California Survivor Benefits

Updated April 2018

ONE-TIME DEATH BENEFIT

» See Pension Plan Information Below

Contract Pilots: Legislation signed by the Governor on 9/11/2002 requires the Department of Forestry and Fire Protection to pay a one-time benefit to eligible survivors of contract pilots who die while performing duties under contract to the Department. The amount is equal to what the survivor would receive if the pilot were covered by the federal Public Safety Officers’ Benefits Act. The eligible survivors also receive an amount determined by the Department to commensurate with the death benefit payable to a mid-career firefighter employed by the Department who died in the line of duty.

Contact:

California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection
1416 9th Street
P.O. Box 944246
Sacramento, CA 94244-2460
Phone: (916) 653-5123
Website: calfire.ca.gov


WORKERS’ COMPENSATION

Death benefits are payments to a spouse, children or other dependents if an employee dies from a work-related injury or illness. The amount of the death benefit depends on the number of total and/or partial dependents. Benefits maximums are as follows: 1 total dependent ($250,000), 2 total dependents ($290,000), 3 or more total dependents ($320,000), 1 total plus 1 or more partial dependents ($250,000 plus four times annual support for partial dependents not to exceed $290,000), and 1 or more partial dependents (eight times annual support not to exceed $250,000).

In the case of one or more totally dependent minors, after payment of amounts specified below, death benefits will continue until youngest minor’s 18th birthday (disabled minors receive benefits for life). Death benefits are paid at the total temporary disability rate, but not less than $224.00 per week. The period within which to commence proceedings for the collection of death benefits is one year from death where death occurs within one year of date of injury (DOI); or one year from date of last furnishing of any benefits or one year from death where death occurs more than one year from DOI. No such proceedings may be commenced more than 240 weeks from the DOI.

(Reference: Labor Code Section 4702)

Volunteer firefighters: Each member registered as an active firefighting member of any regularly organized volunteer fire department having official recognition and full or partial support of its local government is considered an employee for purposes of workers’ compensation. This entitles eligible volunteer firefighters to receive compensation from the local government. If a volunteer firefighter dies while performing duties, then, irrespective of remuneration from this or other employment or from both, the average earnings shall be taken as the maximums fixed for each.

(Reference: Labor Code Section 3361)

Contact:

Workers’ Compensation Division
Division of Workers’ Compensation

1515 Clay Street, 6th Floor
Oakland, CA 94612-1519
Phone: (510) 622-2866
Toll Free: (800) 736-7401
E-Mail: dwc@dir.ca.gov
Website: www.dir.ca.gov

See Office Location Directory to identify your closest branch.


COMPENSATION FOR DEATH OR DISABILITY OF FIREFIGHTERS FROM OCCUPATIONAL DISEASES

California presumptions for firefighters include: Heart, hernia, pneumonia, cancer, tuberculosis, hepatitis, and meningitis. Some bio-chemical, blood-borne pathogens, and methicillin resistant staph.

(Reference: Labor Code Sections 3212, 3212.1, 3212.6, 3212.8, 3212.85, 3212.9)

Contact:

Workers’ Compensation Division
Division of Workers’ Compensation

1515 Clay Street, 6th Floor
Oakland, CA 94612-1519
Phone: (510) 622-2866
Toll Free: (800) 736-7401
E-Mail: dwc@dir.ca.gov
Website: www.dir.ca.gov

See Office Location Directory to identify your closest branch.


FUNERAL BENEFIT

A maximum burial allowance of $10,000 is available.

Contact:

Workers’ Compensation Division
Division of Workers’ Compensation

1515 Clay Street, 6th Floor
Oakland, CA 94612-1519
Phone: (510) 622-2866
Toll Free: (800) 736-7401
E-Mail: dwc@dir.ca.gov
Website: www.dir.ca.gov

See Office Location Directory to identify your closest branch.

(Reference: Labor Code Section 4701)

RETIREMENT/PENSION PLAN

There are several retirement systems in the state. Legislation can change benefits within local jurisdictions. It is imperative that you contact specific programs for more details. Benefits for survivors of firefighters who were members of the California Public Employees Retirement System (CalPERS) include:

Group Term Life Insurance provides survivor of State firefighter with a tax-free, lump-sum benefit of $5,000. For members with less than 20 years of State service, benefit is $5,000 plus an amount equal to six months pay.

Special Death Benefit for the surviving spouse, registered domestic partner, unmarried children, or eligible unmarried stepchildren of a State or Local Firefighter who died in performance of duties as a result of an accident or injury. Benefit may provide a monthly allowance equal to 50% of firefighter’s final compensation. Allowance may increase to a maximum of 75% of final compensation based on the number of unmarried children under age 22 and if external violence or physical force caused duty-related death. This additional benefit ceases when child marries or reaches age 22.

Spouse or registered domestic partner may instead elect to receive the Alternate Death Benefit. This benefit applies to members under 50 who have 20 or more years of state service. Under this benefit, the eligible spouse or domestic partner may receive a monthly allowance equal to the amount you would have received if the fallen firefighter had retired under a service retirement at age 50 and elected Option 2W. Upon death of spouse or domestic partner, benefit will continue to natural or adopted unmarried children under the age of 18.

