Congress passes bill to honor fallen feds

Friday - 12/9/2011, 7:50pm EST

Agencies may give an American flag to the survivors of a federal employee who is killed in the line of duty under a bill passed Thursday by the Senate. The House approved the measure last month.

"I'm proud that our nation values service and sacrifice. A life can never be repaid but it can be honored; this bill ensures that," said Rep. Richard Hanna (R-N.Y.), who sponsored the House version.

Over the past 20 years, nearly 3,000 federal civilian employees have died in the line of duty as the result of crime, terrorism, natural disasters or other "extraordinary" events, but the government lacked a standard policy for honoring them. While some agencies chose to give American flags to their family members, others did not. The bill clears up the confusion by allowing the Office of Personnel Management to standardize procedures.

The tribute stands in contrast to some lawmakers' recent calls to extend a freeze on federal employees' pay.

"At a time when federal employees are increasingly under attack, this is good government legislation that appropriately honors fallen federal employees for the work they do for this country," said Senior Executives Association President Carol Bonosaro in a written statement. "Federal employees serve as law enforcement officers, are stationed overseas in combat zones and unstable conditions, and are killed in acts of terrorism directly aimed at the federal government, such as the Oklahoma City bombings and the IRS incident in Austin, Texas."

The bill passed with unanimous support in both chambers after satisfying the American Legion's concerns that it gave agency heads too much power to decide who may be eligible.

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