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Feds extend flag recognition honor to fallen civilians

The Obama administration on Tuesday issued regulations granting formal flag recognition honors to civilian federal employees killed in the line of duty.

The Office of Personnel Management will publish a final rule on Wednesday, a day before the 13th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terror attacks, which claimed the lives of dozens of federal employees.

The action “gives us another way to honor our fallen Federal employees by providing their loved ones with an American flag to pay tribute to their service and to their ultimate sacrifice,” OPM Director Katherine Archuleta said.

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The regulations, drafted under the Civilian Service Recognition Act of 2011, extend the benefit previously reserved for loved ones of only a handful of non-military government workers.

As of next month, all executive branch agencies will be authorized to bestow the honor for all employees killed in connection with their work as a result of a criminal act, a terrorist strike or a natural disaster.

The regulations also empower presidents to confer the honor in other circumstances as they see fit.

The National Treasury Employees Union (NTEU), which represents more than 150,000 federal workers across 31 agencies, heralded the rule as a “meaningful tribute” for the next-of-kin of those employees killed in the commission of their public service.

Almost 3,000 federal civil servants have been killed while performing their official duties, the union said.

“It is often easy to take for granted the work that federal employees perform and the contributions they make,” NTEU President Colleen Kelley said. “This recognition should remind us all of the potential dangers many federal employees face.”

The benefit applies only to employees who died on or after December 20, 2011, when the Civilian Service Recognition Act of 2011 took effect.