Va. Tech Fund to Be Disbursed Within Weeks

Monday, September 24, 2007

The administrator of the memorial fund created after the April 16 shootings at Virginia Tech says he hopes to disburse the $7.5 million by the end of next month. The decision to accept the money, he added, does not prevent the families of victims from pursuing legal action against the university or the state.

"Unlike the 9/11 victim compensation fund, which was public money, this is private money," fund administrator Kenneth R. Feinberg said of the Hokie Spirit Memorial Fund. "There is no requirement that any of these victims waive their right to sue. There is no condition at all to receive this money. It's essentially a gift."

Vincent J. Bove, a spokesman for several victims' families, said many are considering legal action and have retained lawyers for that purpose.

"My understanding is there will be significant legal action," he said. "They feel that only through legal action will the truth unfold and accountability fall into place."

Some victims' families had criticized Virginia Tech for initially wanting to use half the memorial fund for scholarships.

"The families want to make it known that they appreciate the generosity of the donors," Bove said, "and that the intention of the donors is finally being honored."

The families of all 32 victims killed in the shootings, as well as those physically injured and those psychologically traumatized from being on the second floor of Norris Hall that day, have applied for money from the fund.

The fund was created after the shooting from an outpouring of 20,000 donations from across the country, ranging from $5 to $1 million. Families and those injured, 78 people in all, had until Sept. 15 to apply for funds.

"It is very gratifying to know that 100 percent, every single eligible claimant, whether the family of a victim, one of the 32 killed in April, or those physically injured or suffering mental trauma, every one filed a claim," Feinberg said.

Families of those killed will receive about $180,000 each, Feinberg said. Those injured will receive either $45,000 or $90,000, depending on the lengths of their hospital stays, and free tuition at Virginia Tech. Those mentally traumatized will receive $10,000 or free tuition.

Feinberg said the fund will remain open until the end of the year, with a possible supplemental disbursement if sufficient funds are received.

Feinberg said it is unclear whether the funds are taxable.

"Virginia Tech thinks the money is taxable. Other individual family members have consulted with their tax attorneys, and they say it isn't," he said. "That's a decision that's left to each family member."

-- Brigid Schulte

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