Victims of Crime Act

Name of law: Victims of Crime Act (VOCA)

Why it matters: VOCA helps victims deal with the tangible costs of surviving a crime, such as medical bills, counseling services, and lost wages.

When it passed: 1984

Surviving a crime like sexual assault can affect a victim’s physical, emotional, and psychological health. There may also be a financial impact—such as the cost of medical bills or lost wages. In 1984, Congressed passed the Victims of Crime Act (VOCA) which established the Crime Victim’s Fund ("the fund"). The fund, which is administered by the Office for Victims of Crime, provides financial assistance to victims of crime through state-based compensation programs, as well indirectly through state grants that help finance state victim service organizations.

1. Victims can apply for funds to cover expenses related to the crime.

Under VOCA, victims can apply to be reimbursed for the costs of expenses they’ve already paid as well as costs they know are coming. To apply for victim compensation, a claim must be submitted to a state’s victim compensation program. The National Association of Crime Victim Compensation Boards state program directory has a listing of each state’s victim compensation office and contact information.


2. The Crime Victim’s Fund is supported by guilty criminals.

Because of VOCA, each year the fund releases money that directly and indirectly supports survivors. The fund is replenished through fines levied on convicted criminals, such as forfeited bail bonds and penalties collected from perpetrators as part of their sentences.


3. State and local service providers that support victims of crime can apply for VOCA grants.

VOCA supports annual grants for providers who offer direct services to victims. It also supports discretionary grants for training, technical assistance, and program evaluations for victim service providers. These funding streams ensure that victims who do apply for compensation or seek out assistance are able to find services that will meet their needs in the aftermath of a crime.


4. The fund ensures that other critical programs designed to support crime victims receive necessary funding.

Crime victim assistance is a wide umbrella that includes many different agencies and programs. Many of these organizations are eligible to apply for funding under VOCA including: victim-witness coordinators in US Attorneys’ Offices who inform victims of their rights; FBI victim specialists who inform victims of case developments, proceedings, and resources; the Victim Notification System, which notifies victims about the release or detention status of offenders, filed charges against suspects, court proceedings, sentences, and restitution; and the Antiterrorism Emergency Reserve, which funds emergency expenses and services for victims of terrorism or mass violence. VOCA also established the Children’s Justice Act, which provides grants to improve the investigation and prosecution of child abuse and neglect cases, and every year sets aside funds for projects, administered by nonprofit organizations, that improve national efforts to help support victims of crime.


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