Insurance company AIG denies benefits to family of Sheriff’s deputy who passed away from the virus

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BROWARD COUNTY, FL – A Broward County Sheriff’s Deputy passed away earlier this year from COVID-19, and the family of the fallen deputy sought for the insurance company to recognize the deputy’s passing as a line-of-duty death.

However, the insurance company denied the claim, citing that contracting COVID-19 is not considered a line-of-duty death in their insurance policy.

Deputy Shannon Bennett was 39 years old and a 12-year veteran with the Broward County Sheriff’s Office when he passed away from COVID-19. Bennett was first diagnosed on March 24th, then found himself hospitalized just three days later. He died the following week. 

Remarking on the period of Deputy Bennett’s diagnosis to his unfortunate passing, Broward County Sheriff Gregory Tony stated the following:

“He was showing signs of recovery, and it turned for the worse last night. This is a reminder, to not only this community, but us as first responders that we’re on the front lines with this. We’re still willing to serve, but this is a new enemy that we can’t even see.”

Continuing his thoughts on the matter, Sheriff Tony reflected on the copious amounts of interactions deputies have with the public – highlighting the dangers of when COVID-19 was experiencing enormous spread:

“If you truly support your first responders, then reduce our opportunities for having citizen contact. Because for every time we have to answer a call because someone’s non-compliant, it puts our lives at risk.”

Deputy Bennett happened to be the first law enforcement officer to have fallen victim to COVID-19 in south Florida. The family of the fallen deputy were already suffering from the loss of their loved one – but now they’re having to address even more heartache in Deputy Bennett’s passing, as insurance company AIG refuses to classify his death as a line-of-duty death.

The brother of Deputy Bennett, Darren, noted the shock that the family received when AIG sent them a letter denying the claim made about Deputy Bennett’s death:

“Essentially, while my family is trying to, again, grapple with and getting our bearings back – this type of letter comes in. And of course, it floors us.”

When AIG reviewed the claim brought by the family, they classified Deputy Bennett’s death as not one involving an accident or on-duty injury, but instead noted:

“Rather, his death was caused in whole or in part by, or resulted in whole or in part from sickness or disease, specifically excluded under this policy.”

According to Darren, the Broward County Sheriff’s Office filed an appeal against the denial on the family’s behalf – yet the claim was denied a second time by the insurance provider. In the second denial, AIG responded with the following:

“We wish to inform you that the claim for accidental death benefits submitted by Mr. Bennett was properly denied.”

The manner in which AIG poised their argument against denying the claim was that COVID-19 isn’t technically defined by any legislation that would compel the company to honor a claim related to accidental death in the line of duty.

From the perspective of Deputy Bennett’s brother Darren, this isn’t about the money for the claim – but rather it’s the principle of the matter and AIG’s disregard for the circumstances:

“For us, it’s about awareness. We want to make sure that any other agency that is partnering with AIG would potentially, completely dismantle their relationship.”

AIG has apparently refused to comment on the matter currently, but Sheriff Tony stated the following about the situation:

“We pay thousands of dollars each year for this insurance, and I’m extremely disappointed that AIG is denying this claim. We will exhaust all appeals. I have directed my command staff to review our contract with AIG.

“We hope as we have further dialogue with AIG, they recognize the global impact in [the] message that they are sending to our first responders.”

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The family of Deputy Bennett has had to deal with more than just insurance claim denials regarding their loved one – but also speculation regarding Deputy Bennett’s sexual orientation. 

In the interest of tact and decorum, there’s just some sentiments that shouldn’t be said out loud. A police chief in Davie is learning that the hard way after being suspended for allegedly implying that Deputy Bennett had not passed away from COVID, but died due to participating in homosexual acts.  

Chief Dale Engle from the DPD is in some hot water after trying to curtail his officer’s fears from the pandemic, using some seemingly derogatory methods.

Earlier in April, when Broward County Sheriff’s Deputy Shannon Bennett passed away due to complications associated with COVID-19, officer’s in the DPD were concerned about PPE accessibility and precautionary measures in light of the deputy recently passing.

In response to those concerns, Chief Engle tried to quell his officer’s fears by allegedly saying that is was Deputy Bennett’s homosexual lifestyle and endeavors that contributed to his demise of the virus.

In a sense, the chief was implying that AIDS was at play.

Those alleged comments did not take long to catch up with the chief, and he was subsequently suspended pending the outcome of an investigation.

The Florida State Lodge Fraternal Order of Police Labor Council Committee wrote a scathing letter detailing the alleged comments made by Chief Engle:

“Chief Engle allegedly yelled about a ‘backstory’ which proclaimed that Deputy Bennett contracted and died from the virus because he was a ‘homosexual who attended homosexual sexual events’.

He intimated that it was because of the homosexual lifestyle that Deputy Bennett first contracted a serious underlying disease which aggravated the Covid-19 virus and lead to his death.”

Michael Tucker, from the FSLFOP, was befuddled that a police chief would imply something so insensitive after the deputy had recently passed away:

“Really utter shock that the chief would attempt to minimize the risk to everyone and especially first responders by trying to draw a link between what happened to Deputy Bennett tragically and his sexual orientation.”

Chief Engle responded to the accusations via an email he sent to his officer:

“I made comments concerning the death of BSO Deputy Bennett as reported in the local media. These comments were relative to COVID-19 and personal protective equipment.

My intent was to provide as much information to personnel as possible. If my comments were taken out of context, they were not intended to be derogatory.”

Now, even if Chief Engle said the comments in a manner that wasn’t meant to be disrespectful, he broke the number one rule of today. Never piss off the alphabet people.

 

The South Florida LGBTQ organization SAVE had managed to catch wind of the accusations levied against Chief Engle, and they are out for his job in the process. SAVE’s executive director, Orlando Gonzales, had the following to say about the alleged incident:

“Chief Engle chose to make the death of BSO Deputy Shannon Bennett an opportunity for him to fuel discrimination and stigma against LGBT people instead of focusing on addressing the health and safety of the police officers serving on the front-line of a public health crisis.”

The president of the Miami Fraternal Order of Police, Tommy Reyes, personally knew Deputy Bennet. Needless to say, he was not thrilled about the chief’s alleged comments either:

“Shannon was my friend, a good man, and he loved his family, friends and his soon to be husband. Chief Engle’s comments are disrespectful not only to Shannon, but everyone who loved him.”

Even Reyes noted that due to Chief Engle’s alleged comments that he’d be summoning the wrath of the alphabet community:

“It was disrespectful to the entire LGBTQ community and his own officers. He should be ashamed of himself for his lack of professionalism and compassion for others.”

This is why people should think before they speak. Whether you like it or not, if it fell out of your mouth, then you own it from there.

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