Benghazi prompts CIA to look at expanding survivor benefits

Benghazi prompts CIA to look at expanding survivor benefits

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WASHINGTON (AP) — The family of a CIA operative killed in the 2012 attack on a U.S. diplomatic facility in Libya is in talks with the spy agency to expand survivor benefits for relatives of contractors who die in the line of duty.

The negotiations are aimed in part at resolving a lawsuit against the CIA and the State Department brought by the mother of Glen Doherty, a former Navy SEAL and CIA contractor who died in a mortar attack while defending the agency's building. He was one of four Americans killed in Benghazi, including US Ambassador Chris Stevens, after militants stormed a U.S. diplomatic post on the night of Sept. 11, 2012.

Doherty, 42, was divorced and had no children. His parents were not entitled to annual payments under a standard federal insurance policy he held that pays a survivor benefit only to spouses and dependents.

Tyrone Woods, the other CIA contractor who died in the mortar attack, was married with a young child, and he had two children from a previous marriage.

"I think there's a recognition of the unfairness of this policy and the need to update the policy," said Amy Carnavale, a government affairs adviser for K&L Gates, a law firm representing the Doherty family. "We continue to have cooperative conversations" with the CIA.

The CIA declined to comment.

Under a law signed by President Barack Obama in January 2014, the State Department expanded survivor benefits for employees and made the changes retroactive to 1983, so it would apply to the relatives of those who died in the 1983 Beirut embassy bombing, as well as the two State Department employees killed at Benghazi — Stevens and Sean Smith, an information management officer. The new policy applies to some contractors but not all of them.

Rep. Stephen Lynch, D-Mass., has also lobbied the Obama administration to expand benefits for contractors and has introduced a bill to do so retroactively.

The House committee investigating the Benghazi attack has also been pressing the CIA on the matter.

The claim by the Doherty family, filed in December, seeks $1 million for wrongful death. Doherty's friend and executor of his estate, Sean Lake, filed a separate claim seeking a little over $1 million.

Separately, Doherty's family and Lake recently settled a lawsuit they filed in state court in California over the death benefit policy Doherty was required to take out as a CIA contractor who performed security work overseas in hazardous areas.

The lawsuit claimed that the broker was negligent because its staff failed to tell Doherty that the policy was essentially worthless to him because it would only pay a death benefit if he had a dependent. The settlement terms are confidential, said Michael Mortenson, the K&L lawyer who handled it.

Under the new State Department policy, eligible survivors of U.S. citizen federal employees and unpaid staff, including unpaid interns, who die overseas from an act of terrorism since April 18, 1983, got an increase in the existing death gratuity from one year's salary at the time of death to one year's salary at the Executive Schedule II level, which this year is $183,300; a life insurance supplement that makes up the difference between the employee's employer-provided life insurance coverage, if any, and $400,000; and four years of post-secondary tuition assistance to widows, widowers and eligible children.

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