Cadet's widow denied benefits
OKLAHOMA CITY —
The federal government turns down a widow's first request for benefits following her husband's death during the Oklahoma City Police Academy.
Elke Meeus was the wife of Kelley Chase. Chase died more than a year ago and Meeus was attempting to register for death benefits from the Public Safety Officers' Benefits Program,(PSOB). She was denied, but the Oklahoma City Fraternal Order of Police is helping her appeal the program's decision.
"She doesn't need this in her life to have to deal with these type of issues," said John George, the president of the Oklahoma City FOP, "She's a widow with two kids to raise right now."
George said the Oklahoma City FOP is using its lawyer to help because Chase would have been a member just as soon as he graduated the academy. He was just days from that graduation when his fatal training accident occurred.
"Member or not it's the right thing to do; it's all we want in this whole deal is everybody to do the right thing," George told Fox 25. The federal death benefit provided by the PSOB would more than $300,000 and George says it is money the family of Chase is entitled to receive.
The main issue is Chase had not yet received his commission. Though George said in the past Oklahoma City Police Cadets have been used to perform limited police functions. George also said that Oklahoma law allows cities to commission officers before they ever attend an academy and some cities commission officers at the beginning on academies. It is just Oklahoma City's policy that appears to be holding up the benefits. "He had passed every test he had to take to be a police officer he just hadn't graduated yet," George told Fox 25.
"The money is never going to compensate for Kelley's death, it never will," Meeus told Fox 25, "But it will help my kids have a better future."
Meeus is also involved in a legal struggle with Oklahoma City over insurance benefits. The city says they expect to have that claim resolved soon. The municipal counselor's office says it was working on the claim since it was filed in August. However it was not until a Fox 25 Investigation into the benefit dispute that the city ever contacted Meeus' attorney.
We've learned the city's proposed settlement will not cover the full amount in dispute, just one-year's salary for a new police officer.