LUBBOCK, Texas — The families of law enforcement officers who died of COVID-19, were originally denied their line of duty death benefits. That’s because they couldn’t prove they had actually contracted it while on the job.
The widow of former Lynn County Sheriff Abraham Vega was in this exact situation and pushed things to change and her efforts proved to be a success.
Sheriff Vega died of complications from COVID-19 in July 2020.
“It’s a relief that we finally got for him what he deserves,” said Sheriff Vega’s wife, Rachel Vega.
With the signing of Senate Bill 22 Vega has finally achieved what she spent the last year fighting so hard for.
“I wasn’t going to stop until he got what he deserved and the legacy he deserved,” said Vega.
SB 22 allows the families of law enforcement who died due to COVID-19 to receive a line of duty death designation. This is important when it comes to insurance and workers compensation benefits.
Meaningthey died in the line of duty and their families are entitled to coverage benefits and monetary compensation after their deaths.
State representative Dustin Burrows was a joint sponsor of this bill and says it was the right thing to do.
“When COVID first broke out many of us were able to stay home. We were told to stay home and do a lot of things our first responders, police, firefighters, EMTs, and correction workers could not do,” said State Representative for District 83, Dustin Burrows.
Before this bill those who wished to receive line of duty death benefits were denied because it was considered too difficult to determine if the officer actually contracted COVID while on duty. That was the situation the Vega family found themselves in.
But SB 22 establishes COVID as a presumptive illness meaning any law enforcement officer who dies from COVID it is presumed they got it as a result of their service.
“They shouldn’t have the fear of what’s going to happen if they get exposed or get sick, whether they have to go home and whether they get really sick and end up in the hospital or worse they should not have to have this fear,” said Burrows.
Vega says it feels like a weight has been lifted from her shoulders.
“A year ago my life completely changed. From A year ago to today so many things have happened and a year ago I would have never thought I’d be in the place I am today,” said Vega. “When you believe in something and for a good cause you can stand up and make a difference.”
Finally knowing her husband finally got the honor he deserved.
“Knowing that his name will be one of those that is designated line of duty deaths and it just puts his name on the legacy of those who have given the ultimate price because he did,” said Vega.
Vega has already started the paperwork once again for the line of duty death designation and hopes to hear back on when she will receive it in the coming months.