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State law says volunteer firefighters are 'public safety officers' but get no state benefits

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Nevada Daily Mail

Missouri law defines rural volunteer firefighters as public safety officers of the state.

As specified in Chapter 320 of the Missouri Revised Statutes, they are "serving the State of Missouri in an official capacity as fire protection volunteers and are hereby declared public safety officers serving without wages, salaries or certain other employee-type fringe benefits."

Yet while the law does not entitle them to any of the rights, privileges or benefits accorded state employees or officials, including retirement benefits or participation in the state's legal defense fund, it does allow rural departments or fire protection associations to give benefits to volunteers and their dependents, according to references.

"Any fire department or organization may provide life insurance, accident, sickness, health, disability, annuity, length of service, retirement, pension or other employee-type fringe benefits for volunteer firefighters and such other benefits for their spouses and eligible unemancipated children as the governing board deems appropriate, either through a contributory or non-contributory plan or both," the law says.

"For purposes of this section, 'eligible unemancipated child' means a natural or adopted child of an insured or a stepchild of an insured who is domiciled with the insured, less than 23 years of age, not married, not employed on a full-time basis, not maintaining a separate residence except for full-time students in an accredited school or institution of higher learning and who is dependent on parents or guardians for at least 50 percent of his or her support.

"The type and extent of such benefits shall be determined by the governing board of the department, organization or association. The provision and receipt of such benefits shall not make the recipient an employee of the district, association or organization. Directors or board members who are also volunteer firefighters may receive such benefits while serving as a director or board member of the district, association or organization."



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