President Obama signed a law Tuesday authorizing federal agencies to present a U.S. flag to the family of a federal employee killed in the line of duty due to a crime, terrorist attack or natural disaster.
The Civilian Service Recognition Act was initially opposed by military veterans groups concerned that the move would dilute the flag-draped coffin honor traditionally bestowed on veterans and deceased service members by equating military service with the work of civilian government workers. But after revisions to the bill, the groups dropped their opposition, and it cleared the House and Senate in recent weeks.
Obama signed the bill in a private ceremony attended by federal worker union leaders.
Colleen M. Kelly, president of the National Treasury Employees Union, attended the bill signing and called the new law “a fitting and appropriate tribute to those who have lost their lives working on behalf of their fellow Americans.”
“This benefit may seem modest, but it’s significant to our federal employees who work within this nation and in countless overseas posts,” Rep. Richard Hanna (R-N.Y.), the bill’s chief sponsor, said in a statement. “I’m proud that our nation values service and sacrifice. A life can never be repaid but it can be honored; this law ensures that.”
Since 1992, 2,965 federal workers have been killed while on duty, including diplomats in Iraq and Afghanistan and an Internal Revenue Service killed last year when a small aircraft crashed into his Austin office building.
This story has been updated.
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