The victims of the shooting in Virginia Beach, Va. Tech offers Virginia Mass Violence Care Fund to cover expenses

“After he said that,” Britt said, “I turned around and looked him in the face and he shot me.” The .45 caliber bullet ricocheted from his jaw into his spinal cord and he fell to the ground, instantly paralyzed. In her first public interview, Britt described being carried up two floors by co-workers, past the police shootout with the shooter, to a van with a surfboard in the back, and being transported to an ambulance before leaving. faint.

“By the heroism of my colleagues and the police,” Britt said, “and the skill of the paramedics and the doctors, that’s what I attribute my being here to.”

Twelve people died in the May 2019 mass shooting at Virginia Beach city offices, and Britt became a quadriplegic. His medications cost $30,000 a year, he needed a specially equipped $60,000 van, and his house isn’t fully renovated for a man in a wheelchair. Britt said workers’ compensation and insurance helped pay for her costs, but “the sad reality is that there are a lot of our fellow Americans who live paycheck to paycheck. and “in a situation like this, through no fault of their own, they have to bear the burden of things like $30,000 for drugs. That would be horrible.

Britt is among those supporting the creation of a permanent $10 million endowment fund in Virginia to reimburse mass shooting survivors and families of victims for certain expenses that their insurance and other funds do not cover. . The Virginia Mass Violence Care Fund would invest the money in a manner similar to the state’s “529 Fund,” which helps parents pay for their children’s college tuition and would use an expected return of $400,000 per year to help the victims.

The effort is led by Joseph Samaha, whose daughter Reema was killed in a shooting in 2007 at Virginia Tech, among 32 killed and 24 injured. For years he helped lead VTV carethe Virginia Tech Victims’ Family Outreach Foundation, which has provided assistance to victims of other mass shootings, launched a national campus safety initiative and created a funding model to cover the expenses of victims who are not not reimbursed by insurance or other funds.

The proposed state fund, which Samaha and others say would be the first of its kind in the nation, would help those harmed by the rampages at Virginia Tech and Virginia Beach and any future mass shootings.

“The endowment is necessary,” Samaha said, “because usually three years after a mass violence event, there are no funds available for the families of victims, survivors and traumatized people. Donor funds have been disbursed and grants are also drying up.He noted that first responders to the terrorist attack in New York on September 11, 2001 are still seeking financial assistance, as are survivors and families of the 1999 shooting. at Columbine High School, Colorado.

Nearly 15 years after the shooting at Virginia Tech, “people are still seeing therapists, still going to doctors,” Samaha said. He said the reimbursements made to Tech victims, primarily by the Crime Victims Compensation Fund, showed that “healing is not linear. Seven or eight years later, people still need care. In ninth grade, he peaked. We have been reimbursed $645,000 over the past 14 years,” for expenses not covered by insurance.

As of 2020, the Technology Victims Group created its own endowment, with money from the state’s 2009 settlement with victims, and Samaha said the return on investment was nearly 9 %. The fund has identified 177 family members and survivors eligible for reimbursement of expenses related to the treatment of the April 2007 shooting. Victims are defined as the families of deceased, injured or traumatized survivors and those who were present during the event.

The new funding is proposed as a budget amendment by Del. Kelly Convirs-Fowler (D-Virginia Beach) and Sen. Chap Petersen (D-Fairfax), who both said there was bipartisan support for the fund’s creation. “What are we doing for long-term victims? asked Convirs-Fowler. She said Tech’s Victims Fund was a good model and that the larger endowment “is a good step in the right direction; we take our responsibilities. Petersen said that in many cases “there is no other way to recover” financially and that the new fund would be a sustainable resource.

The fund would be administered by the Virginia Department of Criminal Justice Services and would be available to victims starting three years after a mass violence event.

Samaha and relatives of other victims and survivors of the attack traveled to Richmond last week to brief the Virginia Beach legislative delegation, and then the commission investigating the Virginia Beach shooting, about the proposed fund. Attorney General Jason Miyares (R) was in attendance and voiced his support for the fund.

