NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Disparities in Terrorism Compensation

March 8, 2002

The federal government's impulsive entrance into the victim-compensation business after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks hasn't been even-handed and may have set an unaffordable precedent, many analysts now recognize.

Not all the families of terrorism's victims will receive government benefits.

  • Survivors of Sept. 11 victims will receive payments ranging generally from $300,000 to $4.7 million, depending on age, salary and family obligation of the victim -- and all will receive $250,000 for pain and suffering, with $100,000 extra for each surviving spouse and each child.
  • But families of State Department victims killed in an embassy bombing could only get a maximum 75 percent of the victim's salary, for life -- along with limited one-time benefits.
  • A widow or widower of a soldier who dies in the war in Afghanistan could receive $935 a month, for life -- and slightly more if he or she has children, with educational benefits for the children.
  • There have been no special payments relating to the 17 sailors killed in the terrorist attack on the USS Cole in Yemen, or the six victims of the 1993 World Trade Center attack, or the 168 killed in Oklahoma City by domestic terrorists.

Politicians are apprehensive that the WTC payouts have set a precedent that probably couldn't be matched in the event of massive deaths in any future terrorism event.

Charities have taken in about $2 billion in private money to help families of Sept. 11 victims. While polls show that an overwhelming number of Americans support government payments, about 10 percent oppose them -- often citing the availability of private assistance.

Source: Editorial, "Why Is One Terrorism Victim Different from Another?" and Martin Kasindorf, "Some Are Opposed to the Awards," both in USA Today, March 8, 2002.

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