North Carolina made history last year when the legislature voted to compensate people sterilized under the auspices of a state Eugenics Board.
But the legislature set out a process for paying claims that means that people who were verified as sterilization victims before 2013 must file new paperwork with the state.
Between 1929 and 1974, the N.C. Eugenics Board authorized the sterilization of about 7,600 people who were poor, mentally ill, or classified as “feebleminded.” The state’s eugenics program was one of the most aggressive in the nation. The legislature last year included $10 million in the budget to be divvied among verified victims.
People sterilized under the auspices of the board had been trying for years for compensation. One hundred and seventy-six people were verified as sterilization victims while Gov. Bev Perdue was in office, but that was before the legislature agreed to compensate them and set out a way for people to make claims. Eighty-four people who were verified before last summer have not filed new forms, said Christopher Mears, spokesman for the N.C. Department of Administration. If the office doesn’t hear from them “we will go out and find them to make aware that the deadline is fast approaching,” he said.
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“The legislature set up the system,” he said. “We’re following the procedure they outlined.”
June 30 is the deadline for filing a claim form and remaining eligible for the compensation.
The Department of Administration is responsible for researching the claims. All claims are passed on to the N.C. Industrial Commission, which will certify them. Claimants can appeal Industrial Commission denials, Mears said.
The chief difference between the old and new forms is that the new paperwork is a claim for compensation, while the old requested a records search, said Dee Jones, the department’s operations chief.
Phoebe Zerwick, a member of a compensation task force Perdue appointed, questioned the requirement for new paperwork from people the state has already determined were sterilized under the eugenics program.
“All of this paperwork is really onerous and difficult for people,” said Zerwick, who teaches journalism at Wake Forest University.
The office had received 376 claim forms by March 31, and forwarded 199 to the Industrial Commission. The rest have been returned for more information. Jones said applicants who had their claims forms returned to them for more information will be considered as having met the June 30 deadline.