Is a Fireman's Widow Entitled to ''Line of Duty'' Death Benefits ?

In Tonkovic v. Retirement Board of the Firemen's Annuity & Benefit Fund, 282 Ill. App. 3d 876, 668 N.E.2d 1126, 218 Ill. Dec. 294 (1996), the Board argued that a fireman's widow is not entitled to duty death benefits under section 6-140 unless she establishes her husband's death resulted from " an act or acts of duty.'" Tonkovic, 282 Ill. App. 3d at 879. Tonkovic, in rejecting the Board's interpretation of section 6-140, found the Board's causation argument ignored a clause in the final paragraph of the statute and explained as follows: "The plain language of the second clause provides that a surviving spouse is eligible for duty death benefits if the decedent fire fighter's performance of an act or acts of duty prevented him from resuming active service until his or her death. Under this clause it is irrelevant to the question of eligibility for widow's duty death benefits whether decedent's 1980 heart attack resulted directly in his death 14 years later. Rather, the focus is whether the fire fighter is injured due to an act or acts of duty and then dies without having returned to active service. Having placed decedent on duty disability in 1980, the Board necessarily admits that decedent was injured due to an act or acts of duty. Decedent remained on duty disability, subject to recall to active duty upon a physician's certification of fitness, until his death in 1994. Accordingly, Tonkovic qualifies for widow's duty death benefits under the second clause of the final paragraph of section 6-140 of the Illinois Pension Code." Tonkovic, 282 Ill. App. 3d at 880.