Agencies Can Now Honor Fallen Feds with American Flags

In April 2013, the Office of Personnel Management unveiled a memorial to civilian federal employees killed in the line of duty. In April 2013, the Office of Personnel Management unveiled a memorial to civilian federal employees killed in the line of duty. Timothy Grant/OPM

The U.S. government now can begin giving American flags to the loved ones of federal civilian employees killed in the line of duty to honor their sacrifice.

The Office of Personnel Management issued final regulations on Tuesday implementing a 2011 law that allows federal agencies to provide flags to the next of kin of feds who die from on-the-job injuries due to terrorism, natural disasters or “other circumstances as determined by the president.” Although the final regulations are not effective until 30 days after publication in the Federal Register, OPM said agencies do not have to wait any longer to present flags to eligible beneficiaries. The benefit applies only to federal employees who died on or after Dec. 20, 2011, when the law took effect. Eligible employees include those at executive agencies, the U.S. Postal Service and the Postal Regulatory Commission.

“Since 1992, more than 3,000 federal employees have lost their lives working for us across the country and around the world,” said Joseph Beaudoin, president of the National Active and Retired Federal Employees Association, in a statement. “These are brave Americans who were doing their part for our nation as border patrol agents, drug enforcement agents, public health officials, disaster first-responders, FBI officers, astronauts and in countless other vital government roles, including those who lost their lives nearly a year ago during the Navy Yard shooting.”

NARFE, along with the Senior Executives Association and the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association, lobbied for the legislation and pressured OPM to implement it. While the groups were pleased that OPM “at long last” issued the final regulations, officials from the organizations expressed concern that agencies are not required to offer flags to fallen feds’ next of kin. Beneficiaries must contact the personnel office of the federal agency where the employee worked to receive a flag. The burden of asking for a flag should not fall on grieving families, the groups said in a statement. SEA President Carol Bonosaro said the organizations plan to work with OPM and agencies “to make it a practice, not an option, to offer a flag to the next of kin of a federal employee killed in the line of duty.”

According to the federal employee advocacy groups, more than 20 civilian feds have been killed in the line of duty since the law was enacted.

"We strongly encourage agencies to use the authority given to them by the 2011 legislation to extend the honor of a flag to the families of those killed in the line of duty,” said Bruce Moyer, chairman of the Federal-Postal Coalition. The group represents 31 national federal and postal employee organizations.

Last year, OPM unveiled a memorial wall in the lobby of its Washington headquarters to commemorate government employees killed on the job. Fifty-two silver stars, one for each state, the District of Columbia and the U.S. territories, are flanked by two American flags under the inscription: “In grateful memory of federal civilian employees who gave their lives for our country.” It is the first time fallen civilian employees across the executive branch have been honored with a memorial.

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