On June 24, 1976, the Governor signed an act providing for the payment of death benefits to surviving spouse, children, parent or parents of fire fighters, ambulance service or rescue squad members or law enforcement officers killed in the performance of their duties.
The Act has been amended twice since 1976. The most profound amendment came in December 1994. The Emergency and Law Enforcement Personnel Death Benefit Act, amended in 1994, increased the death benefit to $50,000. It has an escalator clause tied to the Consumer Price Index, which increases every July1.
Also among the 1994 amended changes made, was the “killed” definition. The new language states, “This act shall be broadly construed to grant benefits to fire fighters, ambulance service or rescue squad members or law enforcement officers for deaths related to the performance of their duties.”
As of July 1, 1999 the benefit is $56,205. The Act includes paying the benefit out of the General Fund to the surviving spouse, or, if there is no surviving spouse, the minor children of the emergency and law enforcement personnel. When no spouse or minor children survive, the benefit shall be paid to the parent(s).
The benefit is payable whether or not the officer was killed within the Commonwealth. For eligible claims, the Commonwealth will pay the Political Sub-Division prior to payment to the survivor(s). If there is no surviving spouse or minor children, benefits are payable to the surviving parents. To determine the parental relationship, the officer’s Birth Certificate is required. A certified copy of the Birth Certificate should be submitted. If one of the parents is deceased, a certified copy of the Death Certificate should be submitted.
If the cause of death was medical, i.e. heart attack, stroke, a notarized statement from the fire chief or commander must be provided to prove that the deceased was a member of the emergency service. This statement should include the date the deceased joined and if He/she participated in the activities on a regular basis since joining. If a mutual aid situation is involved, a copy of the mutual aid agreement should be submitted.