Federal agencies told to begin awarding flags for fallen employees

Federal agencies have been told that they can begin presenting flags to honor federal employees who are killed in the line of duty, even though rules haven’t been issued to carry out that authority.

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An Office of Personnel Management memo sent last week said that federal employees “perform critical work in support of our nation, including, at times, making the ultimate sacrifice, losing their lives in serving the public.”

As Congress enacted the flag honors authority last December, sponsors said nearly 3,000 federal employees have died in the line of duty since 1992, including in terrorist attacks.

The Civilian Service Recognition Act “authorizes the presentation of a United States flag to a family member or other appropriate representative of a fallen federal employee as a way for our nation to express our deepest gratitude and sympathy,” OPM said in its memo.

The law applies to deaths from injuries incurred in connection with employment with the federal government or that were suffered as a result of a criminal act, an act of terrorism, a natural disaster, or other circumstance as determined by the president.

OPM said it is working to issue specific policies, but for the meantime agencies may present a flag under those conditions, typically to a spouse, child, sibling, parent or other next of kin.

The measure was delayed at one point because of concerns about equating civilian service with military service, but it was amended to make clear that there would be no military-style funeral honors, only the presentation of a flag.

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