Under the 1959 Survivor Benefit Program, survivors of members of the program are eligible for a monthly allowance. If the 1959 Survivor Benefit is greater than the Special Death Benefit, then the difference is paid as the 1959 Survivor Benefit. Monthly allowance levels are as follows: (a) a spouse or registered domestic partner who has care of two or more eligible unmarried children; or three eligible unmarried children only – $1,800; (b) a spouse or registered domestic partner who has care of one eligible unmarried child; or two eligible unmarried children only – $1,500; (c) one eligible unmarried child only; or a spouse or registered domestic partner at age 60 or older – $750; and (d) dependent parents who are at least 60 may be eligible if there are no other eligible survivors – $750 each.

Volunteer firefighters: Length of Service Award System provides $3,000 lump sum payment to the beneficiary if the member was either active or inactive and had accumulated 10 years of service. LOSAP program administered through CalPERS.

Violent Acts: If death is the direct result of a violent act while performing official duties, your beneficiary(ies) may receive a monthly allowance equal to one-half your final compensation.

Contact:

CalPERS
Lincoln Plaza West
400 Q Street
P.O. Box 942701
Phone: (888) 225-7377
Website: calpers.ca.gov


EDUCATION BENEFIT – CHILDREN

No mandatory fees or tuition required by the Regents of the University of California, the Board of Directors of the Hastings College of the Law, or the Trustees of the California State University System. This benefit applies to the spouse or children of a public safety officer killed in the performance of active fire suppression and prevention. Law expanded in 2002 to include fee waivers at the California community college level. Educational benefits available to survivors if the firefighter died in the performance of fire suppression and prevention duties, was an employee of a public agency, and was a resident of California. This would include Federal firefighters if they met the criteria listed above. Eligibility must be consistent with the findings of the Worker’s Compensation Appeals Board.

The Trustees of California State University may enter into reciprocal agreements with other universities or colleges within the state. This would allow qualified students to attend other universities or colleges without payment of some or all fees or tuition or both. The Trustees may enter into similar reciprocal agreements with public colleges and universities in other states.

Contractors: The current law also covers children and spouses of contractors or employees of contractors performing services for a state, city, county, district or other local public agency. Students must tell the college or university they plan to attend that they are the survivor of a firefighter killed in the line of duty and that they qualify under Sections 68120-68124 of the California Education Code.

The Law Enforcement Personnel Dependents (LEPD) Grant Program: Provides educational grants to each dependent or spouse of a California firefighter killed in the performance of duty or who dies or is totally disabled in a duty-related accident or injury. Grant shall be in an amount equal to that provided a student awarded a Cal Grant Scholarship, ranging from $100 to $12,192 for up to four years. Awards may be used for tuition and fees, books, supplies, and living expenses.

Section 4709 of the Labor Code prohibits proceeds of death benefits received by a dependent of a firefighter killed or disabled in the line of duty from being included when determining financial need for an LEPD grant.

For LEPD information Contact:

California Student Aid Commission
Specialized Programs

P.O. Box 419027
Rancho Cordova, CA 95741-9027
Toll-Free: (888) 224-7268
Website: www.csac.ca.gov

(Reference: Provided under California Labor Code 4709 and California Education Code Sections 68120 & 68121)

The Daniel A. Terry Scholarship provides higher education financial assistance to the children of California’s fallen firefighters.

Daniel A. Terry served as president of California Professional Firefighters, the largest statewide firefighter organization in California and founder of the California Fire Foundation. For more than three decades, Mr. Terry devoted himself to building a better life for firefighters. His commitment and leadership led to groundbreaking protections for firefighters and their families. Mr. Terry also conceived and led the successful effort to construct a lasting tribute to California’s fallen first responders – the California Firefighters Memorial in Sacramento’s Capitol Park.

To be eligible for the Daniel A. Terry Scholarship, an applicant must be the natural or legally adopted child of a California firefighter who died in the line of duty and whose name appears or is approved to appear on the California Firefighters Memorial Wall. Applicants must also be under 27 years of age at the application closing date and must possess a high school diploma or equivalent, or be in the final year of high school.

Each scholarship award amount is $2,000.

Contact:

Daniel A. Terry Scholarship
c/o – California Professional Firefighters

1780 Creekside Oaks Drive
Sacramento, CA 95833
Toll-Free: (800) 890-3213
E-mail: cafirefoundation@cpf.org
Website: http://www.cafirefoundation.org/programs/scholarships-grants/daniel-a-terry-scholarships/


EDUCATION BENEFIT – SPOUSE

No mandatory fees or tuition required by the Regents of the University of California, the Board of Directors of the Hastings College of the Law, or the Trustees of the California State University System. This benefit applies to the spouse or children of a public safety officer killed in the performance of active fire suppression and prevention. Law expanded in 2002 to include fee waivers at the California community college level. Educational benefits available to survivors if the firefighter died in the performance of fire suppression and prevention duties, was an employee of a public agency, and was a resident of California. This would include Federal firefighters if they met the criteria listed above. Eligibility must be consistent with the findings of the Worker’s Compensation Appeals Board.

