Virginia

Family of Some Va. First Responders Dropped From Line of Duty Health Insurance

Some Virginia first responders injured in the line of duty continue looking for answers after family members were dropped from their health insurance.

When the commonwealth's Line of Duty Act (LODA) underwent an overhaul July 1, some families lost a major benefit.

“It feels like I've been left out to dry by the legislators,” Scott Burris said.

His 18-month-old twins, Luke and Hunter, are active boys, which scares him.

“I got a letter back in May that said my two youngest were no longer covered,” Burris said.

Julie Kopp’s son lost his coverage, too. It was taken away after 15 years.

Burris and Kopp suffered career ending injuries while on duty with the Fairfax County Police Department and Sheriff’s Office, which made them eligible for LODA.

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Virginia is one of only eight states that offer a lump sum death benefit and lifetime health insurance benefits to the families of public safety officers killed or permanently disabled on the job. But many families like his were receiving benefits the plan wasn't designed to cover.

A task force of representatives from police, fire and other agencies helped come up with a plan to cut costs and streamline LODA after a 2014 study by the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission revealed costs to LODA would double over the next 10 years, with health care benefits accounting for more than 90 percent of the total cost.

Previously, most LODA beneficiaries in Virginia were on different health insurance policies administered through their employers, which in most cases are cities or counties. But since July 1, the Virginia Department of Human Resource Management has administered one health benefit program so all LODA beneficiaries have the same level of coverage.

A number of LODA beneficiaries’ health insurance plans had allowed them to add a spouse or child after the date of their disability. Those family members are not be covered under the new LODA health benefits plan and require alternative coverage.

“I've called everyone,” Burris said. “I've called my governor's office, they've never responded. I've called my senator, he doesn't want to do anything. I've called my delegate, she's never called me back.”

News4 obtained a list of people who were a part of the task force that helped come up with the recommendations for the LODA, including Del. Chris Jones (R), the sponsor of the legislation. In June, he said everyone was aware some family members would lose coverage, but according to those on the list, that wasn't always the case. Many members told News4 the circumstances "were not specifically addressed," "never disclosed." Other's suggested the matter "be revisited."

"Anyway, I can reverse it, I intend to," one member said.

Burris recently received an email from Del. Kirk Cox (R) saying he and other "members of the House of Delegates are aware of the hardships that the confusions over this law is causing for many Virginia families..." and he is "hopeful that a solution can be found."

“I don't feel like I'm asking anything that I didn't earn,” Kopp said.

“I think what bothers me the most is that there's yet to be anyone to help us,” Burris said. “I mean, this is an opportunity for a legislator to be a superhero.”

Jones declined interviews on camera numerous times over the course of several months. Each time, his assistant told Newsd4 he was too busy.

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