How To Divide One Fund? Should Double Amputees Get Double Money?

Should someone who lost two legs in the Boston Marathon bombings get twice as much compensation as someone who lost only one?

This is an admittedly heart-rending quandary. But it’s one that administrators of Boston’s One Fund for marathon bombing victims will have to resolve soon.

Tomorrow (Saturday) is the deadline for applications. Money will go out to victims on July 1, based on the fund total as of July 27. So between July 27 and July 31, One Fund administrator Ken Feinberg and his team will decide who gets how much. Feinberg has set the categories. The question is…how to divide the money?Picture 2

This is a tragic calculation. As Feinberg has said, there is no way to meet all the victims’ needs. But how would you do it? How much more does the family of someone who died deserve as compared to a young woman who lost most of one leg or a man who kept both legs but suffered permanent damage?

We did some back-of-the-envelope math to get the conversation started, using the best numbers we’ve been able to gather thus far.

As of today, the One Fund has just about $48 million, and 155 people have applied.

The largest awards will go to victims who died, are double amputees or those with permanent brain damage. There were four deaths (three at the bombing site and Sergeant Sean Collier) and two double amputees. We don’t know how many survivors have a permanent brain injury. To be cautious, let’s say one. So the total in Category A would be 7. Let’s say we start with $2 million a piece, for a total of $14 million.

The second-highest award will go to survivors who lost one limb. We know of 14. If they get $1 million each, for a total of $14 million, the fund has $20 million left to distribute.

The third-highest award will go to people whose injury was bad enough to require an overnight hospitalization. There were at least 135 survivors in this category (after you subtract the single and double amputees). Let’s say they get $133,000 each. That leaves $2 million.

The fourth category is for patients who were treated and released without an overnight hospital stay. There were at least 125 such victims as of the last count. Let’s say they would get $16,000 each.

Some people who are eligible may not apply.

And yes, there will be more money by July 28. This is just a way to start thinking about balance, priorities and the decisions fund administrators will have to make.

They do not plan to consider a victim’s income, assets, life expectancy or any other factors.

What would you do?

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  • Sandra

    I believe that this fund was developed to help the survivors get the medical and psychological help they need in order to get their lives back to normal to the extent it is possible. The key word to this enormous outpouring of funds is “survivor”.
    There are so many deadly shootings each day that end lives that are all precious, but money is not going to bring them back.
    This is what makes the One Fund unique. It can help give back life.

  • Carol Agate

    I’ve always been disturbed by these special funds for the biggest tragedies. Last week seven people died in a shooting in Santa Monica, including the college. There was little publicity about it — certainly not an outpouring of money from all over the country. Are the victims of this shooting any less deserving than the victims of the big tragedies? I am asking the question. I don’t have any answers.

  • Reasonable?

    I think this dilemma can be solved from the bottom up.

    1. Create a closed social network with all the victims and their representatives. Allow them to describe their condition and their overall economic situation in the network.

    2. Divide the money from the general public fund roughly by severity (mild trauma, single, double amputee).

    3. Allow the members and their representatives to re-allocate money to one another by whatever personal criteria seems fair. All spending of the public funds must be accounted on the closed social network.

    4. Let the public have access to de-identified data about the distribution and determine whether to give more to the general fund.

    5. Repeat steps 2 fo 5 for as many rounds as necessary.

    The idea is that compassionate human beings will adequately divide resources without top down assumptions. We just need to set up the structure to allow our humanity to emerge. With some minor tweaks and system like this should work well as a victim compensation model.

    • Martha Bebinger

      Very interesting.

      Have you see this model at work?