The Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission (JLARC) released a comprehensive study on Virginia’s Line of Duty Act (LODA) on December 8. The General Assembly directed JLARC to study the costs, structure, and administration of Virginia’s Line of Duty Act and to identify recommendations to improve the program’s design and implementation.
The Line of Duty Act provides a lump sum death benefit and lifetime health insurance benefits to the families of public safety officers who were killed or permanently disabled in the line of duty. The state and localities paid a combined $12.2 million in Line of Duty Act benefits to 952 beneficiaries in FY 2013. The Department of Accounts (DOA) determines eligibility for the program and administers benefits for state agencies and localities that opted to participate in the LODA Fund, which was established to fund benefits. Other localities administer their own benefits. The state and localities are responsible for the cost of benefits for their employees and volunteers
The JLARC study found that LODA costs will double over the next ten years. The financial burden of this increase will mainly fall to local governments who employee around 75 percent of eligible employees. The study also found administrative challenges, policy changes that would reduce costs and funding options to reduce the long-term cost.
JLARC’s legislative recommendations include:
- Transfer the administration of the LODA program from DOA to the Virginia Retirement System for eligibility determinations and to the Department of Human Resource Management for ongoing benefits.
- Clarify ambiguous language pertaining to eligibility determinations in the Line of Duty Act and require the development of program regulations or formal policies.
- Adopt a new standard for “comparable” health insurance coverage that would be relative to the coverage available to active employees.
- Consider options to reduce costs in light of advantages and disadvantages to employers, LODA beneficiaries, public safety officers and active state and local employees.
VACo’s 2015 legislative program calls on the General Assembly to fully fund the Line of Duty Act (LODA) obligations and return LODA to a state program. LODA benefit eligibility determinations should be the responsibility of the Virginia Workers’ Compensation Commission and not the State Comptroller’s Office. The Governor’s Task Force for Local Government Mandate Review was briefed on the JLARC study last week and will ask the governor to return the funding responsibility of this program to the State and to look for potential efficiencies in program administration.