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Tommy Tucker 2The last time any significant number of North Carolinians were aware of state Senator Tommy Tucker was probably a couple of years ago when the Waxhaw Republican made some incredibly arrogant statements to people trying to inform lawmakers of the truth about some controversial issues.

“I am the senator. You are the citizen. You need to sit down,” was Tucker’s now infamous quote.

Now, Tucker is back in the news making another clueless and borderline offensive remark — this one regarding the victims of the state’s horrific forced sterilization program of the 20th Century and the new and ridiculously inadequate compensation program for victims.

As the Charlotte Observer’s Jim Morrill reported this morning, advocates for eugenics victims are pointing out the existence of a truck-sized loophole in the compensation law. Under the law, hundreds, if not thousands, of people are being denied compensation because their sterilizations took place in county facilities rather than state facilities.

This is, by any fair assessment, outrageous. To think that victims will have to go to the expense and trouble of taking up their compensation claims against individual  counties after decades of effort to get a state compensation law through is simply astounding. Unfortunately, good ol’ Senator Tucker doesn’t see it that way. This is from the Observer article:

“Sen. Tommy Tucker, a Union County Republican who co-chairs the Senate’s appropriations committee on Health and Human Services, said ‘the state’s done its part.’

‘They should go to the county where they were sterilized, not the state,’ he said of those victims. ‘The state’s done its part to right the wrongs that we did, but the county should be responsible for what it did.’

Uh, pardon us Senator, but the last time we checked, the counties of North Carolina were creatures of the state. Moreover, forced sterilization was, by any fair assessment, a monstrous state-supported initiative with disastrous statewide results. The victims have already been denied justice for far too long and the compensation packages available are already inadequate. That the state of North Carolina would attempt play a game of bait and switch with such an abused group of human beings is almost beyond comprehension.

Please do the right thing, Senator. Help get all of these injured people the money they deserve ASAP and then just sit down and be quiet.

Commentary

The Winston-Salem Journal reports that the state has mailed out about 200 checks to commence the inadequate and uninspired compensation plan for victims of the state’s 45-year-long eugenics program.

Elaine Riddick got a call this week that had been more than 40 years in the making.

Riddick, a victim of North Carolina’s eugenics program, said she received word from the state that they would send her a eugenics compensation payment at the end of the month.

“I have been fighting this for over 40 years,” said Riddick, who is now 60 years old.

As you will recall the program forcibly sterilized around 7,600 people from 1929 to 1974. Sadly, not only is the compensation plan too little and too late for most of those victimized, but even now, state officials continue to respond to requests for compensation in a narrow and tightfisted way.

Let’s hope that sometime soon, state leaders come to their senses and move to expand outreach, funding, eligibility and assistance for claimants  for the program as advocates like the good folks at the state NAACP have been demanding for months.

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According to a release today by the N.C. Department of Administration, as of July 31, 2014 the state Industrial Commission has denied more than 300 claims for compensation from the $10 million Eugenics Compensation Fund.

The Office for Justice of Sterilization Victims had received 780 claim forms from potential Eugenics Board sterilization victims by the June 30 deadline.  It  forwarded 565 claims to the Industrial Commission for initial determination and requested additional information from the remaining claimants.

Of the 565 sent to the Industrial Commission, 500 claims were reviewed and sent initial determination orders. Only 180 of those were deemed “qualified” for compensation.

Per payment provisions enacted with the new budget, those claimants will receive an initial payment in October.

Read more about the eugenics program here.

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Provisions in the latest budget explain the payment process for the 780 eugenics claims submitted to the Office for Justice for Sterilization Victims by the June 30 deadline, and set some hard deadlines for those whose claims have been received by the deadline but are missing information.

(Despite a request by the state NAACP, the General Assembly did not extend the June 30 deadline,)

As of July 17, according to the Office,  500 of those claims had been forwarded to the NC Industrial Commission for determination of eligibility and the remaining logged as received by the deadline but either missing information or requiring additional research.

Those with missing information have until September 23, 2014 to submit what’s required.

Also per the budget, disbursements from the fund will begin with an initial payment by October 31, 2014 to those determined, as of October 1, 2014, to be “qualified recipients.”   The amount of that payment will be determined by dividing the number of qualified and pending claimants by $10 million.

Those determined to be qualified after that date will receive an initial payment within 60 days of determination.

Presumably on the theory that some of the pending claims may ultimately not be qualified, there will be a second round of payments made from what’s left in the fund.  That payment will be made 90 days from the date of the last appeal.

By September 30, 2014, all remaining claim forms will be submitted to the Industrial  Commission for review and  disposition.

The budget provisions also clarify that payments from the fund are NOT to be split or otherwise used to compensate attorneys who may have helped victims with the filing of claims:

It is the public policy of this State that funds awarded for the compensation of sterilization victims under this Part may be used only for the purpose of benefiting victims and shall not be used to pay attorneys’ fees arising from representation at the Office, before the Commission, or on appeal. The General Assembly finds that qualified recipients have suffered a unique harm that calls for a unique remedy and that there are sufficient sources of assistance and pro bono legal representation available to protect their interests. Therefore, any agreement for the acceptance of attorneys’ fees is null and void unless counsel has sought and received an opinion from the North Carolina State Bar that the fee arrangement is reasonable under the Rules of Professional Conduct.

For more about the eugenics fund, read here.

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EugenicsAs Chris Fitzsimon made clear in this morning’s “Monday Numbers,” there is simply no good reason for the state of North Carolina to shut off applications for compensation to surviving eugenics victims. Having made people wait decades, what is the point of limiting the possibility for recovery for people — especially since so many of those injured are likely to lack easy access to legal assistance they need?

The North Carolina NAACP issued a statement early this afternoon making just such an argument. Click here to view it.