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Vets' group blasts honor for federal employees killed on duty

A bill to honor federal civilian workers who die on duty is facing opposition from a veterans organization that contends presenting employees' families with an American flag at funerals would blur the line between civilian and servicemember.

Sponsored by Rep. Richard Hanna, R-N.Y., the legislation would authorize the recognition for those who “are killed while performing official duties or because of their status as a Federal employee.”

“Nobody wants to stand in front of recognizing a federal employee for such a sacrifice, but the devil is in the details,” said Tim Tetz, legislative director of the American Legion. “[The bill would] muddy the waters of saying that working for the federal government is the same as serving in the military, and we certainly don’t want to do that.”

Hanna introduced the bill earlier this year, and Tetz said the Legion first became aware of it in July as it was preparing for the organization’s national convention in August. Leaders who discussed the bill at the convention then decided to oppose it.

Action on the bill was postponed in Congress this week when Hanna’s flight to Washington was canceled due to bad weather. The delay gave the Legion time to meet with staffers from Hanna’s office on Thursday.

"Civil service workers do not sign a pledge to defend America with their lives,” the Legion’s newly elected national commander, Fang Wong, said in a statement earlier this week. “They are not forced to serve in combat zones, and their work routines do not include engaging enemy forces overseas."

A spokesperson for Hanna could not provide a response to a request for comment by deadline.

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