A Special Note About How We Serve
Supporting Heroes was created, organized, is led and services are delivered by individuals who genuinely care about the men and women who serve and routinely risk their lives looking out for the welfare and responding to the needs and crises of others. It is also funded and supported by like-minded individuals and groups. We therefore endeavor sincerely to do the right things in the right way for the right reasons for those we serve.
As such, every support mechanism was created and every operational decision is made with significant and careful thought and consideration. Our objective is truly to do the very best we can in the fulfillment of our mission to ‘honor the service and sacrifice of public safety heroes who give their lives in the line-of-duty – by caring for the loved ones they leave behind.’
Therefore, if you have questions, concerns or suggestions about how we could improve in how we serve, we are eager to hear from you.
Please contact either of us directly.
Supporting Heroes currently serves all of Indiana, Kentucky and Missouri.
Based on risks inherent in duties and status, Supporting Heroes provides support to public safety workers who serve in the following categories: sworn law enforcement (including those serving federal agencies when injuries occur within our service area); fire/rescue service (individuals who engage in fire suppression, rescue and/or hazardous materials response – public and private); EMS providers and deliverers (public and private); sworn corrections (public and private); officially-recognized public safety chaplains when engaged in a response to a public safety emergency; and service-delivery members (not logistical or administrative support) of specialized task forces such as FEMA coordinated Urban Search and Rescue Teams (US&R) and Disaster Medical Assistance Teams (DMAT). Individuals who work in public safety in non-sworn clerical, administrative or support roles are not covered except potentially in very rare circumstances pursuant to STATUS provisions.
In most instances, one or more representatives are en route to any Public Safety line-of-duty death (LODD) – as defined by Supporting Heroes criteria – or life-threatening line-of-duty injury in our service area within one hour of notification and prepared to stay for several days. Response times vary depending upon location of the tragedy and the responding location of available personnel.
An exception is that we do not immediately respond to deaths where older support mechanisms (those in place before Supporting Heroes) provide a similar level of immediate financial support. In those instances, a delayed measured response is initiated so as to not overwhelm the family but to ensure all families receive at least the same level of support as we provide. (The most notable exception to our typical initial response occurs in the 13-county Missouri coverage area of the Saint Louis-based BackStoppers organization – which provides a level of financial support unparalleled in the nation.)
Upon arrival, representatives meet with leaders to assess the degree of support needed and desired by the agency. During this meeting, arrangements are made to meet with the immediate family to provide emergency funds, conduct a similar assessment of need and to offer additional support. Typically, an agency leader accompanies Supporting Heroes representatives during this meeting. In rare instances, such as pursuant to existing relationships or unique circumstances, the meeting with the family can occur first.
During the initial meeting with the family a $5,000 ‘emergency funds’ check is presented to the surviving spouse or most immediate survivor. Additional emergency funds are also offered and provided according to need.
Rare exceptions can occur when there is not a spouse, ‘significant other’ or other immediate survivor who was financially dependent on the fallen hero. In those instances, the emergency funds are held until an assessment can be made as to whom, if anyone, is financially impacted by the tragedy or what other financial needs there might be.
While other Supporting Heroes’ financial support is always based on need, the ‘emergency funds’ constitute a partial exception in that, in the wake of tragedy, the need of a financially-dependent survivor is presumed.
The goal of the emergency funds is to relieve the financial stress that follows – typically, almost immediately – the unexpected death of a family’s main or only breadwinner. It is intended to address any immediate financial needs as well as provide some degree of comfort by making our promise of continued support more tangible.
Our promise is to ‘be there’ in a number of ways over the days, weeks, months and even years ahead. One of those ways is to provide ongoing financial support based on need and to take financial stress away. In addition to being an effort to relieve immediate financial stress, the $5,000 ‘emergency funds’ check is intended to demonstrate during a very emotional time that the promise is real. In other words, it is a ‘down-payment’ on that promise.
A few days following the funeral, in accordance with the needs and wishes of the immediate survivor, Supporting Heroes representatives will meet with him/her to assess financial need. Ongoing financial support is then provided on a monthly basis according to that need – in many instances, even making it possible for a now single-parent to be a full-time stay-at-home parent taking a leave from his/her employment.
In rare instances where there is more than one immediate survivor financially impacted by the hero’s death, the needs will be assessed and support provided to each according to the determined need. An example would be if a fallen hero with a spouse or ‘significant other’ had been providing support to a custodial parent of his/her child(ren) while also supporting his/her own parent(s) due to infirmity or other need. In such a case, we would provide support to the existing spouse or financially impacted ‘significant other,’ the custodial parent of the hero’s children as well as the parent(s). (“We honor the service and sacrifice… by caring for the loved ones they leave behind.”)
