COVID-19 Death Benefit Claims

Federal Government Issues New Guidance on COVID-19-Related Death Benefit Claims

April 9, 2020

In response to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and the increasing dangers it poses to our nation’s first responders, the federal government has issued new guidelines as to how it will consider death benefit claims stemming from COVID-19. The National Association of Police Organizations (NAPO), with which the WPPA is affiliated, has been a leading proponent on this issue and others related to the current health crisis. Last month, NAPO began publicly calling on the U.S. Department of Justice to develop new policies to reflect the unique challenges related to COVID-19. In addition, WPPA Executive Director Jim Palmer, who serves on NAPO’s board and legislative committee, has repeatedly raised the issue in his discussions with members of Wisconsin’s congressional delegation.

Administered by the U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA), the Public Safety Officers' Benefits Program provides death benefits to the eligible survivors of public safety officers who are fatally injured in the line of duty, disability benefits to public safety officers catastrophically injured in the line of duty, and education benefits to the eligible spouses and children of fallen and catastrophically-injured officers. 

Under the new guidance from BJA to establish eligibility for benefits in connection with a public safety officer’s death or disability due to COVID-19, the PSOB regulations require that the evidence show that it is more likely than not that the disease resulted from the public safety officer’s exposure to the disease or the virus that causes the disease, SARS-CoV-2, while performing a line-of-duty activity or action. 

In general, BJA will find that the evidence shows a public safety officer with COVID-19 contracted it in the line of duty, when (1) the officer had engaged in line of duty action or activity under circumstances that indicate that it was medically possible that the officer was exposed to the virus, SARS-CoV-2, while so engaged; and (2) the officer did contract the disease, COVID-19, within a time-frame where it was medically possible to contract the disease from that exposure. In addition, in the absence of evidence showing a different cause of death, BJA generally will find that the evidence shows a public safety officer who died while suffering from COVID-19 died as the direct and proximate result of COVID-19.

It is vital that officers' families know that they will get the benefits they deserve if their loved one succumbs to this terrible virus. The new BJA guidelines represent a positive development that recognizes the incredible service and sacrifice of our first responders during this unprecedented global crisis.

For more information, please feel free to contact WPPA Executive Director Jim Palmer at