Our Service Area
Supporting Heroes currently serves all of Indiana, Kentucky, and Missouri.
Covered Public Safety Workers
Based on risks inherent in their duties and status, Supporting Heroes provides support to first responders who serve in the following categories: sworn law enforcement (including those serving federal agencies when injuries occur within our service area); fire/rescue service (individuals who engage in fire suppression, rescue and/or hazardous materials response – public and private); EMS providers and deliverers (public and private); sworn corrections (public and private); officially recognized public safety chaplains when engaged in response to a public safety emergency; and service-delivery members (not logistical or administrative support) of specialized task forces such as FEMA coordinated Urban Search and Rescue Teams (US&R) and Disaster Medical Assistance Teams (DMAT). Individuals who work in public safety in non-sworn clerical, administrative, or support roles (including telecommunications) are not covered except potentially in very rare circumstances pursuant to STATUS provisions.
In most instances, one or more representatives respond to the line-of-duty death (as defined by Supporting Heroes criteria) or life-threatening injury of a first responder in our service area within one hour of notification — and are prepared to remain for several days. Response times vary depending on the location of the tragedy and the responding location of available personnel.
An exception is that we do not immediately respond to deaths where older support organizations (those in place before Supporting Heroes) provide similar immediate financial support. In those instances, a delayed measured response is initiated so as not to overwhelm the family but to ensure all families receive at least the same level of support as we provide.
The most notable exception to our typical initial response occurs in the 13-county Missouri coverage area of the Saint Louis-based BackStoppers organization – which provides a level of financial support unparalleled in the nation. Another exception is that we do not typically respond immediately to Indiana law enforcement deaths unless specifically requested to do so. In those instances, we defer to the immediate response of the Indiana FOP Critical Incident/Memorial Team (established in 1991), which provides many of the same initial support mechanisms. In those instances, Supporting Heroes provides follow-up care and support.
Upon arrival following a line-of-duty death, representatives meet with leaders to assess the degree and types of support desired by the agency. During this meeting, arrangements are made to meet with the immediate survivor(s) to provide emergency funds, conduct an assessment of need, and offer additional support. Typically, an agency leader accompanies Supporting Heroes representatives during this meeting. In rare instances, such as pursuant to existing relationships or unique circumstances, the meeting with the family can occur first.
During the initial meeting with the family, a $5,000 ‘emergency funds’ check is presented to the surviving spouse or most immediate financially-dependent survivor. Additional emergency funds are also offered and provided according to need.
Rare exceptions can occur when there is no spouse, ‘significant other,’ or another immediate survivor financially dependent on the fallen hero. In those instances, the emergency funds are held until an assessment can be made as to whom, if anyone, is financially impacted by the tragedy or what other financial needs there might be.
While other Supporting Heroes’ financial support is always based on need, the ‘emergency funds’ constitute a partial exception in that, in the wake of tragedy, the need of the immediate survivor is presumed.
The goal of the emergency funds is to relieve the financial stress that follows – typically, almost immediately – the unexpected death of a family’s main or only breadwinner. It is intended to address any immediate financial needs and provide some comfort by making our promise of continued support more tangible.
Our Promise: “We’ll be there”
Our promise is to ‘be there’ in a number of ways over the days, weeks, months, and even years ahead. One of those ways is to provide ongoing financial support based on need and to take financial stress away. In addition to relieving immediate financial stress, the $5,000 ‘emergency funds’ check is intended to demonstrate during a very emotional time that our promise is real. In other words, it is a ‘down payment’ on that promise.
Ongoing Financial Support
A few days following the funeral, in accordance with the needs and wishes of the immediate survivor, Supporting Heroes representatives will meet with him/her to assess financial needs. Ongoing financial support is then provided on a monthly basis according to that need – in many instances, even making it possible for a now-single parent to be a full-time stay-at-home parent taking a leave from his/her employment.
In rare instances where there is more than one immediate survivor financially impacted by the hero’s death, the needs will be assessed and support provided to each according to the determined need. An example would be if a fallen hero with a spouse or ‘significant other’ had been providing support to a custodial parent of his/her child(ren) or supporting his/her own parent(s) due to infirmity or other needs. In such instances, we would support the existing spouse or financially impacted ‘significant other,’ the custodial parent of the hero’s children, and/or the hero’s parent(s). (‘We honor the service and sacrifice… by caring for the loved ones they leave behind.’)
