As we all know, COVID-19 has changed the landscape of our lives. Disruptions to what we know as “normal” continue. COVID-19 has also created challenges for us as we serve our communities. Thankfully, President Trump and Governor Parsons each signed into law, legislation that provides protections to our First Responders. These presumptive laws help make First Responders eligible for benefits, should they contract COVID-19. Below, you will find a “cheat sheet” that gives a very basic overview of the presumptive legislation and the protections provided.
We would like to remind every Public Safety Officer, should you contract COVID-19, PLEASE file a workers compensation claim, regardless of your current need for care. No one knows what effect the COVID virus may have on your health, in the years going forward. You should secure your rights afforded under the presumptions, to protect yourself down the road. We have seen some reluctance of Work Comp carriers in accepting COVID-19 claims. If you face this situation, please refer your employer and/or Work Comp carrier to Governor Parsons Emergency Orders 20-02 and 20-04. You can also reference: https://labor.mo.gov/sites/labor/files/8_CSR_50-5.005_Emergency_Final.pdf.
If you know of a Public Safety Officer who contracted and died from COVID-19, please be sure to reach out to us. Continue Reading →
The recent rise in deaths of first responders has showcased the need for awareness of provisions of federal line-of-duty death benefits as well as related information. While most first responders know federal benefits exist, many assume things about them that are not true. Such as the types of activities covered, how beneficiaries are determined, and more. Unfortunately, misconceptions are typically not brought to light until after a tragedy has occurred, and it is too late to take action that could have made a difference for survivors.
Misconceptions exist because most first responders never have any involvement with the federal benefits. Even most chiefs go their entire career without ever having any reason to deal with them directly.
But, with the benefit for death or permanent and total disability currently set at $370,670 plus college assistance for a spouse and all dependent children, it is something that should not be left to chance. It warrants attention by all who serve, and it is incumbent on leaders to ensure agencies have done their part to prepare and inform. Continue Reading →
As 2019 draws to a close, and we ring in 2020 with hopes of a better year. I wanted to take this opportunity to share with you some updates about our team. Earlier this year, the funeral response team was honored by State Fire Marshal Tim Bean and Governor Parson at Firefighters Day at the Capitol. It was my great pleasure to accept, on behalf of our amazing team, this recognition. Each of our five response teams is served by a dedicated crew of volunteer team members, who make it their mission to honor, with dignity and reverence. Without the tireless efforts of these team members, we would not be able to fulfill our mission.
This year has been a very active year for our team members. In following with our beliefs that all who serve should be honored appropriately, we were called to provide service level honors for 37 firefighters who were proudly serving, or had served their communities and fellow man. Sadly, we were also called to serve six families, whose loved ones paid the ultimate sacrifice, by providing Ultimate Honors for those who served and sacrificed their lives in the Line of Duty.
For those of you who follow us on Facebook or through our website, you have seen the activity of our team. We are also involved in supporting the fire service in ways that may go unnoticed. This year, we participated in a state-wide meeting regarding firefighter cancer, and how we as Missouri fire service must do a better job of acknowledging and dealing with this horrible disease within our profession. The topic of cancer is difficult, for many reasons. Current Missouri laws provide little to no support to our firefighters and their families, as they face this horrible disease. We even struggle to identify what cancers are due to firefighting versus the general public who also develop cancer related illness. I left the meeting with many more questions than answers, but also with the faith that this topic has the attention of nearly every fire service organization that exists in Missouri. Each who are committed to doing everything in their power to “do better.”
This year has also brought new gifts to our team. We are in the process of placing in service two brand new response trailers. Through the generosity of Missouri’s fire service, we were able to save up enough money to purchase these units to replace two of the original response trailers. This completes the “fleet” upgrades we have been working on for the past several years. With this phase complete, we are now turning our focus on adding a sixth response trailer. This trailer will be unique, in that it will respond only on Line of Duty responses. Our vision is to purchase professional stage equipment to use as risers and platforms, with safety side-rails, to help us place caskets on top of fire apparatus in a much safer manner. Professional staging equipment is very expensive, but we feel this is the gold standard we must strive for. We anticipate the costs to get this sixth unit in service and fully functional, at $25,000. I would love to fulfill this last phase of our upgrade project by this time next year.
We never charge for our services. Our teams function solely on the donations we receive. I want to take a moment to thank Retired Captain Dale Hart, who is a member of the St. Louis based team. Dale has facilitated our one and only annual fundraising event, our golf tournament. This golf tournament has provided much of the equipment we have in service, and serves as our only regular funding source. Dale puts long hours into the prep work for the golf tournament and does much of the leg work on his own. Thank you Dale!
