boy with Type I diabetes. The complaint alleged that the center refused to allow staff to supervise the child’s use of an insulin pump, insisting instead that one of his parents come to the center at lunch and snack times to supervise him, and refusing to allow him to go on field trips with the other children in his class. The center’s rationale for these policies was that state regulations prohibit the center from providing medical care and supervision of its enrolled children without appropriate authorization from the state licensing board. Under the settlement, the center agreed to, among other things, adopt a diabetes management policy that includes supervising and monitoring children with diabetes while they are consuming food or using blood glucose monitoring tests, insulin pumps, syringes, or other diabetes related medical equipment.

On October 20, 2009, a child care center in Castle Rock, Colorado, entered into a settlement agreement with the Department resolving a complaint by a parent of a girl with Type I diabetes. The complaint alleged that the center refused to permit the six-year old to participate in field trips unless she was accompanied by a parent or a trained person hired by the parent. Under the agreement, Pine Hills will evaluate each child=s individual needs and make reasonable modifications to policies that limit participation by children with diabetes.

Additional information about the ADA can be found at www.ada.gov.

POSTED IN: Civil Rights Division  |  PERMALINK
Helping State and Local Partners Combat Gangs
June 9th, 2011 Posted by

 The following post appears courtesy of Laurie O. Robinson, Assistant Attorney General, Office of Justice Programs.

Preliminary FBI crime figures for 2011 show that violent crime is declining in many communities across the country. Nevertheless, while overall violent crime rates may be down, one thing is clear: gangs remain a threat to public safety in this country’s major urban areas. The challenge is to find the most effective means to combat gang crime.

 The Obama Administration is committed to using science-based efforts to prevent and reduce crime. Research and experience have shown that successful anti-gang strategies include community partnerships with law enforcement, education, public health, community-based and faith-based organizations, business and philanthropic communities, and balanced approaches, beginning with prevention and through reentry. 

This week, representatives from the Office of Justice Programs’ Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) joins more than 900 law enforcement officers, school personnel, and community leaders at the 2011 National Gang Symposium in Orlando, Florida. The agenda includes sessions on national gang trends, prosecuting gang cases, intervening with girls in gangs, conducting a community gang assessment, gang issues in a correctional setting, and best practices to prevent, intervene, and suppress gang violence.

OJJDP today released a fact sheet on 2009 National Youth Gang Survey, estimating 28,100 gangs and 731,000 gang members throughout 3,500 jurisdictions nationwide.  The National Gang Center conducts the annual gang survey and analyzes its trends.  Findings showed that as recently as 2009, one-half of homicides in Los Angeles and one-third of homicides in Chicago were gang related, and about a quarter of all homicides in other large cities were gang related.  To combat gang-related violence, the National Gang Center, funded by the Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) and OJJDP, offers state and local law enforcement agencies training and technical assistance to plan and implement anti-gang strategies.

We also work with other federal agencies, including the Departments of Education, Health and Human Services, and Labor, on the National Forum on Youth Violence Prevention, established by President Obama in October 2010. The Forum’s six cities, selected last year to develop comprehensive anti-gang strategies, shared their plans at the Summit on Preventing Youth Violence in Washington, D.C.  More details on how officials in the selected cities use partnerships, balanced approaches, and data-driven strategies to combat gangs are available at www.findyouthinfo.gov.

Another anti-gang resource for state and local partners is the Department’s Gang Resistance Education And Training (G.R.E.A.T.) program, created in 1991 by the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and the Phoenix Police Department.  Now coordinated by the Bureau of Justice Assistance, this school-based, law enforcement officer-instructed curriculum focuses on prevention through offering life skills to students to help them avoid joining a gang and using violence to solve problems.  Two longitudinal studies of the G.R.E.A.T. program showed positive results for middle school students.  Now in its 20th year in operation, G.R.E.A.T. is taught in schools in all 50 states, Guam and Puerto Rico, and internationally, and has nearly 6 million student graduates. 

 The Obama Administration’s commitment to combating gangs continues in Fiscal Year 2012.  The President’s budget request includes funding for the National Forum on Youth Violence Prevention, and a Gang and Youth Violence Prevention program to support community strategies for gang prevention, intervention, suppression, and reentry.

 Information about current anti-gang resources is available at www.ojp.gov.

Improving Regulations: With Your Help
June 1st, 2011 Posted by

On January 18, 2011, President Obama ordered federal agencies (via Executive Order 13563) to review existing significant regulations to determine whether they should be modified, streamlined, expanded, or repealed.

As time passes and technologies, legal standards, and circumstances change, regulations may become outmoded, ineffective, insufficient, or excessively burdensome.

We want to make our regulatory program more effective and less burdensome while still achieving its regulatory objectives.

The Department sought suggestions from regulated entities and the general public. We incorporated those suggestions throughout the plan. The Department also incorporated best practices from the extensive agency efforts already underway to review existing regulations, respond to petitions for rulemaking, modernize technologies, and engage the public.

Read the Preliminary Plan for Retrospective Review of Existing Regulations (PDF)

Going forward, the Department proposes to establish a Department‐wide working group that will institutionalize a culture of retrospective review. The working group plans to review one to three rules each year, and the components have already identified several candidate rules that the group will evaluate through the retrospective review process described in this plan. Once the working group reviews these initial candidates, the Department plans to report to the public on the outcome of its assessment. Throughout this process, the Department seeks to build upon its commitment to open government and to promote evidence‐based, decision‐making with respect to regulations

Members of the public are encouraged to comment on this Preliminary Plan and suggest additional candidate rules on or before June 30, 2011.   To comment on the Justice Department’s Preliminary Plan, visit www.regulations.gov and insert DOJ-LA-2011-0016 in the “Enter Keyword or ID” box.  Once you are taken to the docket for this plan, click on the “Submit a Comment” bubble to open the comment form. We look forward to hearing from you.

 
Search The Blog


Stay Connected YouTube Twitter Facebook Sign Up for E-Mail Updates Subscribe to News Feeds