Cops, Heart Attacks and Living Benefits Life Insurance…

Law Enforcement Officers (LEO) are more likely to experience a heart attack at a younger age and experience a higher mortality rate than John Q. Public.  On average as a LEO you will live 22 years less than the general population. Wow, what a way to greet the day.

Let me share some other spooky LEO stats –

  • 49 years old is the average age of a LEO heart attack vs. 65 years old for John Q. Public. 
  • 45% of LEO heart attacks occur before the age of 45 vs. 7% for John Q. Public. 
  • Between the ages of 55 and 59, if you’re a John Q. Public your chance of dying from a heart attack is about 1.9%. As a LEO the chance of dying from a heart attack is about 56%.

What’s a Cop to do?

First off – you need life insurance.  This is a non-negotiable item in your financial protection portfolio.  I believe we all have the responsibility to prevent a financial burden being forced upon our loved ones when we die.  And the odds are already stacked against you.

Second – select the life insurance that will pay you a portion of your death benefit while living if you experience a heart attack (or some other critical health condition).  Known as Living Benefits you can access a portion of your death benefit for a critical health incident like a heart attack. Use this money to pay for care; reduce debt; financially plan for not living much longer; take a bucket trip with the pretense your days are limited; and prepare yourself for the reality you may be medically retired – more likely to occur after a heart attack. 

And in most cases the price between traditional life insurance that only pays when you die versus having the additional living benefits feature is nominal.  I will be updating a future blog on living benefits and will link it to this article.  Living benefits covers so much more than just heart attacks.

In a nutshell – living benefits will pay you a portion of your death benefit in CASH and it is yours to keep.

So, what happens after a LEO has a heart attack? 

As a retired California LEO and having watched my peers navigate through the California Workers’ Compensation system, I can only write confidently about what happens here in the great State of California.  California Labor Code presumes an injury to the heart during a LEO’s employment is a Workers Compensation injury– if you want to read more about this, please check out the link below to the great Heart Presumptive brief authored by John. A. Ferrone Esq.

Let’s go down the rabbit hole to when things go to bad.

Life Insurance for Cops

Assume your California agency refuses to accept your Workers Comp claim for a heart attack or condition – it happens. Or maybe you are in a state without a codified heart attack presumptive for Law Enforcement. What can happen to you financially if you survive the heart attack?

Potentially it will take six months to a year before you are cleared to return to full duty.

How will you support the family, pay the bills and maintain a quality of living during this time? Sure, you have accrued time off. How much time off do you actually have? After reading the rest of this blog go check your accrued time.

Actually, stop reading.  Go check your accrued time off balance. Read on.

How long will this accrued time carry you financially? Three months? Six months?

Now what about medical bills? Let’s circle back to presumptive injuries in California.

California Labor Code dumbed down says a LEO experiencing a heart attack is deemed a Worker’s Comp case. So, you have a heart attack; you rush to the local ER; you are fixed with emergency surgery and then what happens? You’ve been saved but your agency denies the claim (read John Ferrone Heart Presumptive brief below because it does happen). Who is going to pay the bills for further treatment? Definitely not your health insurance company.

Health insurance carriers are savvy enough to know it’s not their problem – it is a Work Comp claim. (And on a side note, municipalities like Public Safety in their health insurance pool because Law Enforcement and Fire reduce the cost of medical treatments overall since major injuries/conditions usually fall on the Workers Comp side not the health insurance company – reflect for a moment on your partners ACL surgeries, shoulder cuff repairs, cancer treatment, PTSD, trauma from a car accident/knife/GSW – mostly all paid by Workers Compensation).  So, your health insurance will not pay the Docs, physical therapists, etc. But you need treatment.

Your Work Comp Attorney will file paperwork. A court date will be set. Months from now. And in the mean-time all you can do it sit. To steal a line from Dr. Seuss –

so we sat in the house.

we did nothing at all.

so all we could do was to

sit!

sit!

sit!

sit!

and we did not like it.

not one little bit.

and then something went BUMP!

That bump was postal service leaving the package from the agency’s Work Comp defense attorney.  A package full of medical records and a list of questions they are demanding you respond to in writing before your deposition, which is scheduled in a few months.

Getting back on track – you need treatment to get better. While your accrued time off helps keep the lights on and fridge stocked do you have enough available cash to pay for Doctor follow ups or physical therapy? That likely will be the only way you can receive care. With a living benefits policy you don’t need to use your cash.

Sure you can keep the receipts and have your Work Comp attorney submit a reimbursement when the claim is accepted. But seriously, without digging into your 457/401/roth do you have cash laying around?  And do you want to tie up your cash in an IOU with your employer? With a living benefits policy you don’t need to use your cash.

Medical retirement sounds like it would be a romantic process. Oh we, the agency, feel it’s best to retire you. When would you like to go? How can we make this transition smooth?

Ha– In my time I saw it occur a number of times like this.  “There is the door; Goodbye”. One night my Watch Commander, an awesome Cops Cop, who carried a straight stick and had our back, came into briefing, gave briefing and then a short time later was shown the door. He had no idea that was his last briefing. Noteworthy, I am not bitter. Just a realist. So now how do you suddenly offset the change of income while you transition into a forced medical retirement – with the cash from a Living Benefits policy.

Life Insurance with Living Benefits

You have a responsibility to plan for a bad day. We do this every shift; every call; you owe it to yourself to take this same “what if” mindset for yourself and your loved ones outside of work. Living benefits is a win-win.

Dollars for the family when you die – Dollars when you are living if you have a bad health day.

And an opportunity to preserve the family wealth, pay for care to restore your quality of life and leave behind a positive legacy.

Citations:

Cops Alive – Heart Disease and the Law Enforcement Officer

Adams, Ferrone and Ferrone – Understanding the Heart Presumption

Cordico – Officer Wellness and Heart Disease