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Lawyers urge extension of One Fund deadline

With the deadline for bombing victims to file compensation claims to One Fund Boston just over two weeks away, the Massachusetts Bar Association is calling for an extension to give recovering families more time.

“Expediency is fine, but I worry an awful lot of people are going to be left out,” said Peter DeGelleke, a Concord lawyer who is among those volunteering to represent victims of the Boston Marathon bombings. “It’s been less than two months since the event, and people are still traumatized.”

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Kenneth Feinberg, administrator of the One Fund, said that while only 20 claims had been made so far, he was confident that victims would file by June 15.

“They will make the deadline,” he said Wednesday. “My experience tells me that as the date approaches, the pace accelerates.”

Feinberg said he expects about 250 claims will be filed. At latest count, the fund had raised $37.5 million from corporate and private donations.

Feinberg, who managed victim compensation funds after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and the Virginia Tech shootings, said a prompt deadline is needed to evaluate claims and to begin issuing payments as soon as possible. Some of those wounded in the attack are facing hefty medical bills and a host of other financial pressures, he noted.

“Some people are in desperate straits,” he said. “Let’s get them the money already.”

Feinberg plans to distribute the funds by the end of June, but said additional payments could be made. Missing the June 15 deadline would not affect eligibility, he said; those who miss the deadline could still apply.

Feinberg has said local officials have urged him to distribute the money swiftly, but some lawyers have voiced concern that the review process will not adequately assess victims’ individual circumstances.

The three-page claim form, which must be notarized, is available at onefundboston.org. Victims must also submit confirmation of their injuries from the hospital where they were treated. Medical records are not required, Feinberg said.

The form asks whether victims lost limbs in the bombings or sustained permanent brain damage.

While the paperwork is minimal, victims can easily lose track of the deadline as they focus on their recovery, lawyers said. With so much pain and uncertainty in their lives, details are bound to fall through the cracks, they said.

“People are so devastated; this is the last thing on their mind,” said Leo Boyle, a Boston lawyer who oversaw a large-scale effort to help victims of the Sept. 11 attacks. “They are getting their lives back to some semblance of normalcy. They aren’t thinking about forms.”

The bar association is reaching out to victims to provide free legal assistance, but has only heard from a handful, raising concerns that victims have not turned their attention to filing a compensation claim, Boyle said. Boyle said that even with a later deadline, fund officials could process claims as they are submitted.

Peter Schworm can be reached at schworm@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @globepete.
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