Training tragedy: city denies cadet's widow benefits
OKLAHOMA CITY —
It is not every day that the love of your life falls from the sky into your life. But that is exactly how the love story began between Kelley Chase and Elke Meeus.
"We met on a drop zone in Spa, Belgium," Meeus recalled. The two were avid sky divers and met while Chase was stationed in Germany with the United States Air Force.
The two would eventually marry and start a family. They moved to Oklahoma for what would be Chase's final post at Tinker Air Force Base. He retired from the military after 15 years and many combat flight hours. "His main priority was to continue to serve," Meeus said of her husband, "He always wanted to be a police officer after he left the military to continue to serve."
But serving isn't always safe. It is a fact Meeus was very aware of and she was worried about the risk that came with being a police officer on the streets of Oklahoma City. "I was worried; I was scared and I told him I don't want people to show up at my door one day and tell me that you're dead," Meeus said.
In October of 2012, that fear came true.
Chase died in the police academy.
Meeus knew moving on would be difficult, but she says she never imagined the challenges she would face trying to reclaim what she says the city promised her. She is now struggling to receive the life insurance benefits the couple signed up for in May of 2012. It was the last major financial decision the couple made together; to receive the maximum amount of life insurance offered by Oklahoma City.
The city initially signed Chase up for the second highest insurance level, but promised he could move up after completing a health questionnaire. With 15 years of military health records to back them up, Meeus said she never worried about passing the health questions. But that questionnaire never arrived.
Meeus said she and her husband were both working to get the questionnaire months before he died. Meeus said the insurance company told her the city had made a mistake and they would contact them to fix it. The problem was never fixed.
"The money is never going to compensate for Kelley's death, it never will, but it will help my kids have a better future," Meeus told Fox 25.
The disputed amount is one year's salary. Hardly a bank-breaking amount. When Chase died many in the city promised to help her. Meeus said the police department and other officers stepped up and provided for her family, but when she asked about the life insurance, city administration went silent.
"We never asked for more, we just want what we had a right to, what we chose. We made those choices," Meeus told Fox 25, "I just feel no one is listening to us; they've left us out in the cold."
Fox 25 went to the city for answers about why no one responded to her requests for help, or for that matter why no one in the city responded when Meeus was forced to file an official legal complaint with the city.
After multiple emails and requests for an interview with the city manager we were told the case was under investigation. Though we later learned it wasn't until our emails that the city legal office ever bothered to contact Meeus' attorney. That's when we went to the city manager for answers.
City manager Jim Couch said he didn't know anything about the complaint until we started asking questions. He did admit that it was likely inappropriate for the city's legal office to not reply to the complaint until questions were raised by the media.
But what about the city's united promise to provide for Chase's family after he was killed during training to serve his community?
"It's a tragic event and I hope the outstanding issue gets resolved," Couch said.
Couch refused to say the insurance complaint was a priority for the city. Despite the fact the insurance dispute was brought up to city employees prior to Chase's death and despite the fact the city sat on the official complaint for more than six weeks before responding.
"I think we have certain legal responsibilities and I hope we're able to fulfill those responsibilities; but we only have certain legal responsibilities," Couch said.
"I'm tired; I'm exhausted and tired of dealing with something we had a right to," Meeus said.
Meeus wants to be able to move on from the paperwork associated with her husband's tragedy. She says she wants to be able to provide for her children's future while making sure they never forget about their dad and his lifetime of service and sacrifice to his county, community and family.
"I just want them to know what a great dad he was, what a great person he was."