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Congressman Nadler Hails Passage of Fr. Mychal Judge Bill

A piece of legislation that would ensure that designated beneficiaries of fallen public safety officers can receive a one-time, $250,000  Federal payment is one step closer to law today, as Reps. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) and Donald Manzullo’s (R-IL) “Mychal Judge Police and Fire Chaplains Public Safety Officers' Benefit Act of 2002" passed the House of Representatives.

“A gap in the current law essentially created a group of ‘second-class’ heros, whose survivors didn’t get the Federal benefit that they should have,” said Rep. Nadler.  “Today, the House has gone on the record as saying: ‘All those who make the supreme sacrifice will be treated equally by the United States government.’”

The same piece of legislation sponsored by Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) passed the Senate unanimously, and passed through the House Judiciary Committee, also by unanimous consent.  It passed today by a voice vote.

Under current law, Federal benefits are only paid out to spouses, children, and parents of fallen officers.  For Father Mychal Judge, a FDNY Chaplain who died while administering last rites to other fallen officers, and several other public safety officers who died on Sept. 11th  like him, no survivor benefits were paid out because they had no living parents, spouses, or children.  They may, however, have a designated beneficiary under their life insurance plans.

The legislation passed today will insert “if there is no surviving spouse or surviving child, to the individual designated by such officer as beneficiary under such officer's most recently executed life insurance policy, provided that such individual survived such officer” after sections authorizing payment to spouses and children.  In other words, should this bill be signed by President Bush, the new law will require that the Federal benefit be paid to (in order): Surviving spouse, child/children, designated beneficiary, or parent(s).

“This bill is a simple matter of fairness,” said Rep. Nadler.  “Not having a surviving spouse or child is not a crime.  In fact, in the case of Father Judge, it was a higher calling.  In passing this bill today, we are correcting a wrong that is long overdue.  I thank Rep. Manzullo and the House Leadership for sheparding this bill through the House and on to the President.”

Rep. Nadler has served in Congress since 1992.  He represents the 8th Congressional District of New York, which includes parts of Manhattan and Brooklyn, including the site where the World Trade Center once stood.

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