This past November, we partnered with the EMS Funeral Response team to provide joint training to our team. The two-day Ultimate Honor program was presented and afforded our teams an opportunity to work together and hone the skills necessary to better serve. During this conference, we recognized long time team members Chief Larry Jones, and his wife Ann. They have served with our team since its inception and never turn down an opportunity to assist organizations in honoring one of their members. I hope you will join me in thanking Larry and Ann for their years of outstanding service.
In closing, I can only say thank you for the trust you have placed in our organization. Thank you in advance for supporting us as we improve our service with our new Line of Duty Death trailer.
G reeting, I hope everyone had a wonderful holiday season filled with great memories with family and friends. I would like to take a moment to remember the family of Russell Hayes, El Dorado Springs Fire Department who gave his life in service to his community, this past October. Our organization has had the honor of working with the Hayes family and the El Dorado Springs FD.
I have had the honor of presenting to many fire service agencies and organizations regarding Line of Duty Death (LODD). If you have attended any of my training classes, you may recall me sharing that when someone is considering the loss of an agency member and has to determine if this meets LODD criteria, that we must apply the circumstances of the loss a minimum of 5 times, to begin to find an answer. The Federal Public Safety Officer Benefit (PSOB), the State of Missouri Line of Duty Compensation, the National Memorial, the State of Missouri Memorial and the International Association of Fire Fighters each have their own defining parameters. Sometimes the answer is easy, and the circumstances surrounding the death will meet the parameters of each organization. It can be very confusing for families and agencies when the circumstances of the death meet one or two of the parameters, but not all. This is especially true with it comes to Federal and State benefits.
I recently attended a benefits update training class hosted by the Bureau of Justice Assistance Programs through the Department of Justice (DOJ). The class provided us new information regarding the Federal PSOB benefits and how the laws have changed that impact the circumstances in which the benefit may be considered compensable.
This year has been exceptionally busy for our funeral assistance team. As of October 1, we have handled four line of duty deaths in our state, and assisted Iowa with two. This is in addition to the numerous calls to honor our public safety officers who have also died, but not in the line of duty.
We feel it is very important to appropriately honor those who serve. You have seen me write about appropriateness of honors, and insuring we honor in a consistent and appropriate manner. In this article, I want to discuss some of the nuances regarding line of duty deaths. While it may seem very simple, it truly is a very difficult topic, and one that is greatly misunderstood. Continue Reading →
At the annual Heroes Tribute Gala held March 12th in Louisville Kentucky, Supporting Heroes Executive Director Eric Johnson announced the expansion of operations to Missouri, effectively immediately.
Supporting Heroes, Inc., a 501(c)3 charitable organization, provides support to the families of fallen public safety officers in furtherance of their mission “to honor the service and sacrifice of public safety heroes who give their lives in the line of duty – by caring for the loved ones they leave behind.”
Supporting Heroes began operations on September 11, 2004 and has since served the families of fallen public safety officers in both Kentucky and Indiana. In response to the requests of many public safety officers in Missouri and because of their desire to serve more families, the Board of Trustees approved expansion to Missouri – thereby giving peace of mind to the family members of Missouri’s public safety officers with their promise, “We’ll Be There.” Continue Reading →
Do you know who is listed on your life insurance? This may seem like an unusual question, but it is one that can have a bigger impact than you may believe.
When a public safety officer dies in the line of duty, the federal Public Safety Officer Benefits process has a very defined hierarchy of how the benefits will be paid, should the claim meet all of the requirements of the process. Understanding how this process works, and understanding which components you can and cannot change can be quite confusing. The two initial questions we need answered are: 1) Is the public safety officer legally married, and 2) does the public safety officer have any dependent children? Continue Reading →
In my last article, we discussed the difficult topic of firefighter honors and why it is so important to honor deceased firefighters for the service they provided to their communities. And for those who die in the line of duty, it is important to honor them for both service and sacrifice. We also discussed the importance of developing funeral guidelines prior to suffering the loss of a member of your organization and at a time when decisions can be made with an objective mindset versus an emotional mindset. This article we will discuss the importance of including in those guidelines what your agency will consider ‘Line of Duty’.
When public safety officers are asked to define Line of Duty Death (LODD), most will tell you it is the death of a public safety officer while on duty. For those of you who have participated in the recent online course presentations facilitated by the Supporting Heroes organization, you learned that many different organizations will evaluate the circumstances of a public safety officer’s death, to determine if it meets that entity’s definition of ‘Line of Duty’. Additionally, these organizations may not render a decision related to Line of Duty inclusion for many months or years. Since there is not one common definition, it is important that an agency define this for its purposes during the development of funeral guidelines. Continue Reading →