State Law Says Murdered Officer's Daughter Not Entitled To Benefits
New York, NY – The daughter of a New York Police Department (NYPD) officer born three years after her father was murdered in the line of duty is not eligible for her father’s survivor benefits because she was conceived using in vitro fertilization months after her daddy died.
NYPD Detective Wenjian Liu was 32 years old when he was assassinated with NYPD Detective Rafael Ramos, as they sat in their police cruiser on December 20, 2014.
Detectives Liu and Ramos were gunned down by a crazed shooter who took the bus from Baltimore to New York City with the express goal of murdering police officers, WPIX reported.
The gunman wanted to murder officers as revenge based on the belief that police officers were racist killers of black men.
Det. Liu had been married only three months to Pei Xia Liu at the time of his murder, according to the New York Post.
After Det. Liu was shot, he was transported to a Brooklyn hospital, and doctors asked his wife if she wanted his semen preserved. After somebody dies, there is generally a 24 hour period when their sperm can be collected and frozen.
The newlywed widow said yes, and in 2016 became pregnant with her deceased husband’s child using in vitro fertilization on her first attempt.
Baby Angelina was born on July 25, 2017, almost three years after her father was murdered in the line of duty.
“She’s a miracle because of science,” Pei Xia Liu told WPIX. “We always wanted to raise and have a family. And [Wenjian] was the only child!”
The single mother said that other “line of duty” widows she had become close to told her that Angelina should be eligible for Det. Liu’s survivor benefits.
However, when she applied to Social Security, Angelina was turned down, WPIX reported.
“Angelina Liu is not entitled to child’s benefits because the facts we have do not show that she meets the definition of child under state or federal law,” read the letter from Social Security.
The problem is that New York’s inheritance law makes no allowance for children conceived after a parent’s death and federal law defers to state law, the New York Post reported.
Under New York law, the couple’s daughter is not considered “biological” because Det. Liu didn’t consent to the use of his sperm in front of two witnesses and no such statement to the fact of his consent was filed with the Surrogate Court within seven months of his murder.
“With a death so sudden and unexpected, there was no opportunity for the Liu family to meet any of the other requirements in the statute,” Brooklyn State Senator Andrew Gounardes told the New York Post.
Detective Liu and Detective Ramos were both promoted to detective posthumously. Detective Liu was the first Asian-American member of NYPD to be killed in the line of duty.
Gounardes said archaic New York state law was the problem, WPIX reported.
“In this case, state law is just woefully out of date,” he said.
Gounardes explained the problem to WPIX.
“This would be okay if he [Wenjian Liu] had signed a consent form seven months before he passed away,” the state senator said. “There was no way to anticipate a situation like this. When an officer is shot down in the line of duty, and we have so few precious minutes to stabilize him or extract reproductive materials, the law doesn’t deal with this situation adequately.”
He said that he will work to change the state law so that if a spouse proves she was married, the child resulting from that union would be “entitled to the full array of benefits under Social Security” even if the baby was conceived after the death of her father, according to WPIX.
“She needs to be respected and acknowledged,” Pei Xia Liu said of her daughter.
Her state senator agreed.
“Families like a Detective Liu’s who suffer a terrible unexpected loss should not be prevented from receiving what is theirs because of antiquated laws,’’ Gounardes told the New York Post. “Assisted reproductive technology after one partner dies is now a true option for families that deal with tragedy, including first responders in the line of duty.’’
“If this bill passes, my daughter would have a better life,” Pei Xia Liu said. “I am incredibly hopeful that my husband Wenjian Liu’s very own miracle baby, Angelina Liu, will be treated like all other line-of-duty children.’’
Gounardes has proposed to change the law to include the presumption that a posthumously-conceived child is a biological product of the dead parent as long as the second parent is the surviving spouse of the one who has died, the New York Post reported.
“Allowing Detective Liu’s widow and child to receive Social Security benefits is the very least we can do to honor his service and the tremendous sacrifice he made on the night of Dec. 20, 2014,” the state senator said.
Det. Liu’s widow is very grateful for Gounardes assistance.
“We need to pass this legislation not just for me but for all line of duty widows who wish to raise their husbands’ children and have the family their loved ones always wanted,” Pei Xia Liu told the New York Post.