Learn about state and Public Safety Officers' death benefits at mywyaforward.com.

Survivor Benefits: State Survivor Benefits and Public Safety Officers' Benefits Program

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State Survivor Benefits

State Workers' Compensation laws and benefits are determined on a state-by-state basis. You must contact the Workers' Compensation office of the state in which you reside or request benefits. The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) has some information on their Web site, but to get details you must inquire through the states.

Survivor benefits for state workers vary by state. If the information and links provided here do not answer your questions, contact the human resources representative of the Deceased’s employer. Some states have specific programs for teachers or other types of workers, so it is important to check with the state where the Deceased was employed.

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Public Safety Officers’ Benefits Program (PSOB) Death Benefits

The PSOB death benefits are administered by the Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA). If you are a survivor of a public safety officer who died as a “direct and proximate result of an injury sustained in the line of duty,” then you may be entitled to survivor benefits through their benefits program. Provisions in the BJA benefits include:

  • A public safety officer includes anyone who was a member of a rescue squad or ambulance crew at the federal, state or local level; members of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA); state, local and tribal emergency management; and civil defense agency employees. The death must have occurred on or after October 15, 1986 for rescue squads and ambulance crews, or October 30, 2000 for FEMA, emergency management and civil defense agency employees.
  • Under the Hometown Heroes Survivors Benefits Act, a deceased individual who passed away after December 15, 2003 is considered to have died in the line of duty if they died as a result of a heart attack or stroke so long as they meet certain requirements. These requirements include: dying as a result of an injury if the Deceased was in a situation involving “non-routine stressful or strenuous activity” (excluding administrative, clerical or non-manual activities) or was in training which involved non-routine stressful activity. The Deceased had to pass away no later than 24 hours after participating in the activity that caused the death, as long as medical evidence does not override the presumption that they passed away by a heart attack or stroke during duty. 
  • A deceased individual who suffered an injury defined by the BJA as “a traumatic physical wound (or physical condition of the body) caused by external force (bullets, explosives, sharp instruments, blunt objects, physical blows); chemicals; electricity; climatic conditions; infectious disease; radiation; virus; or bacteria; but does not include any occupational disease or any condition of the body caused or occasioned by stress or strain” qualifies survivors to unique benefits that must be applied for within three years of the public safety officer’s death, or within one year of a denial of benefits.

The benefit available to survivors of public service officers depends upon the year in which the officer died. (For example, the benefit for officers who die in 2008 is $303,064.) This is a one-time benefit distributed as follows:

  • The surviving spouse, if there are no surviving children, will receive the entire benefit.
  • If there are surviving children, half goes to the spouse and the other half is divided among the children.
  • If there is no surviving spouse but there are surviving children, the children receive the whole benefit to be split equally.
  • In the case where there is neither a surviving spouse nor surviving children, the benefit will be paid to the designated beneficiary stated in the officer’s life insurance policy.
  • If there are no life insurance beneficiaries, the benefit goes to the surviving parents to be divided equally, if there is only one surviving parent, that parent receives the whole sum.

Those survivors who receive the PSOB death benefit may also be eligible for the Public Safety Officers’ Educational Assistance program (PSOEA). This program is available to spouses and children of public safety officers. It is available for children under 27 or spouses of any age, and is extended for a maximum of 45 months for full-time students provided they maintain a minimum grade point average (GPA) of 2.0.

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How to Find out More Information about Survivor Information

  • The United States Department of Veteran’s Affairs (VA): 1-800-827-1000 www.va.gov

  • Office of Workers’ Compensation Programs (OWP): 1-866-4-USA-DOL  www.dol.gov

  • Defense Finance and Accounting Service (DFAS): 1-800-321-1080 www.dfas.mil

  • Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA): 1-800-321-1080  www.ojp.usdoj.gov/BJA/

  • Social Security Administration: 1-800-772-1213 www.ssa.gov

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