|Honoring Civil Servants Killed in the Line of Duty|
SUMMARY: NTEU endorses legislation introduced in the Senate to improve, expand, and harmonize death gratuities and other related allowances for the survivors of federal civilian employees killed in the line of duty.
Yesterday Senators Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), Rob Portman (R-OH), Alex Padilla (D-CA), and Gary Peters (D-MI) introduced the Honoring Civil Servants Killed in the Line of Duty Act, S. 3474, which aims to bring some parity in death benefits when civil servants make the ultimate sacrifice. Under current law, death gratuities paid to families of federal civilian employees who are killed in the line of duty depend on which agency the employee was a part of, the agency administering the benefit, and a different set of rules related to offset requirements, tax treatment, and eligible beneficiaries. The current death gratuity of $10,000 payable to a survivor of a federal employee has not been changed since 1997 and the funeral expense benefit has remained unchanged at $800 since 1966. By contrast, a federal civilian employee killed abroad under chief of mission authority is currently entitled to $185,100. The bill would increase the amount of death gratuity for all federal civilian employees killed in the line of duty from $10,000 to $100,000 and increase the benefit for payment of funeral and burial expenses from $800 to $8,800. Both benefit payments would have automatic cost-of-living adjustments going forward.
From 2012 to 2015, agencies have reported 72 federal civilian employee deaths in the line of duty — this equates to 24 deaths each year on average. The top three agencies with the greatest number of deaths during these years have been the Departments of Defense, Homeland Security, and Agriculture.
The Office of Personnel Management, under the Obama Administration, submitted this legislation to Congress in 2016, but it was not acted upon by Congress or the following administration. However, we remain optimistic that the bill will move forward given the strong bipartisan support of members on the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. I will keep you updated on additional developments.