HARRIS COUNTY, Texas - Following the death of Harris County Precinct 5 Constable Deputy Mark Brown on Saturday, his wife Michelle says Mark’s workers’ compensation benefits were denied.
“Now, he’s gone,” said Michelle Brown. “I’m his voice. I’m not going to shut-up.”
Deputy Brown first got sick with COVID-19 in May. Michelle believes he got sick at work, then brought the virus home to her and their four children. All six of them eventually tested positive for the Coronavirus. However, Mark needed hospital treatment for roughly two months leading up to his death.
“His department filed a worker’s compensation claim on his behalf,” said Michelle. “I got a denial letter in the mail stating it’s not considered a work-related illness because it can’t be determined where he got the COVID from.”
Deputy Brown spent more than 20 years in law enforcement and joined the Precinct 5 Constable Office in 2017. The recent death has been tragic for Michelle’s family physically, emotionally, and financially.
“In addition to the loss of his income, I’m going to pick up the costs of our healthcare,” said Michelle. “Plus, all of the medical expenses that we’re going to get. One bill alone was a half-million dollars.”
“It’s embarrassing,” said Charley Wilkison from the Combined Law Enforcement Associations of Texas (CLEAT). “It’s a very un-Texan thing, that we’d even be talking about this.”
According to CLEAT, more than 25 Texan first-responders have died from COVID-19 this year. Wilkison says these families were denied death benefits.
“Each one of these families, mine included, now are ultimately responsible for expenses,” said Brown. “[My husband] was all about principle and doing the right thing. This is really a major slap in the face.”
Current government code gives compensation to sick or killed first responders if they’re presumed to have contracted the disease during the “course and scope of employment.”
“How can one person pinpoint, where they got it from?” asked Brown. “Especially in his line of work.”
A spokesperson from Governor Greg Abbott’s Office sent us this message in response: “Governor Abbott’s heart goes out to the families of those who have lost loved ones due to COVID-19,” said John Wittman, a spokesperson for Governor Abbott. “Under the Texas Government code, there is a presumption for workers’ compensation benefits for emergency responders specific to respiratory illnesses, and no law enforcement survivor has been denied state death benefits since the pandemic began. The state has and will continue to work with families of first responders across Texas to ensure they receive the benefits from the state to which they are entitled.”
If you’re interested in helping Brown’s family, click here.