TRENTON – All minor children of State Troopers who die in the line of duty would be entitled to the same amount of death benefits, including the children of unmarried couples, according to legislation sponsored by Senate President Steve Sweeney that was signed into law today.
“Trooper Cullen gave his life in the line of duty serving the needs of others in a courageous act where he made the ultimate sacrifice” said Senator Sweeney. “We have a moral responsibility to provide for his family and for the surviving family members and children of all fallen troopers. This law will make sure that happens.”
The law, S-2061, was in response to the death of Trooper Sean Cullen who is survived by his fiancé and children who, under current law, are entitled to only a 20 percent benefit rather than the 70 percent allowed for widows or widowers and their children.
The law will provide the same benefit to members of the State Police Retirement System already included in the Police and Firemen’s Retirement System, which includes police officers and firefighters throughout the state and qualifies surviving spouses or children with 70 percent of the pension to support themselves.
The Troopers’ current plan allows for 70 percent for a surviving wife or husband, but only 20 percent for one child, 35 percent for two or 50 percent for three or more children. The benefit goes to children up to the age of 18. The bill extends the maximum age to get the benefit to age 24 if the children are enrolled in college, the same age limit that already applies to children of PFRS members.
“We ask our law enforcement officers and emergency response workers to put themselves in harm’s way, as Trooper Cullen and so many other troopers do every day,” said Senator Sweeney. “This law provides the reassurance that all of our law enforcement officers and firefighters need when they go to work.”
Trooper Cullen was struck and killed by a motor vehicle on Interstate 295 in West Deptford at the scene of an accident where an injured motorist was trapped inside a burning car. Trooper Cullen was a native of Ireland, a wrestling star at Cinnaminson High School, a graduate of Lycoming College and a former member of the police forces in Sea Isle City and Mount Holly before becoming a State Trooper. He is survived by his fiancé, sons, two brothers, a sister and his parents. Cullen’s fiance gave birth to their second son on August 3.