Let One Fund deadline stand, but help victims apply

After April 15, there was a profound outpouring of support for victims of the Boston Marathon bombings, an expression of empathy and togetherness grounded in the recognition that the bombers’ choice of victims was random — that those who were killed or injured were stand-ins for all of society. The result is the One Fund Boston, now $37 million and growing, which will generate large payouts to victims and some of their family members. There is no perfect system for disbursing the money, but the fund’s organizers and major donors, along with administrator Ken Feinberg, have rightly vowed to get it out as quickly as possible. The application deadline is June 15.

And despite a well-intentioned call by the Massachusetts Bar Association to extend that deadline as a convenience to victims and their families, the greater good lies in getting the money quickly and efficiently to those who need it. That’s an argument for the One Fund to maintain the June 15 deadline — and for advocates and health providers to focus their efforts on helping victims file in time.

Unfortunately, the cascading emotions of grief and recovery don’t follow any predictable timetable. Feinberg says his long experience in administering disaster funds tells him that some people who qualify for an award won’t seek it by the deadline — regardless of when that deadline is. This is for a combination of reasons, ranging from an understandable resistance to anything that feels like closure to a less understandable distrust of government. (The One Fund, despite its strong backing by the mayor and governor, is entirely private.)


Still, to enable the fund to divide the contributions fairly — thereby giving the highest possible amounts to the victims who do come forward without having to hold back cash for possible stragglers — Feinberg needs to know as soon as possible just how many people will be sharing in the fund. So anyone who knows victims who suffered physical injuries in the bombings and underwent medical treatment at a hospital should urge them to apply by June 15 — or earlier, if possible.

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Feinberg says his staff of six is engaged in diligent outreach, having sent application materials to all known victims who qualify for funds, and sought information from local hospitals. Medical confidentiality laws prevent hospitals from releasing patients’ names, but there is more that they can do to assist the One Fund: provide former patients with easy access to paperwork verifying hospital stays and emergency-room procedures. The application process is simple, but that medical documentation is necessary.

Now is the time for victims, families, and health providers to gather that information — a task that won’t get any easier if weeks or months pass. There is no simple resolution to an act as profoundly unsettling as the attacks on the Marathon, and the One Fund isn’t attempting to achieve one. It’s simply an expression of the desires of the donors — 70,000 and counting — to give money to victims, as much as possible and as quickly as possible.