It's been almost five years since a brush fire pickup lunged forward and crushed volunteer firefighter Leonard Murray, killing him. But the Indiana man's family continues to wait for an answer from the federal government about whether they will or won't get a one-time death benefit meant to help the survivors of fallen public safety officers.
Hundreds of families have waited for a year — and sometimes several years — for action from the Public Safety Officers' Benefits Programs set up in 1976 to help out families of police, firefighters and other emergency workers who die in the line of duty or after severely stressful events on the job.
A USA TODAY Media Network investigation, including a review of almost 1,500 claims filed by families since 2009, found the program mired in delays for more than a decade despite millions of dollars spent on outside audits and efforts to hire extra legal help to speed up processing languishing claims. As of August, about 750 families were caught waiting for answers on their claims for the one-time payment of about $340,000.