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Boston Marathon Victims Push Back On Fund Protocol


From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Melissa Block.


And I'm Audie Cornish.

Three months after the Boston Marathon bombing, money continues to roll into The One Fund, that's the charity set up for victims of the attack. More than 200 claims have already been paid out, but some victims are questioning the methods used to divvy up the funds. And as NPR's Tovia Smith reports, they're asking the state attorney general to intervene.

TOVIA SMITH, BYLINE: Almost immediately after the blast, money started gushing into The One Fund. By day 60, the fund had collected $60 million and distributed it to a few rough categories of victims. The families of those killed and those who suffered amputations or permanent brain damage were in the top tiers getting just over one and $2 million each. The rest were paid by how badly they were injured. And rather than spend time and money to let doctors duke that out, severity of injury was measured simply by how long a victim was in the hospital.

KEN FEINBERG: I suppose in a perfect world, it would be nice to know more about each claimant. But you run up against the political reality: Get the money out fast.

SMITH: Ken Feinberg administered The One Fund until the 60 million was paid in June. Under his plan, those who spent more than a month in the hospital got just under a million dollars, two weeks was worth about half a million, and one night 125,000. Those who were hurt but never hospitalized got $8,000.

FEINBERG: This is the decision we made, that rough justice here that was justified.

PAUL WHITE: He is doing rough justice, but he is also doing injustice.

SMITH: Paul White leads the Massachusetts Bar Association group calling on the attorney general to investigate.

WHITE: This is a charity. And the goal of any charity should be not how fast can we engage in this process but how fairly and compassionately.

SMITH: White says Feinberg's shortcut shortchanged many who were not hospitalized but suffered serious injuries like concussions.

JOANNA LEIGH: It's at the point where I leave nail marks in furniture, and I feel like somebody stabbing me in the head every second of every day.

SMITH: Thirty-nine-year-old Joanna Leigh says she was knocked off her feet by the bomb. She says she helped some other victims into an ambulance. But despite her headache, the ringing in her ears and burning in her eyes, she decided to wait to see her own doctor at an appointment already scheduled for two days later.

LEIGH: I was in a daze. And all I could think was I want to go home.

SMITH: Leigh was eventually diagnosed with traumatic brain injury that's left her with significant vision loss, 50 percent deafness and diminished function. A Ph.D., Leigh says she gets lost now just blocks from home and can't remember where her laundry goes. She can't do simple math or say the days of the week backwards.

She says she won't be able to work for at least two years, and her medical bills are already much more than her $8,000 award. She's one of a handful who want their cases reconsidered, but her lawyer, Jeff Stern, says it's unclear how to even ask.

JEFF STERN: Am I appealing? Am I filing a supplementary claim for benefits? The first thing that has to happen is that we - everybody needs to understand what rules are now in effect.

SMITH: For its part, The One Fund says one rule is clear.

MIKE SHEEHAN: We are not going to revisit round one.

SMITH: Board member Mike Sheehan says the few victims who were unhappy with what they got will be able, like everyone, to ask for help in a round two - another $4 million have already come in. But Sheehan says the fund is still trying to work out how to evaluate those requests.

SHEEHAN: They're not going to be prefect decisions. There is no such thing. But they'll be prudent in also making sure that the squeaky wheel doesn't always get the grease, that everyone is taken care of.

LEIGH: These are all my little pieces of paper here.

SMITH: Meantime, Joanna Leigh continues to document her injuries and expenses, insisting that a brain injury like hers can be just as debilitating as, for example, another woman's amputated leg.

LEIGH: You know, she can't run on the beach, and I can. But I can't work. I can't - hell, I can't even think straight.

CORNISH: Valuing her injury at just $8,000 from a fund of 60 million, Leigh says, is not only unfair to her, but also to all the donors who meant to help people like her. Tovia Smith, NPR News, Boston. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Tovia Smith is an award-winning NPR National Correspondent based in Boston, who's spent more than three decades covering news around New England and beyond.
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