EMS workers not given same state benefits for line of duty death - WDRB 41 Louisville News

EMS workers not given same state benefits for line of duty deaths as police, fire

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- EMS, police officers, and firefighters are there when you need help -- but among the family of first responders, something is missing.

It's something Jenny Hall knows all too well.

“We actually met on a blind date. Only blind date I ever went on. Just fell head over years and was married 13 years,” said Jenny Hall.

Jenny Hall and her husband Christopher were living in Mt. Vernon, Kentucky.

He was a paramedic with Garrard County EMS. She was a nurse.

On Saturday, June 21st, 2008 the unimaginable happened after Chris worked a 24-hour shift.

“He was covering for a paramedic who was running late, as they call it standby,” said Jay Manley, one of Chris Hall's co-workers.

Chris decided to be on call from home, but he never made it there.

“He dropped off the pavement, went over the center line and back over an embankment and struck a tree. My mom also was a nurse. I seen her come in the med room and she dropped her head and I knew something was wrong. She said very strongly, she said 'honey, Chris has been in an accident and he didn't make it,” Jenny Hall remembers.

His family, friends and co-workers were in shock.

“My first thing I wanted to do was get to Jenny and the girls to be there emotionally and to support them,” Manley said.

Chris's co-worker, Jay Manley, would never leave the family's side.

Hundreds of people attended the funeral. Chris was taken away in an ambulance, rather than a hearse.

The organization Supporting Heroes stepped in to help Jenny and the family.

“They offered emotional support. And they offered immediate financial support for the family, for things that I needed,” Hall said.

They let her know about federal benefits that could help both Jenny and her two daughters.

Families of police officers, EMS workers, and firefighters who serve government agencies and fall in the line of duty receive a little more than $338,000 and some educational benefits, like money for books.

“When people hear $338,000 they think 'wow, that's an awful lot of money', but when you take someone who is a single parent and has two children, and divide that amount over 16 years, it's not a lot of money,” said Eric Johnson, Executive Director of Supporting Heroes.

Johnson says to top it off, EMS workers in Kentucky aren't even eligible for line of duty death benefits.

Only police officers and firefighters have those benefits.

“Even though there's not as many line of duty deaths in EMS as there is in law enforcement or the fire service, it is dangerous and there are people who are killed in the line of duty,” Johnson said.

In Kentucky, families of police officers and firefighters who die in the line of duty receive at least $80,000 and a tuition waiver to a state school or community college.

Jenny's oldest daughter is attending Eastern Kentucky University.

She says that waiver would have helped tremendously.

“It would just have been so great to have that,” said Jenny Hall.

In previous years, there has been a push in Frankfort to include EMS workers to the state benefits, but it still hasn't happened.

“They really make a commitment to serve us. The commonwealth should make a commitment to them by committing to help take care of their families if they should answer the ultimate call and give their life in the line of duty,” Johnson said.

Virginia Hall did receive the federal benefits after Chris died, but it took two years.

She says the state benefits would have helped the family much sooner when they needed it.

Almost seven years later, Jenny and her family are moving forward.

“We're a good Christian family. I'm blessed to have a wonderful man in my life,” Hall said.

She is now engaged to Manley, who stood by her side all these years.

Together, they're sharing Chris' story, a man they both loved.

They are hopeful that one day those working in EMS will be taken care of too.

“They risk their lives. The long hours that they put in, they certainly risk their lives and it just would be great to add them to the category of line of duty,” Hall said.

It's been five years since there was a push to include EMS workers to state benefits.

We were contacted Wednesday by a representative with Teamsters Local 783, who said the organization is working with a lawmaker on a bill to include some EMTs and paramedics to Kentucky's line of duty death benefits.

House Bill 159 has been assigned to the Appropriations and Revenue committee, but we're told it has not yet been brought up for discussion.

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