Officers who die from COVID-19 could be eligible for federal death benefits

Deaths resulting from the coronavirus will generally be ruled as line of duty deaths, according to new guidance from the Bureau of Justice


By Amanda Lien

WASHINGTON — New guidance from the U.S. Department of Justice states that law enforcement officers and other first responders who die of COVID-19 and file a claim through the Public Safety Officers’ Benefit program will be eligible for death benefits in most cases.

To establish eligibility, the Public Safety Officers’ Benefits Act requires evidence showing that the contraction of COVID-19 more likely than not resulted from an officer’s exposure to the virus occurred while performing a line of duty action. The guidance document, which was released Thursday, states that the Bureau of Justice Assistance will, “in general,” find that an officer contracted COVID-19 in the line of duty.

Patrick Yoes, the National President of the Fraternal Order of Police, said the announcement was a “vitally important” one for law enforcement officers serving during the unprecedented pandemic.

"I hope this assurance will bring some comfort and peace of mind to our officers that their families will be taken care of should they contract this horrible virus in the line of duty,” he said in a statement. "We are extremely grateful, as always, to President Trump for his decisive leadership, especially in this time of crisis and for the exceptional team he has put together at the Justice Department."

The Public Safety Officers' Benefits Program provides death benefits to the eligible survivors of public safety officers who are fatally injured in the line of duty. The program also provides disability benefits for public safety officers catastrophically injured in the line of duty, as well as education benefits to eligible spouses and children of those fallen and catastrophically injured officers.

 

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