One Fund Boston: “Inherently Controversial” and Bound to Disappoint

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May 8, 2013; Christian Science Monitor

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Kenneth Feinberg, the administrator of the central fund for those injured in the bombings at the Boston Marathon is warning that it will fall well short of making all of the victims “whole.” He met on Monday and Tuesday with victims and their families to present a draft proposal for how the $29 million (so far) in funds should be distributed. That pot was built from contributions from 50,000 donors.

Feinberg has pledged to get the money out the door by June 30, which means that all claims must be in by June 15. He acknowledged that the fund’s processes would be inherently controversial. Should people who suffered relatively light injuries be compensated, and should the payouts hinge partly on whether victims have other resources? These are the kinds of questions that may emerge.

And when you get right down to details, they are excruciating. The Boston Globe reports that one woman “with weary eyes asked about her daughter, who she said lost one leg in the April 15 bombings and may lose the other. In the draft presented Monday, those who suffered double amputations would receive greater sums than those who lost one limb. ‘Do I understand correctly that if she still has her other leg by [the deadline for claims], she’ll be considered a single amputee?’ she asked. Feinberg told the mother that if her daughter’s claim includes a doctor’s letter saying she is likely to lose the other leg, that would probably be taken into consideration. Under the protocol for the funds, the greatest compensation would go to those who lost family members or who suffered double amputations or permanent brain damage.”

“I’ve learned over the years … [that] money is a pretty poor substitute for what you are going through,” Feinberg said to victims and family member. “If you had a billion dollars you could not have enough money to deal with all of the problems that ought to be addressed by these attacks.”

The proposal recommends distributing money “based on the severity of impacts, with the largest amounts going to families of people killed in the attacks as well as those who lost multiple limbs or have been diagnosed with permanent brain damage. On the next rung would be those who lost a single limb, followed by a category including those injured badly enough to be hospitalized for a night or more.”—Ruth McCambridge