The Trustees of California State University may enter into reciprocal agreements with other universities or colleges within the state. This would allow qualified students to attend other universities or colleges without payment of some or all fees or tuition or both. The Trustees may enter into similar reciprocal agreements with public colleges and universities in other states.

Contractors: The current law also covers children and spouses of contractors or employees of contractors performing services for a state, city, county, district or other local public agency. Students must tell the college or university they plan to attend that they are the survivor of a firefighter killed in the line of duty and that they qualify under Sections 68120-68124 of the California Education Code.

The Law Enforcement Personnel Dependents (LEPD) Grant Program: Provides educational grants to each dependent or spouse of a California firefighter killed in the performance of duty or who dies or is totally disabled in a duty-related accident or injury. Grant shall be in an amount equal to that provided a student awarded a Cal Grant Scholarship. Awards may be used for tuition and fees, books, supplies, and living expenses.

Section 4709 of the Labor Code prohibits proceeds of death benefits received by a dependent of a firefighter killed or disabled in the line of duty from being included when determining financial need for an LEPD grant.

For LEPD Information Contact:

California Student Aid Commission
Specialized Programs

P.O. Box 419027
Rancho Cordova, CA 95741-9027
Toll-Free: (888) 224-7268
Website: www.csac.ca.gov

(Reference: Provided under California Labor Code 4709 and California Education Code Sections 68120 & 68121)

NON-PROFIT OR PRIVATE ORGANIZATIONS

California Fire Foundation

1780 Creekside Oaks Drive
Sacramento, CA 95833
Phone: (800) 890-3213
Website: www.cafirefoundation.org

California Professional Firefighters

1780 Creekside Oaks Drive
Sacramento, CA 95833
Phone: (916) 921-9111
Website: http://www.cpf.org

Organizes special funds to provide emergency assistance to families of firefighters killed in the line of duty. The California Fire Foundation publishes a benefits guide, Survivor Benefits on its website.

The International Association of Fire Fighters

1750 New York Avenue, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20006
Website: client.prod.iaff.org/#contentid=1743

The W. H. “Howie” McClennan scholarship provides financial assistance for sons, daughters or legally adopted children of IAFF Union Members killed in the line of duty planning to attend a university, accredited college or other institution of higher learning. Scholarship amount is $2,500 per year, renewable up to 4 consecutive years.


HEALTHCARE BENEFITS

According to California Labor Code section 4856, when a firefighter has died in the line of duty, then “the employer shall continue providing health benefits to the deceased employee’s spouse [and children] under the same terms and conditions provided prior to the death.” Qualifying “children” are defined by Government Code section 22822. California Government Code section 22820 provides additional information about health care benefits for fully insured survivors and for partially insured survivors. Government Code section 19849.15 provides information for short-term health benefit coverage for state (Cal Fire) employees only.

Legislation passed in 2002 protects survivors of CalPERS members from an interruption in health benefit coverage. This provision covers family members who were validly enrolled in an approved health benefits plan at the date of the firefighter’s death. The firefighter’s agency is required to continue to pay the employer’s contribution for a specified period for up to 120 days.

For more information regarding the benefit or eligibility, contact CalPERS.

Contact:

CalPERS
Lincoln Plaza West
400 Q Street
P.O. Box 942701
Sacramento, CA 95811
Phone: (888) 225-7377
Website: calpers.ca.gov

(Reference: California Labor Code section 4856; California Government Code sections 19849.15 and 22820)

FUNERAL & CREMATION BENEFITS

Dignity Memorial

Phone: (800) 343-4464
Website: www.dignitymemorial.com

Dignity Memorial is a consortium of funeral, cremation and cemetery providers across the United States and Canada. They have a Public Servants Program for first responders and emergency services workers. Dignity provides these services, at no cost, for career and volunteer firefighters who are killed in the line of duty. There is a location finder per state on the website, and funeral directors are encouraged to contact Dignity regarding the first responder program.

Wilbert Funeral Services, Inc.

2913 Gardner Road
Broadview, IL 50155
Phone: 708-681-7040 (Terry Whitlock)
Website: www.wilbert.com

Wilbert provides complimentary burial vaults (including urns vaults) for fallen law enforcement officers and firefighters through 193 licensee locations. Funeral directors should contact Wilbert for information on obtaining vaults.


COUNTY & LOCAL JURISDICTION BENEFITS


Disclaimer: The material contained in the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation Survivor Benefits website is not the result of legal research, but rather is based on a scan of public documents. We have made every effort to be accurate and timely, but errors may exist. The material on this website is advisory only and should not be cited as evidence or proof that a benefit exists or that our facts are accurate. Always consult the decedent’s fire department for benefits assistance, or a benefits’ attorney. If, in the course of your own research, you see errors of fact, or new benefit information, please pass this information along to the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation.