Fedweek

Compensation levels have not been updated since 1997 and 1966.

A report on a Senate bill (S-3487) to boost the death gratuity and funeral allowance payments for federal employees who die from injury or exposure to disease in the line of duty argues that it’s past time to increase those benefits.

“Current statute authorizes $10,000 to surviving family members of most federal civilian employees and a funeral expense benefit of $800. These minimal compensation levels have not changed since they were established in 1997 and 1966, respectively. The combined compensation levels barely cover the expenses of a funeral for most families, as the average cost of a funeral in the United States is currently between $7,000 and $9,000, with significantly higher averages in a number of states,” it says.

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It said the OPM reported as long ago as 2012 that even with those levels in law, the actual benefits that are paid vary “due to a range of factors, such as the particular segment of the federal workforce, the administering agency, differing rules related to offset requirements, and employee eligibility.” A bill to raise the amounts first was introduced in 2016.

The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee recently approved the most recent version, which would increase the death gratuity to $100,000 and adjust it for inflation, and increase the funeral expense reimbursement to $8,800.

“The benefit would apply to the full range of incidents impacting civil servants in which lives are tragically lost, such as terrorist attacks, criminal acts, firefighting, or other loss of life while carrying out their official duties. The death gratuity established in the bill would also apply to deaths as a result of exposure to a disease in the line of service,” it says.

The filing of a committee report on a bill typically is a last step in preparation to bringing it to a floor vote. A counterpart (HR-7376) has been introduced in the House.

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