“I think there’s some frustration in having spoken to survivors who have this terrible feeling that they’ve been left by the wayside,” Miyares said, according to WAVY-TV, and his office has said. also released a statement of support for the fund. The Board of Inquiry released a letter on Thursday saying it unanimously supports the Mass Violence Care Fund. A Governor’s spokeswoman Glenn Youngkin (R) said he supports helping families affected by a tragic loss and will consider the budget amendment that comes before him. But in principle it is favorable.

Virginia Beach city worker Missy Langer was shot in the back of the neck and killed on May 31, 2019. “She was my sister,” said Debbie Borato of Florida. “This vision accompanies me every day. For 2 and a half years, I can’t concentrate, I wake up nauseous. It’s something that will last our lifetime. »

But Virginia’s available funds for Borato to see mental health therapists for her post-traumatic stress disorder quickly dried up. “I couldn’t afford to pay $180 a week for a therapist. … We need financial help and therapy.

“There are few resources for victims of mass crimes who must deal with a myriad of unique issues for the rest of their lives,” said Anita Busch, president of Victims first, which provides financial assistance to victims of mass violence. “The need for a mass violence care fund, as proposed in Virginia, is long overdue and would become a model for the rest of the nation.”

Jason Nixon has been defending victims of the Virginia Beach rampage since his wife, Kate, called him from Building 2 on the Virginia Beach campus and told him she had been shot. Nixon rushed to the scene, but Kate died, leaving behind her husband and three young daughters. He visited Richmond last week to explain the need for the fund.

He said the financial aid was “good when it first happened. But then it all fades and you feel like you’ve been left behind. Counseling costs between $200 and $300 per week. I wouldn’t need advice if a Virginia Beach employee hadn’t killed my wife. I will need it for the rest of my life. My kids are going to need it. … This funding is going to be useful. Mass shootings are common and appear to be increasing.

Last year, at least 30 mass shootings took place across the country and at least four people were killed in each attack, not including the shooter. In hundreds of other shootings, according to several gun violence databases, several people were shot, but fewer than four died. Details of how the Virginia fund would define a mass shooting are still being worked out, Samaha said..

Britt is one of four people who survived a bullet in Building 2 in Virginia Beach. He remembers in detail getting ready to leave work for the weekend, standing in a doorway, being shot, and being on the floor. “I couldn’t move,” Britt said. “One of my first thoughts was, ‘What a place to die. Halfway to the back door of my workplace. ”

He said he had thought about his wife and whether she would be financially secure if he left, and decided that she would be. “I guess you could say I agreed to die on the floor,” Britt said.

But her colleagues rushed to help, one holding Britt’s head in her lap. Police officers appeared, weapons drawn, and Britt gave them a full description of the shooter. Officers told Britt’s colleagues to hide, but they refused to leave their injured colleague, Britt said. Four or five colleagues carried him down a third-floor hallway to the stairs, past the second-floor entrance where police were shooting at the shooter. “It was just incredibly loud,” Britt recalled.

Britt spent several weeks at Virginia Beach General Hospital, then several months at Shepherd Center Rehabilitation Hospital in Atlanta. Doctors have told him they believe he will be bedridden and on a ventilator for the rest of his life, but the former gym rat and self-proclaimed fitness nut, now 61, is wheelchair-bound and breathing on his own, and continues to attend physical therapy. Britt received significant help from workers’ compensation, but that would not be available for those injured outside of work. “I hope,” Britt said, “that the proposed fund for Virginia victims would help families who find themselves in a situation where they are suddenly scrambling to find funds or medical insurance, people who find themselves financially destitute “.

Britt added: “We’ve gotten used to outrage, really.”

He said that while he was in rehab in Atlanta, someone told him the media might be waiting for him when he got back to Virginia. “The sad truth is,” Britt said at the time, “before I leave here there will be two or three more happening, and we’re going to be old news.” Sure enough, 23 people were shot at a Walmart in El Paso on August 3, 2019, and 10 people, including the shooter, were shot at a bar in Dayton, Ohio the following day.

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