Under normal circumstances, monthly support is provided until the first significant death benefit is received. In the absence of personal insurance, agency benefit, or significant community support, our support typically continues until the state or federal (PSOB) benefit is received. For those who are not eligible or are denied government benefits, support is provided according to a specifically tailored finite plan that affords the survivor opportunity to make any necessary adjustments to reduce monthly expenses – typically with support tapering (rather than ending abruptly) as the plan nears the end.
Loved Ones Left Behind
Supporting Heroes’ commitment is to care “for the loved ones they leave behind.”
It is important to note that legal relationships do not necessarily define who someone’s ‘loved ones’ really are. In that vein, it is also important to understand that Supporting Heroes is not bound by legal relationships when making a determination about who a fallen hero would want us to care for. In other words, we are not obligated to provide support to someone simply because he/she is the closest legal survivor.
For example, while many state governments – and therefore the federal government – do not recognize common-law marriages, Supporting Heroes recognizes committed cohabitation as evidence of a “loved one left behind.” So instead of basing support solely on legal relationships, we make our determination of who the fallen hero would want us to support by the evidence he/she left — via such things as shared living arrangements, financial responsibilities, and statements from friends, agency leaders, and others.
NOTE: For purposes of Public Safety Officers’ Benefits (the federal line-of-duty death and disability benefits), the federal government only recognizes marriages according to the laws of the respective state. Currently, ‘common law’ marriages are not recognized by any of the three states in which we serve.
Financial Support According to Need
As noted previously herein, with the exception of the initial ‘emergency funds’ – where need is presumed – financial support is always based on need. Therefore, in instances where significant community support is generated, the amount of ongoing financial support we would provide could be significantly or completely offset by such support.
No Life More/Less Significant than Another
While the circumstances or high-profile nature of a death, news coverage, population density, the hero’s family makeup, and many other factors typically influence the types and degree of community support, Supporting Heroes makes no such differentiation. Our standard is very simple: If a first responder’s life is cut short as a direct result of his/her service, we consider it “ultimate sacrifice” and endeavor to honor the hero and care for his/her loved ones accordingly.
In other words, we have one standard of “ultimate sacrifice,” and our services and support are the same regardless of any of the aforementioned factors. We also make no distinction whether someone is paid to serve or does so as a volunteer, whether his/her department is big or small, whether or not he/she is a member of a union or other organization/association, etc.
Ultimate sacrifice deserves ultimate honor. Period.
There are occasional instances where an agency does not initially recognize a death as occurring in the line of duty and therefore does not notify us or other entities. In some such instances, reclassification and notifications might occur months or even years later.
When we learn of such instances and have verified LODD classification according to our criteria, we make contact with survivors and determine the need for assistance at that time. Since it is no longer ‘in the wake of tragedy,’ financial need is not ‘presumed,’ and the ‘emergency funds’ check is therefore not presented. Any financial support is provided according to need at that time.
Critical (Life-threatening) Injuries
While our primary support services follow line-of-duty deaths, we also offer support following life-threatening line-of-duty injuries. Here again, support is based on need. In such instances, food and lodging for immediate family members (so they can remain close to the hospital) is the most common form of support provided.
Survivors are never asked or expected to repay any of the support provided to them by Supporting Heroes. The goal of our financial support is to help survivors ‘over the hump’ from the time of the tragedy until significant benefits are received and our support is no longer needed – or, in instances where such benefits will not be coming, to assist them to a point where they are self-sufficient and our support is no longer needed.
Our hope is that survivors will invest funds from LODD and/or other benefits wisely and use them to provide a stable comfortable future.
Our members, staff, and supporters are honored to assist in this manner.
Survivor Categories Recognized as ‘Immediate’
While we recognize that the impact of a hero’s death cannot be fairly measured by a survivor’s relationship category, it is necessary for Supporting Heroes to limit support and free admission to survivor events to a hero’s most-immediate survivors. Therefore, the following relationship categories are recognized as ‘immediate’ –
- Significant Other
- Child-in-Law 
- Sibling-in-Law 
- Parent-in-Law 
- Grandparent-in-Law 
- Grandchild  
In very special circumstances, survivors in other categories can be recognized as ‘immediate.’ A letter to our Board of Trustees pleading such recognition is required for consideration.