Measure Guarantees $50,000 Minimum Annual Accidental Death Benefit to Surviving Spouse
Legislation sponsored by Senator Anthony M. Bucco that would address concerns related to the death of Lucas C. Homeijer, a State Police recruit who succumbed to injuries sustained during a training exercise at the New Jersey State Police Academy, was approved today by the State Government, Wagering, Tourism & Historic Preservation Committee.
The State Government, Wagering, Tourism & Historic Preservation Committee advanced legislation sponsored by Sen. Tony Bucco that would address concerns related to the death of Lucas C. Homeijer, a State Police recruit who succumbed to injuries sustained during a training exercise. (NJSP via Facebook)
“This young man died a hero while training to become a State Trooper who would protect and serve New Jersey families,” said Bucco (R-25). “His intention was to serve, just like his father and uncle before him, and we should honor his sacrifice in that pursuit even though his dream was never fully realized. I’m glad to have worked with the State Troopers Fraternal Association to develop a bill that will provide the survivors of fallen recruits, including the Homeijer family, with the benefits and recognition they deserve.”
Homeijer, a 27-year-old Boonton native from Bucco’s legislative district, was a member of the 161st New Jersey State Police Academy Class.
Under current law, State Police recruits are not sworn in as Troopers until they complete their training and graduate from the Academy. As a result, deaths that occur during training are not currently considered to have happened in the line of duty.
Under Bucco’s new legislation, S-685, the death of a State Police recruit that results from training at the Academy would be classified as a line-of-duty loss, and a surviving spouse would be paid an accidental death benefit of at least $50,000 annually.
If there is no surviving spouse, a final compensation of not less than $50,000 shall be used to calculate the death benefit to the surviving child or surviving parent. If there is no surviving spouse or in case the spouse dies, 70 percent of final compensation shall be payable to the surviving child or surviving children in equal shares. If there is no surviving spouse or child, 25 percent of final compensation shall be payable to one surviving parent or 40 percent of final compensation shall be payable to two surviving parents in equal shares.
This measure aligns with a 2021 law that set a $50,000 minimum accidental death benefit for the surviving spouses of active police and firefighters in the Police and Firemen’s Retirement System (PFRS) who die in the line of duty.
Survivors of State Police recruits who died prior to the enactment of the legislation will have 12 months from the time the measure is signed into law to apply for retroactive death benefits.
“This tragedy is a reminder that being a State Trooper and training to be a Trooper are both difficult and dangerous jobs,” added Bucco. “Once someone answers the call to service, they deserve to know that we’ll take care of their family should the worst happen. It’s unimaginable that we might let a loophole in the law prevent us from honoring that commitment. We have a moral obligation to fix this.”