person denying a vaccination

Families Could Be Denied Disability Death Benefits for their Unvaccinated Loved One

More workers every day are faced with consequences when refusing to get an eligible COVID-19 vaccine. There are financial repercussions that can include higher health insurance premiums as well as job loss. A more recent development in the potential financial fallout for unvaccinated workers and their families includes denial of death benefits that families would have received had a worker been vaccinated against COVID-19. With death benefits being denied to families of unvaccinated workers, are other benefits, such as disability benefits, going to be subject to similar restrictions?

Families Could Be Denied Death Benefits for their Unvaccinated Loved One

It has been recently reported that New York’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) will no longer pay the $500,000 death benefit to families of MTA workers, including subway, bus, and commuter rail workers, who died of COVID-19 when the workers are not vaccinated at their time of death. The $500,000 became available back in April 2020 when New York was an epicenter of the COVID-19 pandemic. At the time, transit officials reached an agreement with labor unions that MTA workers who died of COVID-19 would be eligible to receive a $500,000 lump-sum benefit. This is not unlike payments that families of MTA workers would receive for other job-related deaths.

The $500,000 lump-sum death benefit program is still in effect. The only change in availability of the benefit is the vaccination requirement. The requirement comes in the wake of MTA struggling to increase vaccination rates among workers. There are approximately 67,000 MTA workers and, according to MTA officials, more than 70% of MTA workers are vaccinated.

This measure has been compared to other insurance programs that offer additional insurance coverage to workers in risky occupations who die on the job. Families of police officers, firefighters, utility company workers, and transit employees such as MTA workers often receive these insurance death benefits when a loved one dies in the line of duty. Transit workers, after all, face a number of occupational hazards including industrial accidents or the possibility of getting hit by a train on the tracks. 

With the persistence and prevalence of COVID-19 in New York, contracting the virus and dying from it was considered an occupational hazard and, thus, the $500,000 in death benefits was made available for such situations as it would be assumed that they contracted the virus at work. Workers in high-risk occupations risk denial of death benefits when they fail to comply with established safety protocols, such as a police officer who fails to wear a bulletproof vest. Now that vaccines are readily available, failure to get the vaccine is seen as a failure to comply with established safety protocols and, thus, a basis for benefit denial. In fact, some employers have also considered limiting other benefits that are, as of now, still paid to unvaccinated workers. Benefits that may be subject to limitation in the not-so-distant future include things like reducing short-term disability payments.

Los Angeles Disability Attorney

At Disability Advocates, we are monitoring these issues and related ones. For any questions you may have, please reach out to us without delay. Contact us today.