Yes or no? If a survivor of the Boston Marathon bombing loses a limb, and his wife also loses a limb, should they be compensated under some notion of cumulative impact that is greater than double the sum of their individual claims? And if yes, what is that new number?
The administrator of the One Fund Boston, Kenneth Feinberg, can’t ponder for too long. This was just one question put to him at one of the public hearings at the Boston Public Library held this week. His consistent answer — a refrain he has told the victims of 9/11, the BP oil spill, and the Virginia Tech shootings — is that he doesn’t do happiness. “ ‘Happy’ never enters into this equation,” he once told families of 9/11 victims. Indeed, in order to meet his June 30 deadline for finalizing protocols, assessing claims, and distributing funds, “not happy” is about the only standard that will meet with universal consensus.
The response to the Boston Marathon attacks has moved quickly through the stages of horror, grief, remembrance, recovery, and resolve to a newer phase that is quite distinct and technical: claim adjudication. Aware that mechanical discussions about deadlines and forms is unsentimental, a room was set aside next to the library’s Rabb Lecture Hall for those who needed private time or were overwhelmed by the rather legalistic process of victim compensation. Red Cross volunteers were there to help, as well.
Sitting solo or in small groupings in the cavernous room, the families of four people who were killed and up to 300 who were injured listened to Feinberg’s hour-long explanation of the task he has been given by Mayor Menino and Governor Patrick. Feinberg has a special talent to sound exacting and compassionate simultaneously. He has spent a career attaching dollar signs to national tragedies. He knows this drill.
A draft protocol was distributed that set some standards for compensation, but final resolution of the tougher questions will not be determined until later in May. Death claims, double amputees, and those who sustained permanent brain damage will take priority. Proof of injury will require detailed documentation. Families will have to sort out on their own which relatives should share the claim.
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