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Bill seeks law enforcement death benefits for TSA officers killed in the line of duty

A team of TSA officers and L.A. Airport Police officers fold a traveling honor flag that hung high above the entrance at the memorial held Tuesday for fallen TSA officer Gerardo Hernandez.
Erika Aguilar/KPCC
A team of TSA officers and L.A. Airport Police officers fold a traveling honor flag that hung high above the entrance at the memorial held Tuesday for fallen TSA officer Gerardo Hernandez.

Transportation Security Administration officers killed in the line of duty would be eligible for federal law enforcement death benefits under a bill filed in Congress earlier this month.

California Rep. Julia Brownley introduced the legislation. The issue gained national attention when Gerardo Hernandez became the first TSA worker killed on the job when he was shot while working at LAX.

He is survived by his wife and two children, who are currently eligible for benefits given to any civilian federal employee. Benefits for law enforcement officers are more generous.

Rep. Brownley, a Democrat who represents California's 26th district, said in a written statement:

Victor Payes, a representative of the Los Angeles-area TSA union, praised the change.

"Should this ever happen again, it's a comfort to know this awaits us and our families," Payes said. "We're still at the front line of security. We feel a little bit of respect to be included."

Related: How the LAX shooting could change the status of TSA officers

Paul Ciancia is accused of opening fire at LAX's Terminal 3 on Nov. 1 with an assault rifle. Prosecutors believe he targeted TSA workers because of an angry note investigators found in the bag that Ciancia allegedly used to carry the weapon into the terminal building.

Hernandez was helping screen passengers when he was shot and killed. Three others survived.

The proposed legislation, which would be retroactive to Oct. 31, 2013, would extend extra death benefits to:

TSA workers are currently eligible for the same death benefits as most federal employees, which use a formula based on the employee’s monthly salary.

Under this proposal, TSA agents would get benefits similar to those of any fallen law enforcement officer from the Public Safety Officers Benefits Program. Survivors are eligible to apply for a death benefit claim to help with the loss of income. It includes a one-time payout of  $333,604, plus college scholarship money for the surviving children, if they qualify.

The legislation was introduced on Feb. 10 and has four co-sponsors, all Democrats: Rep. Juan Vargas, who represents California's 51st district; Rep. Grace Napolitano, who represents California's 32nd district; Rep. Corrine Brown, who represents Florida's 5th district; and Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton, who represents Washington D.C.

Read the proposed legislation below:

HR 4026 Honoring Our Fallen TSA Officers Act

Correction: A quote from Victor Payes in an earlier version of this story was transcribed incorrectly.