Under normal circumstances, monthly support is provided until the first significant death benefit is received. In the absence of personal insurance or an agency benefit, our support typically continues until the state or federal (PSOB) benefit is received. For those who are not eligible or are denied government benefits, support is provided according to a specifically tailored finite plan that affords the survivor opportunity to make any necessary adjustments to reduce monthly expenses – typically with support tapering (rather than ending abruptly) as the plan nears the end.
Supporting Heroes’ commitment is to care “for the loved ones they leave behind.”
It is important to note that legal relationships do not necessarily define who someone’s ‘loved ones’ really are. In that vein, it is also important to understand that Supporting Heroes is not bound by legal relationships when making a determination about who a fallen hero would want us to care for. In other words, we are not obligated to provide support to someone simply because he/she is the closest legal survivor.
For example, while many state governments – and therefore the federal government – do not recognize common-law marriages, Supporting Heroes recognizes committed cohabitation as evidence of “loved ones left behind.” So instead of basing support solely on legal relationships, we make our determination of who the fallen hero would want us to support by the evidence he/she left via such things as shared living arrangements and financial responsibilities as well as statements from friends, agency leaders and others.
NOTE: For purposes of Public Safety Officers’ Benefits (the federal line-of-duty death and disability benefits), the federal government only recognizes marriages according to the laws of the respective state. Currently, ‘common law’ marriages are not recognized by any of the three states in which we serve.
As noted previously herein, with the exception of the initial ‘emergency funds’ – where need is presumed – financial support is always based on need. Therefore, in instances where significant community support is generated, the amount of ongoing financial support we would provide could be significantly or completely offset.
While the circumstances or high-profile nature of a death, news coverage, population density, the hero’s family makeup and many other factors typically influence the types and degree of community support, Supporting Heroes makes no such differentiation. Our standard is very simple: If someone’s life is cut short as a direct result of his/her service, we consider it “ultimate sacrifice” and endeavor to honor the hero and care for his/her loved ones accordingly.
In other words, we have one standard of “ultimate sacrifice” and our services and support are the same regardless of any of the aforementioned factors. We also make no distinction whether someone is paid to serve or is a volunteer, whether his/her department is big or small, whether or not he/she is a member of a union or other organization/association, etc.
Ultimate sacrifice deserves ultimate honors. Period.
There are occasionally instances where an agency does not initially recognize that a death should be treated as line-of-duty and therefore does not make proper notifications. In some such instances, reclassification and notifications might occur months or even years later.
When we learn of such instances and have verified LODD classification according to our criteria, we make contact with survivors and determine needs at that time. Since it is no longer ‘in the wake of tragedy,’ financial need is not ‘presumed’ and the ‘emergency funds’ check is therefore not presented. Any financial support is provided according to need at that time.
While our primary support services follow line-of-duty deaths, we also offer support following life-threatening line-of-duty injuries. Here again, support is based on need. In such instances, food and lodging for immediate family members (so they can remain close to the hospital) is the most common form of support provided.
Survivors are never asked to repay any of the support provided to them by Supporting Heroes. The goal of our financial support is to help survivors ‘over the hump’ from the time of the tragedy until significant benefits are received and our support is no longer needed – or, in instances where such benefits will not be coming, to assist them to a point where they are self-sufficient and our support is no longer needed.
Our hope is that survivors will invest funds from LODD and/or other benefits wisely and use them to provide for a stable comfortable future.
Our members, staff and supporters are honored to assist in this manner.
While we recognize that the impact of a hero’s death cannot be accurately measured by a survivor’s relationship category, it is necessary for Supporting Heroes to limit support and free admission to events (such as Heroes Tribute Gala) to a hero’s most-immediate survivors. Therefore, the following relationship categories are recognized as ‘immediate’ –
In very special circumstances, survivors in other categories can be recognized as ‘immediate.’ A letter to our Board of Trustees pleading such recognition is required for consideration.
1 All ‘in-law’ relationships must have been legally established prior to the hero’s death in order to be recognized.
2 Due to the influence the hero grandparent likely would have had on the lives of any grandchildren, a grandchild is recognized even if he/she was not born prior to the hero grandparent’s death.
3 Grandchildren-in-law are not recognized.