The Office of Personnel Management has sent a request to Congress involving the benefits received by federal employees. They would like the death benefit received by the families of government workers who die under certain circumstances to be increased tenfold and the funeral allowance to be raised by a factor of eleven. If you happen to be as woefully uninformed as I am you may find yourself pondering a rather startling question right about now. Wait… government office workers get death benefits and funeral allowances? (Government Executive)

The Office of Personnel Management wants to significantly increase death benefits for federal civilian employees killed on the job from $10,000 to $100,000.

OPM on Friday sent a legislative proposal to the House and Senate requesting Congress to increase the current death gratuity rate $90,000 for civilian workers killed in the line of duty, raise the funeral allowance from $800 to $8,800 and ensure that both benefits automatically increase along with the Consumer Price Index. The death benefit amount hasn’t changed since 1997, which the funeral allowance for those killed on the job has remained the same since 1966.

We give a death benefit to our military members who fall in the line of duty… a program which I’m sure most of the country is happy to fund. After all, these are the men and women who put on the uniform and literally volunteer to go to war and lay down their lives for us. But when you’re talking about rank and file federal government employees around the nation (there are currently nearly 1.5 million of them) these are people who largely work in the same sorts of jobs that are done in the private sector with very few exceptions. There are engineers, computer specialists, accountants, lawyers, writers and cooks. If you happen to work in the real world, do you get a death benefit from your employer if you die on the job? Are your funeral expenses covered? I happen to have both of those things (as I hope many of you do) but I get them through insurance which I pay for every payday. It’s not provided by the employer and it’s most certainly not funded by the taxpayer.

True, this benefit doesn’t apply to every federal worker who dies. It’s limited to, “workers killed in the line of duty as a result of a terrorist attack, crime, exposure to extreme risk while doing their jobs, or in retaliation for performing their duties.” But those things can happen to civilian workers pretty much anywhere as well. When a terrorist detonates a bomb at a train station or in a dumpster in the middle of the city, it may kill people traveling for work or sitting in their offices. Crime affects us all equally. Not every civilian job comes with a great deal of unusual risk, but there are those that do and the workers generally expect to be compensated better to take that fact into account. But it doesn’t necessarily mean that their family gets a specific death benefit or has their funeral expenses covered.

Are you telling me that the people working for Lois Lerner collecting data on conservative political groups in some workaday office qualified for these benefits?

We don’t even do that great of a job providing such compensation to our first responders. They’re the ones who are arguably on the same level as our military, putting their necks on the line for us every day. For our cops and firemen there is a federal death benefits program which covers some instances of death in the line of duty, but beyond that it goes to the states. What police and firefighters are then eligible for varies by location. In New Jersey (where the cops were busy gathering live bombs over the weekend) they get precisely nothing. In New York, also the scene of cops rushing to deal with bombs this week, any death benefits that may be available are administered through the New York State Retirement System, not as a direct, state funded benefit. In Pennsylvania on the other hand, the state provides a death benefit of almost $125K for the families of officers who fall in the line of duty. They also have a memorial fund which provides funeral services.

The point is that any such benefits going to our first responders is rather scattershot, based on which state they serve in. And these are the folks who are out there on a regular basis being grievously wounded or even dying to keep us safe. We shouldn’t have a problem with that. But the taxpayers are funding these benefits for the people analyzing spreadsheets of crop subsidies in some Washington office? The question here isn’t whether or not we should be massively increasing these benefits for federal workers but why we’re paying for them in the first place. Federal workers already earn up to 78% more than their civilian counterparts for doing the same work. These are jobs which mostly need to be done, but they are not occupations which risk life and limb in honored sacrifice like our military and first responders.

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