LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Lawmakers approved House Bill 185 on Monday, which will improve the death benefits for widows and children of first responders. The House passed the bill 91-0 and sent it to Gov. Matt Bevin’s desk for a final signature.

One of those that would receive benefits is the family of LMPD Officer Nick Rodman, who was responding to a call on March 28, 2017, when police say a suspect, Wathaniel Woods, drove into Rodman’s cruiser. Rodman passed away the next day. Days later, the family was informed that Nick Rodman’s widow and children would get limited benefits because of a missing beneficiary form.

“Before Nick passed away, I promised him that we would take care of his family,” said George Rodman, Nick's father. “I told myself that we weren’t going to sit back and let that happen."

The Rodman family then banded together to create a new death benefits bill.

“With the tragic loss of Nick Rodman last year, we realized there was an administrative glitch in the statute,” said Nicolai Jilek, president of River City FOP.

Jilek helped the Rodman family create House Bill 185, which was amended to be named the "Officer Scotty Hamilton and Officer Nick Rodman Memorial Act of 2018." Pikeville Police Officer Scotty Hamilton was shot and killed by a suspect during a criminal investigation last month.

“The bill basically took all the line-of-duty death benefits from across the state and kind of raises everyone up to the highest bar available,” Jilek said.

Before, benefits varied depending on when and where an officer was hired. Jilek said there were “dramatic differences” in insurance benefits depending on whether an officer was hired before or after 2003. House Bill 185 sets everyone at the highest level of insurance benefits, which were those designed for officers hired before 2003. This means surviving families will receive full insurance benefits through the state.

Another death benefit that varied included the monthly pay rate for surviving families. Jilek said that Lexington was the only city in Kentucky allowing 75 percent of the final pay rate. The rest of the state only allowed 25 percent.

Under the new bill, all widows will receive 75 percent of their deceased first responder’s average monthly pay rate each month for the rest of their lives. If the widow remarries, that will drop down to 25 percent.

Jilek said under the previous statute, there was an administrative difference between officers performing non-hazardous and hazardous duties and how death benefits were designated.

For members in the non-hazardous retirement system, if no beneficiary form was available, the benefits would default to the spouse. For hazardous, if a spouse was not specifically designated as the beneficiary with a beneficiary form, then any benefits defaulted to the estate. Jilek said when that happens, the retirement portion of the benefits, which includes the insurance, does not default to the spouse.

This is how Nick Rodman’s widow received limited benefits. Jilek said there is no way in knowing why or how the form for Ashley Rodman went missing.

However, he said what’s important is that House Bill 185 fixes the glitch and shows respect to the families of first responders.

“This bill isn’t so much for us as officers,” Jilek said. “This bill really means more for our families. Just to give them a level of assurance they will be cared for in the event we die in the line of duty.”

An added detail in the bill involves benefits for a first responder’s children. In the previous statue, children would be provided for until a certain age. In the new bill, benefits will not end based on the ages of children considered dependents with special needs.

“It’s important for every first responder that’s out here ... knowing that if something were to happen to us tomorrow that our families are taken care of,” Andrew Rodman said.

George Rodman has trained hundreds on new recruits. He said this bill is also important for any future officers and their families.

“It was the right thing to do,” he said. “I can’t train kids on our department to go out here and give 110 percent, knowing in the back of my mind that if something were to happen to them, that their families wouldn’t be taken care of.”

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