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July 1, 2010

L&I's statement regarding the case of Officer Brian Walsh

TUMWATER – We’re very sorry about the death of Officer Brian Walsh. We understand that this is a great loss to his family and to the entire community.

Because of the recent deaths of several police officers in the line of duty, L&I gave the pension claim by Officer Walsh’s family an exceptionally thorough review. This included a review of the results and related laws by the Attorney General’s Office.

The result of our review was that Officer Walsh’s death does not qualify for pension benefits through the workers’ compensation program. Without written permission of the Walsh family, the law prohibits us from releasing further details.

What we can say is that the state workers’ comp program is allowed to pay death benefits to survivors if the death of their loved one is related to an industrial injury or occupational disease. In most cases, work-related deaths are clearly recognizable as such.

In some instances, it is less clear that a death was work related.

The law requires that payments of pension benefits for deaths involving a heart problem must show a direct link between the heart attack and some unusual physical or emotional exertion not normally expected as part of the person's job.

We understand that the denial of such a claim can be traumatic and frustrating for the survivors and there are remedies in place to appeal such decisions.

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