Hundreds of families of fallen police officers, firefighters and other emergency responders are forced to wait a year or more while the federal government decides whether they will or won’t get a one-time death benefit from the Public Safety Officers’ Benefits Programs, reports USA Today. The fund was set up in 1976 to help out families of emergency workers who die in the line of duty or after severely stressful events on the job. After reviewing 1,499 claims filed by families since 2009, the newspaper concluded that the program is mired in delays despite millions of dollars spent trying to speed the process.
As of August, about 750 families were caught waiting for answers on their claims for the one-time payment of about $340,000. In more than 900 cases the agency closed as of April, the average time to review a case and make a decision was 391 days. Almost 100 families waited more than two years, and 25 waited three-plus years. The agency that reviews the claims says the cases are complex and are sometimes bogged down by the failures of families and local public safety agencies to provide documentation. The program paid survivors $464 million from 2008 to 2013 for death benefits.