House Committee Approves Legislation Honoring Civil Servants Killed in the Line of Duty
SUMMARY: This week, the House Oversight and Reform Committee passed legislation to improve, expand, and harmonize death gratuities and other related allowances for the survivors of federal civilian employees killed in the line of duty.
This week, House Oversight and Reform Committee approved NTEU-endorsed legislation introduced by Chairman Gerry Connolly (D-VA), the Honoring Civil Servants Killed in the Line of Duty Act (H.R. 7376) 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 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. An amendment offered by Chairwoman Carolyn Maloney
During consideration of the bill, Committee Ranking Member James Comer (R-KY) stated his opposition to the bill because federal employees already have access to “world-class pay and benefits” including workers’ compensation, life insurance, and retirement and taxpayers can’t afford these additional costs. Representative Ralph Norman (R-SC) and others expressed concern that there were no offsets for the cost of the bill even though, according to OPM, there are only, on average, 24 federal employees who die in the line of duty each year. Several minority members expressed concern about the bill being too broad and wanted to focus the bill on first responders. Representative Connolly said that he would work with the members on language regarding the definition of “line of duty” as the bill moves forward. The bill passed the committee by a vote of 26-14. The Senate companion bill, S. 3487, has bipartisan support and passed the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee in February by unanimous consent.
NTEU will continue to work with our allies in the House and Senate to pass this important legislation. I will keep you updated on additional developments.
Anthony M. Reardon