Updated July 2021 (COVID-19 related benefits updated April 2021)
COVID-19-related first responder deaths are considered line-of-duty deaths under the Public Safety Officers’ Benefits Program. Legislation passed in August 2020 established a statutory presumption for first responders who die from, or are disabled by complications related to, COVID-19. Prior to August, suspected cases were required to have proof that exposure occurred during their work duties.
ONE-TIME DEATH BENEFITS
Funding from the Firefighters Relief Act supports the families of Kansas’s firefighters who are injured, disabled, or killed on the job through the purchase of annuities. As of 2005, the surviving spouse of a firefighter is entitled to a $100,000 death benefit. If the firefighter was killed in a motor vehicle accident and was wearing a seat belt, spouse may receive an additional $20,000.
Survivors must contact the local Firefighter Relief Association to which the decedent belonged to obtain benefits.
COMPENSATION FOR DEATH OR DISABILITY OF FIREFIGHTERS FROM OCCUPATIONAL DISEASES
For any member after five years of credited service, there shall be a rebuttable presumption, that any death or disability resulting from a heart disease or disease of the lung or respiratory tract or cancer, except in the event that the member ceases to be a contributing member as a service-connected disability for a period of six months or more and then again becomes a contributing member, the provision relating to death or disability resulting from a heart disease, disease of the lung or respiratory tract or cancer as provided in this legislation shall not apply until such member has agin become a contributing member for a period of not less than two years or unless dlear and precise evidence that heart disease, disease of the lung or respiratory tract or cancer as provided in the law was in fact occasioned by an act of duty as a fireman.
(Reference: Kansas Workers’ Compensation Laws & Regulations, 44-510b
Death benefits for public safety officers are paid up to the maximum weekly benefit.
Weekly benefits are 66 2/3% of the employee’s average gross weekly wage. Total compensation may not exceed $300,000. All medical and hospital costs related to the fatal injury are covered. Spousal benefits continue upon remarriage.
Initial payment of $40,000 made immediately to the surviving legal spouse or wholly dependent children or divided among them with 50% to the spouse and 50% to the children. Children eligible until age 18, to age 23 if full-time students, or longer if disabled and incapable of self-support.
Volunteer firefighters: Treated as employees and covered if death occurs in line of duty or while on-duty, including training. Compensation is based on usual wages paid to employees for similar services.
Maximum burial expenses up to $10,000.
Career firefighters: If a member of Kansas Police and Firemen’s Retirement System (managed by the Kansas Public Employees Retirement System) dies from an on-the-job accident, spouse receives a monthly benefit of 50% of member’s final average salary for the rest of the spouse’s life. Each unmarried child under age 18, or under age 23 if full-time student, receives 10% of the member’s final average salary. Total family benefit limited to 90% of final average salary. Children’s benefits continue until they reach age 18 or age 23 if full-time student.
Benefits are not included in gross income for federal tax purposes. The state of Kansas offers optional group life insurance with coverage amounts ranging from $5,000 to $250,000. Check to see if firefighter participated in optional group policy through the state.
Presumptive legislation: Service-connected conditions including heart disease, disease of the lungs or respiratory tract, or cancer which may, in general, result from exposure to heat, radiation or a known carcinogen.
Kansas Public Employees Retirement System (KPERS)
611 South Kansas Avenue, Suite 100
Topeka, KS 66603-3869
Phone: (785) 296-6166
Fax: (785) 296-6638
Toll-Free: (888) 275-5737
E-mail: [email protected]
Resource: Beneficiary Benefits
EDUCATION BENEFIT - CHILDREN
Dependent children of public safety officer who died as a result of injury in the line-of-duty pay no tuition or mandatory fees for up to ten semesters in Kansas post-secondary educational institutions. Student responsible for all other charges. No age limitation; student must have been a dependent at the time of death. Dependents of firefighters who died prior to effective date of legislation in 1996 are eligible.
EDUCATION BENEFIT - SPOUSE
NON-PROFIT OR PRIVATE ORGANIZATIONS
Kids’ Chance of Kansas
Provides scholarships to children of workers who are catastrophically injured or killed in a work-related accident.
National Fallen Firefighters Foundation
P.O. Box 498
Emmitsburg, MD 21727
Phone: (301) 4471-1365
FAX: (301) 4471-1645
The Sarbanes Scholarship Program
Spouses, life partners, children, and stepchildren of firefighters honored at the National Fallen Firefighters Memorial are eligible to apply for the NFFF Sarbanes Scholarship Program along with other partner programs. The NFFF Sarbanes Scholarships are awarded for undergraduate and graduate studies, vocational-technical training, and certification and job training programs. They may be used for study at in-state or out-of-state public and private schools.
The International Association of Fire Fighters
1750 New York Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20006
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.
FUNERAL & CREMATION BENEFITS
Dignity MemorialPhone: (800) 343-4464
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. Also provides “extended counseling” to the grieving family. 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)
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.