§15-2A-12. Awards and benefits to dependents of employees or retirants - When employee dies in performance of duty, etc.; dependent child scholarship and amount.

     The surviving spouse, the dependent child or children or dependent parent or parents of any employee who has lost or shall lose his or her life by reason of injury, illness or disease resulting from an occupational risk or hazard inherent in or peculiar to the service required of employees while the employee was engaged in the performance of his or her duties as an employee of the agency, or the survivor of a retirant who dies from any cause after having been retired pursuant to the provisions of section nine of this article, is entitled to receive and shall be paid from the fund benefits as follows: To the surviving spouse annually, in equal monthly installments during his or her lifetime, one or the other of two amounts, which shall become payable the first day of the month following the employee's or retirant's death and which shall be the greater of:

     (1) An amount equal to nine-tenths of the base salary received in the preceding full twelve-month employment period by the deceased employee: Provided, That if the employee had not been employed with the agency for twelve full months prior to his or her death, the amount of monthly salary shall be annualized for the purpose of determining the benefit; or

     (2) The sum of $10,000.

     In addition, the surviving spouse is entitled to receive and shall be paid $150 monthly for each dependent child. If the surviving spouse dies or if there is no surviving spouse, there shall be paid monthly to each dependent child or children from the fund a sum equal to one third of the surviving spouse's entitlement. If there is no surviving spouse and no dependent child or children, there shall be paid annually in equal monthly installments from the fund to the dependent parents of the deceased member during their joint lifetimes a sum equal to the amount which a surviving spouse, without children, would have received: Provided, That when there is one dependent parent surviving, that parent is entitled to receive during his or her lifetime one half the amount which both parents, if living, would have been entitled to receive: Provided, however, That if there is no surviving spouse, dependent child or dependent parent of the deceased member, the accumulated contributions shall be paid to a named beneficiary or beneficiaries: Provided further, That if there is no surviving spouse, dependent child, dependent parent of the deceased member or any named beneficiary or beneficiaries, then the accumulated contributions shall be paid to the estate of the deceased member.

     Any person qualifying as a surviving dependent child under this section, in addition to any other benefits due under this or other sections of this article, is entitled to receive a scholarship to be applied to the career development education of that person. This sum, up to but not exceeding $7,500 per year, shall be paid from the fund to any higher education institution in this state, career-technical education provider in this state or other entity in this state approved by the board to offset the expenses of tuition, room and board, books, fees or other costs incurred in a course of study at any of these institutions as long as the recipient makes application to the board on an approved form and under rules provided by the board and maintains scholastic eligibility as defined by the institution or the board. The board may by appropriate rules define age requirements, physical and mental requirements, scholastic eligibility, disbursement methods, institutional qualifications and other requirements as necessary and not inconsistent with this section.

     A surviving spouse or dependent of an employee meeting the requirements of this section is entitled to receive beneficiary payments on the first day of the month following the date the deceased member is removed from payroll by the agency. A surviving spouse or dependent of a member who is not currently an employee meeting the requirements of this section is entitled to receive beneficiary payments on the first day of the month following the date of the deceased member's death. A surviving spouse or dependent of a retirant meeting the requirements of this section is entitled to receive beneficiary payments on the first day of the month following the date of the deceased retirant's death. Upon receipt of properly executed forms from the agency and surviving spouse or dependent, the board shall process the surviving spouse or dependent benefit as soon as administratively feasible.

     It is the intent of the Legislature that the levels of benefits provided by operation of this section from the effective date of the enactment of this section during the regular session of the Legislature, 2005, be the same levels of benefits as provided by this section as amended and reenacted during the fourth extraordinary session of the Legislature, 2005. Accordingly, the effective date of the operation of this section as amended and reenacted during the fourth extraordinary session of the Legislature, 2005, is expressly made retrospective to April 9, 2005.