Bill would significantly raise the on-duty death benefit for fed workers
A bipartisan group of lawmakers want to increase the amount tenfold.
Legislation introduced this month offers hope for a very significant boost in the death benefit that comes to families of feds who perish in performance of their jobs.
In fact, if passed, it shoots that benefit to the moon—multiplying it by a factor of 10. The Honoring Civil Servants Killed in the Line of Duty Act, sponsored by Reps. Gerry Connolly, D-Va., and Brian Fitzpatrick, R-Pa., and Sen. Krysten Sinema, I-Ariz., would take that benefit from $10,000 to $100,000.
When you consider the lower number hasn’t changed since 1997, the rocket to the stars aspect of the bill seems a little less impressive. With inflation, according to the most commonly cited consumer price index, it’s only a five times increase—but clearly still prospective good news. As its backers note, it is a benefit that, historically, has been underestimated in importance.
“For too long, families of civil servants who give their lives in service to our nation have been denied proper benefits upon the deaths of their loved ones,” Connolly said in a release. “That must change. I am proud to join my friend Brian Fitzpatrick and our colleagues in the Senate to introduce this important legislation today.”
“Civil servants who lose their lives while protecting our nation and freedoms and their loved ones deserve our debt of gratitude for their sacrifice,” Fitzpatrick stated. “I’m proud to partner with Congressman Connolly and Senator Sinema on this bipartisan, bicameral legislation to ensure these brave Americans receive the benefits they have earned.”
The bill, the two House sponsors said, brings death benefits for feds across agencies “more in line with what is paid to the survivors of military and Foreign Service employees killed in the line of duty.”
The legislation would also increase a separate funeral expense benefit provided to fed families from $800 to $8,000. That’s in line with what a National Funeral Directors Association study found the average funeral costs these days: $7,848. (Of course, that study—now nearly two years old—itself needs updating to account for even more inflation. Still, far better than a benefit in the hundreds of dollars).
In related news helpful to many federal families, last month the Veterans Affairs Department announced it will expand the help it offers to families of vets regarding the transportation of remains. Although by no means a federal employee benefit, well over a quarter of feds—and closer to one-third of hires in recent years—are vets. Already, as noted by Connolly and Fitzpatrick in their release, the VA in many instances offers better funeral expense coverage than the current federal employee figure, coming in at $2,000 for specifically service-related deaths.
The funeral and burial benefits that would be upgraded under the new bill for all feds is focused on the benefit covered by the Federal Employees’ Compensation Act. FECA requires an employing agency to report on any injury, and confirm it resulted in death, to the Department of Labor’s Office of Workers’ Compensation Programs —and to provide additional reports if necessary in each case. In fiscal year 2022, OWCP reported it paid $156 million in death benefits to surviving family members and dependents.
NEXT STORY: FEHB: Here’s what’s new for Open Season 2024