Seven Firefighter Spouse Benefits

Firefighting has always been a dangerous and stressful position, so making sure you and your family are fiscally responsible and taken care of is a priority. When your spouse takes on such a dangerous position, it’s important to know all the benefits that you may receive both while your loved one is on the job, upon retirement, and in the case of personal injury or a line-of-duty death. 

What benefits can a firefighter’s spouse receive during service, after active service, and in the case of their spouse’s death?

1. Health Insurance Plans
2. Social Security or Pension
3. Disability Retirement Pension
4. Local Assistance State Team
5. Public Safety Officers’ Benefits Program
6. Annuities and Workers’ Compensation
7. Local Benefits

Looking to the future is key when considering the potential benefits you may receive as a spouse of a firefighter, regardless of age, disability, or status. Read on to find out what you may be eligible for now or in the future. 

Health Insurance Plans

Seven Firefighter Spouse Benefits

While health plans vary widely across the nation, many spouses can join in with their firefighting spouse’s health insurance plan. Some departments offer the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program, but it varies from state to state the requirements and permissions. 

If you are receiving the FEHB coverage, your agency enforces the rules and determines eligibility, states the Office of Personnel Management website

If your spouse is within a state pension fund health care plan, you may be eligible upon your spouse’s death for a health insurance reimbursement program. Check with your state programs to find out if this is an option for you. 

Social Security or Pension

Seven Firefighter Spouse Benefits

One important caveat to note is that some firefighters do not receive social security benefits. This depends on the department and can vary from area to area. 

Because most departments do not pay for payroll tax, firefighters use the established retirement system as retirement income. That cost set aside for payroll tax is invested into a retirement plan that is defined by the department, the city, or the county you are working in. 

If your spouse is eligible for social security, it varies based on their age and income when they were working. If they are a higher-ranking officer upon retirement, they could receive $1,00 to $2,000 per month. In combination with a pension, your spouse could make $45,000 to $60,000 a year, depending on the rates in their department. Many departments do not provide social security and a pension, so make sure to research that before making any long-term decisions. 

If your spouse is not eligible for social security, your department is likely enrolled in a pension program. Departments are legally required to provide either a retirement pension system or pay into social security and Medicare under state and federal law, according to the Social Security Administration

Disability Retirement Pension

Depending on how your spouse retires, they may be entitled to disability pension. If they retire early due to some sort of injury or disability received in the line of duty, they could be eligible for up to half their salaries, with no consideration or limit to their time in service. 

Local Assistance State Team

Seven Firefighter Spouse Benefits

While not a monetary benefit, the Local Assistance State Team, or LAST, program is provided through the Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Assistance, and the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation. When a line-of-duty death is reported to the foundation, the LAST team provides nearly immediate support to the spouse or family of the fallen firefighter. Typically members are from any area of public safety, volunteers, or survivors of line-of-duty deaths.

The LAST team can help with any support to the community or the family, including assisting in funeral planning, counseling, and preparing any benefit claims. 

Public Safety Officers’ Benefits Program

Seven Firefighter Spouse Benefits

This benefits program assists families of public safety officers who sustained a fatal line-of-duty injury. The a supported by the Department of Justice, pays a one time death benefit to the surviving spouse or family. 

The PSOB also provides disability benefits if your spouse retired from service due to personal injury in the line-of-duty. 

Along with paying out benefits due to death or injury, they also have a program in which an eligible child can receive payments to put towards their education if a parent died in the line-of-duty or were disabled. Children 27 and older are eligible for that benefit. 

What are the benefits of becoming a volunteer firefighter?

Annuities and Workers’ Compensation

Seven Firefighter Spouse Benefits

When one loses a spouse to a line-of-duty death, in most departments, the widow or widower will receive around 75 percent of the current annual salary and will increase proportionately with salary increases. If the firefighter dies within active service, spouses are eligible for an annuity of 30 to 50 percent, depending on the number of years in service and the location. 

If the firefighter dies after retirement, the widow or widower could receive a portion of the annuity after death if certain conditions are met. These conditions vary from location to location, but typically range from 50 to 66 percent. 

Widows may also receive an annuity if their spouse withdraws from service and dies before they turn fifty. 

Depending on the location, the community may also provide a one-time payment based on certain criteria, such as surviving spouse or dependent children. 

In addition, children under the age of 18 may receive a benefit depending on the program their parent was enrolled in. They may also receive benefits up to the age of 25 if they are in an educational program or are unable to care for themselves. 

Local Benefits

Seven Firefighter Spouse Benefits

While these benefits are extremely broad and non-specific, consider looking into benefits that your local government or department may provide. Local non-profits may help pay for expenses, whether your spouse was disabled in the line-of-duty or suffered a line-of-duty death. Consider communicating with your spouse’s department your local options. 

Note that there are other things you want to consider before retirement. There is such a thing as pension gaps—set aside enough money for you to survive in case the pension benefits that your department funds do not run dry. Remember that when you retire, because of increasing age expectancies, you may need to make your retirement funds stretch further. Also make note that personal changes may happen, meaning you may need extra funds to deal with health problems or life events. Communicate with your spouse to make sure you make the best decisions both for you and your family. 

RELATED QUESTIONS

Am I still eligible for annuities or pensions if I am divorced or remarried?

In most cases, you are not eligible for annuities or pension if you have been divorced from your spouse who is a firefighter or if you have been remarried. Legally, you are no long their spouse and cannot receive their benefits. 

At what age do firefighters retire?

Because of the physical and emotional strain on firefighters when they’re on the job, most retire after age fifty. Depending on the rules and regulations of the department in which you or your loved one is working, retirement age may be 57. In many regions, they must serve at least twenty to twenty-five years before they can receive full retirement benefits. 

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Please note: This blog post is for educational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. Please consult a legal expert to address your specific needs.