DALLAS – The fight to secure death benefits for Dallas first responders who die not due to occupational hazards is over.
Their deaths will now be considered deaths in service and their surviving family members will receive full benefits.
The bill will give surviving family members of first responders who die of an occupational disease the same benefits as a police officer who is shot and killed in the line of duty or a firefighter who dies in a collapse. a building.
“She’s helping families of 40, and so what means the most to me is that no one else will have to do what I had to do,” said Kristi Walters.
Walters has been fighting since 2018 to get all benefits for her family and others like her.
Her husband, firefighter David Walters — after whom the bill is named — died of a heart attack, but it wasn’t during a fire department call or at a firehouse.
His death was not considered a death in the line of duty, although exposure to toxins during his career contributed.
This law changes that.
“Under the law previously, they were only entitled to 50 percent of benefits,” said State Representative Julie Johnson (D-Dallas).
Rep. Johnson wrote the bill, which allows survivors to receive 100% of eligible benefits.
“We’re really proud to be able to offer this and take care of families,” Johnson said. “You know, they made the ultimate sacrifice with their loved ones, who lost their lives protecting us and keeping us safe. The least we can do is make sure their families are taken care of after they’re gone.”
The bill recognizes that the health risks faced by firefighters in particular can contribute to illness and death.
Republican State Representative Frederick Frazier, a Dallas police officer, joined with bill author Johnson and said that part is important.
“There are other factors that contribute to a first responder dying in the line of duty, and that comes back and grabs them,” he said. “It’s not a lot of people, but the people who are here, we want to make sure we honor the legacy of their loved one.”
“Now it’s going to be easier for some. They can grieve properly and have some peace as they think about that new thing that’s coming,” Walters said.
Once the governor signs the bill, those who die from occupational diseases will be considered deaths in service. Those surviving family members, however, must prove that their deaths were caused by such occupational exposures.