Who will work for Matt Griffin?

EMS mislead employees about life insurance


Through the voice of his sister Sarah Loer, Matt Griffin still is having an impact on the Gonzales County EMS from beyond the grave.
Unfortunately for the former administrators of EMS and the current board, Griffin’s story is not a good one about management, oversight and transparency. Instead, the story of Matt Griffin involves false statements, lies, and ultimately after his death in 2015, a lost life insurance benefit that he and the rest of the employees at EMS thought they were entitled to and had. That is only part of the tale.
This is his story.
Matt Griffin began working for Gonzales County EMS in October of 2013. He was very excited and proud to be a member of the EMS team, and took his job as a Gonzales County First Responder very seriously.
After he was hired, Griffin was given a benefits and personnel book by Carla Russell to look through. In the benefits section, employees of EMS were told they had a $10,000 life insurance policy that was paid for by the Gonzales County EMS.
Griffin was given a Blue Cross/Blue Shield form and was told he had to fill it out and name beneficiaries in order to be eligible for the life insurance benefit.
Griffin filled out the form, and turned it into Russell. He thought he had life insurance and told his family he had completed the form and named two beneficiaries. According to Sarah Loer, Griffin was not suspicious of anything being amiss with the life insurance benefit as he brought his benefits book home and showed it to his family. He and other employees at EMS talked about the benefit package on occasion, and life insurance was assumed.
The reason it was assumed, the Gonzales Inquirer has learned, is that all new employees after Griffin was hired were told by James and Carla Russell that they had life insurance. Two current employees and one former employee confirmed to the Inquirer that they were told they had life insurance, it was in the benefit package, and they filled out actual forms given to them by James and Carla Russell. The Inquirer has seen their benefits manual and copies of paperwork they filled out for health insurance.
All three EMS employees the Inquirer talked to were hired after 2009. The Gonzales Inquirer has seen a copy of the Blue Cross Blue Shield form Matt Griffin was given for life insurance and it was properly filled out with beneficiaries named.
Fast forward to 2015. While driving to work on his motorcycle, Matt Griffin was struck and killed. He was wearing his uniform and had his EMS radio on. He had been ordered to do that by EMS administrator James Russell in order to make sure that the EMS team was prepared to be on the scene of any incident as quickly as possible. This is an important nuance to Matt’s story, as the decision of whether he died in the line of duty or not impacts whether the family was entitled to another benefit, a Line of Duty payment of around $650,000 paid out by the government to first responders who die in the line of duty.
Following Matt’s death, Sarah approached both James and Carla Russell on numerous occasions trying to discern how to collect on the life insurance and how to file a Line of Duty claim.
According to Loer, they dissembled, and did not readily deliver on the information requested. Loer was persistent, however, and would not go away and kept asking for the information, including a plea to James Russell to submit the Line of Duty claim. He declined.
Loer would not let it go. She pointed out that at the time of his death, Matt was in uniform and on duty as he was required to listen to the EMS radio and respond if need be. She found out there were some forms that were simple to complete by EMS and asked again if James Russell would fill them out so she could send the forms into the government. Russell eventually wrote out a statement saying Griffin had in fact died in the Line of Duty, but it was not on the government mandated form.
Loer kept pressing for information. She later received a letter from both James Russell and a separate letter from Carla Russell saying there would be no life insurance payment as EMS had not paid a life insurance benefit premium to an insurance carrier since 2009.
Loer was shocked, as were other EMS employees the Inquirer talked to.
“We had a policy book that was given to us and we went over at hiring,” said one current employee. “They even had us fill out forms and turn them in. When we found out through Sara that they never had paid for our life insurance we were stunned. It was a real slap in the face.”
Loer took her problem to the EMS Board of Directors. After a few months of inaction, they eventually approached Jackie Williamson to be their contact with Loer instead of handling the matter directly through the board oversight responsibility.
As of the publication of this edition of the Gonzales Inquirer, Sarah Loer has not received any help in getting the Line of Duty forms filled out. And she is sick about the lack of life insurance falsehood perpetuated on her brother and all of the employees who work at EMS.
“I don’t know how any person can look you in the eye and tell you bold-faced lies like we were told,” said a former EMS employee. “That is egregious conduct. Who does that? And why didn’t the Board of Directors ask more questions of the administration when Sarah came to them for help? The whole thing is rotten.”


Editor's Note: 

p.p1 {margin: 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px; font: 11.0px Helvetica} span.s1 {font-kerning: none}

The story mentioned that no one from the Gonzales County EMS Board of Directors had come forward to help the Loer family fill out paperwork for a line of duty death benefit. Sarah Loer has informed us that Dr. Bob Williamson (who is not a board member) came forward and helped her get the documents necessary and she has filed a claim with the government. Sarah reiterated that she has not had any help from the Board on the issues involving her brother’s life insurance, accrued vacation pay and retirement pay.