Transportation Security Administration officers killed in the line of duty would be eligible for federal law enforcement death benefits under a bill filed in Congress earlier this month.
California Rep. Julia Brownley introduced the legislation. The issue gained national attention when Gerardo Hernandez became the first TSA worker killed on the job when he was shot while working at LAX.
He is survived by his wife and two children, who are currently eligible for benefits given to any civilian federal employee. Benefits for law enforcement officers are more generous.
Rep. Brownley, a Democrat who represents California's 26th district, said in a written statement:
“Transportation Security Officers perform an important public duty, protecting Americans and the traveling public from threats to our aviation, rail, and transit systems. They are the first line of defense at our airports, seaports, and other transportation hubs. We should do right by them and their families if they are tragically killed in the line of duty.”
Victor Payes, a representative of the Los Angeles-area TSA union, praised the change.
"Should this ever happen again, it's a comfort to know this awaits us and our families," Payes said. "We're still at the front line of security. We feel a little bit of respect to be included."
Paul Ciancia is accused of opening fire at LAX's Terminal 3 on Nov. 1 with an assault rifle. Prosecutors believe he targeted TSA workers because of an angry note investigators found in the bag that Ciancia allegedly used to carry the weapon into the terminal building.
Hernandez was helping screen passengers when he was shot and killed. Three others survived.
The proposed legislation, which would be retroactive to Oct. 31, 2013, would extend extra death benefits to:
"An employee of the Transportation Security Administration who is performing official duties of the Administration, if those official duties are related to protecting the Nation’s transportation systems to ensure freedom of movement for people and commerce.’’
TSA workers are currently eligible for the same death benefits as most federal employees, which use a formula based on the employee’s monthly salary.
Under this proposal, TSA agents would get benefits similar to those of any fallen law enforcement officer from the Public Safety Officers Benefits Program. Survivors are eligible to apply for a death benefit claim to help with the loss of income. It includes a one-time payout of $333,604, plus college scholarship money for the surviving children, if they qualify.
The legislation was introduced on Feb. 10 and has four co-sponsors, all Democrats: Rep. Juan Vargas, who represents California's 51st district; Rep. Grace Napolitano, who represents California's 32nd district; Rep. Corrine Brown, who represents Florida's 5th district; and Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton, who represents Washington D.C.
Read the proposed legislation below:
Correction: A quote from Victor Payes in an earlier version of this story was transcribed incorrectly.