The federal government has denied a claim for death benefits filed by the widow of Kelley Chase, the Oklahoma City police recruit who died after a training accident.
Elke Meeus is appealing the ruling, said John George, president of the Fraternal Order of Police.
Meeus filed the claim on behalf of herself and the couple's two young children. Chase, 38, died Oct. 13, 2012, of head injuries suffered the previous day during a training exercise.
Meeus also has filed a claim with the city saying she and her children were improperly denied $41,000 in life insurance benefits.
The city hopes to settle that claim in the next few weeks.
The federal public safety officers' death benefit is about $320,000.
Hope Janke, director of the public safety officers' benefits office in the U.S. Department of Justice, denied the federal claim in a letter to Meeus this month.
Chase was ineligible because he had not graduated from the police academy, taken the oath of office or been commissioned as a police officer, Janke wrote.
Some get early commission
George said Tuesday that some agencies commission officers when the police academy begins, and that the grounds for denial amounted to a technicality.
Chase, in the 20th week of the 26-week academy, had passed all of his tests and could have “worked for any agency in the state,” George said.
“Common sense says it's a line-of-duty death and the claim should be paid,” he said.
Chase hit his head during an exercise in which recruits are tested on their ability to defend themselves in a fight. An autopsy showed he died of head injuries.
Afterward, Chief Bill Citty said head gear would be worn by all police recruits during future self-defense classes.
“We won't do any more defense training without it,” the police chief said.
The city's spokeswoman, Kristy Yager, said Oklahoma City expects a quick resolution to the life insurance dispute.
The city's attorneys have been in contact with the attorney for Meeus “and discussions are progressing well,” Yager said.
In her claim against the city, Meeus said she and her children were improperly denied $41,000 in insurance benefits.
She said her husband opted for $122,000 worth of supplemental life insurance coverage — three times his annual salary — when he joined his recruit class in May 2012.
The insurance company only agreed to pay $81,000, double Chase's salary.
Meeus said paperwork was mishandled by the city or the insurance company.
The Fraternal Order of Police retained attorney James Moore to help Meeus with her claim.
Chase would have become an FOP member upon graduation from the police academy.