OPM

OPM final rule bestows flags for fallen feds

Two years after passage of the Civilian Service Recognition Act of 2011, the Office of Personnel Management issued a final rule to grant flags for fallen feds.

OPM will publish “Flag Recognition Benefit for Fallen Federal Civilian Employees” Wednesday in the Federal Register.

The rule authorizes agencies to present an American flag to the families of civilian federal employees killed in the line of duty.

“I am inspired by America’s finest men and women who honorably serve our nation, and I encourage all agencies to take pride in recognizing those federal employees who have made the ultimate sacrifice,” OPM Director Katherine Archuleta said in a press release.

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Since the act was signed into law in 2011, agencies have been authorized to present flags for fallen feds. But OPM said its final rule further clarifies policies.

OPM issued draft regulations to agencies in June 2013. The agency reviewed comments on the proposed rule before issuing the final rule.

In the final rule, OPM clarified eligibility for a flag, including that “the employee’s injuries must be incurred in connection with his or her employment with the federal government.” OPM also said survivors of domestic partnerships or civil unions can qualify to receive a flag.

Two commenters on the draft regulations expressed concern that the burden of requesting a flag falls “disproportionately on the next of kin.”

OPM agreed with the commenters and revised the rule, so that the agency must “assist a grieving beneficiary in requesting a flag in a timely manner.”

The regulations go into effect 30 days after publication of the rule, but OPM told agencies they could present flags before then.

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The Senior Executives Association (SEA), the National Active and Retired Federal Employees Association (NARFE) and the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association (FLEOA) issued a joint press release Tuesday praising OPM’s actions.

“When I was first approached for SEA’s help with the proposal to provide flags to the next of kin of fallen federal employees, I was shocked that this wasn’t already being done,” said Carol Bonosaro, SEA president, in the release. “I was honored to lead a coalition to ensure this long-overdue recognition would be provided for civilian federal employees who are killed in the line of duty. It is a small measure to recognize their work on behalf of their country and the American people — work that is often done with great dedication, but little fanfare. The honor of a flag is an appropriate way for agencies to recognize the sacrifice of their employees and SEA hopes they have already begun to embrace this policy.”

The flags for fallen feds effort was started by two former federal workers, Terry Newell and Bob Gest, in December 2010. They sought to have a flag presented to the families of every federal employee killed in the line of duty. Rep. Richard Hanna (R-N.Y) and then-Sen. Daniel Akaka (D-Hawaii) introduced legislation and President Barack Obama signed it into law in December 2011.

“Every day, federal law enforcement officers face dangerous situations and put their lives on the line to ensure justice and protect the American people,” said Jon Adler, FLEOA national president, in the release. “This honor is fitting and should be granted by agencies without hesitation.”

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