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Family benefits following a state employee’s job-related death

Death benefits are available for families of Illinois state workers whether or not a death is job related. Attorneys can help families locate compensation sources and file claims for workers' compensation or survivor benefits. Lawyers also assess claims to identify at-fault parties, who may be held accountable for damages.

State employees' families may be eligible for occupational death benefits through the State Employees' Retirement System. It's important to note SERS benefits are not the same as workers' compensation death benefits. In fact, the SERS death benefit amount is reduced by benefits paid through workers' compensation.

SERS benefits are not paid to families automatically. Claims for benefits must be filed by qualified survivors. Spouses, children or parents of a work accident victim may be eligible for SERS benefits.

When an employee without survivors dies on the job, the benefits are made available for beneficiaries of the worker's estate.

Surviving spouses may be entitled to lifetime compensation, in the form of a monthly annuity, equivalent to 50 percent of a deceased workers' salary. When children are among the survivors, the total family benefit equals 75 percent of the state employee's salary.

Qualified child survivors are minors, full-time college students under age 22 and disabled adult children. Children receive SERS death benefits until the surviving spouse dies or a child reaches age 18 or 22, in the case of a college student. Children also may be eligible to receive SERS death benefits when there is no surviving spouse.

Parents are eligible when a state employee without a spouse or children dies of a work-related injury or illness. SERS benefits are adjusted yearly with 3 percent increases scheduled annually.

All work-related death claims are subject to approval by the Workers Compensation Commission and officials with the State Employees' Retirement System. An attorney's advice can be especially helpful when a dispute arises over a claim or benefit amount.

Source: State Employment Retirement System of Illinois, "Occupational Death Benefit," accessed Sep. 25, 2015

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