NEW YORK – The children of a fallen NYPD detective are denied access to their mother’s pension, all because she was a single parent.
As CBS2’s Kevin Rincon reported on Wednesday, this is a legal loophole that can only be corrected by lawmakers in Albany.
“Overnight I had to change my life,” Genesis Villela said.
Villela lost her mother,, five years ago next month. The 12-year-old NYPD veteran targeted simply because of the badge she wore.
Villela was 20 at the time and became the legal caretaker for her two younger siblings, Peter and Delilah Vega.
CBS2 spoke to them in 2017, less than two weeks after the tragedy. Hours before she was killed, they had spent the fourth of July together.
“It was really fun. We had hot dogs, burgers,” Peter said at the time.
Delilah remembered what it was like to have a mother as an officer.
“They thought it was cool. ‘Oh, your mother was a cop?’ My friends thought it was cool, “she said.
“Ever since that day, I have had to step into the role of parent,” Villela said Wednesday.
They are now bigger, older and still miss their mother. Their situation is unique. Under current state law, only parents and spouses of fallen officers are entitled to their pension for life. Children have until they are 23, under strict rules and supervision.
One of the rules is that you must be enrolled full time in college. Villela, unaware of it, dropped out to be there for her siblings.
“I almost felt like I was being punished for not being in school, for prioritizing my brother and sister. I felt like my mother was being punished for being a single parent,” Villela said.
She was cut off from retirement two years ago.
Access to the funds on behalf of her siblings requires that she personally go through the Bronx Surrogate Court, each time, a process she calls torture.
“It was the same court where my mother worked as a police officer for two years, at Family Court. It was like reliving the trauma every single time, reopening those wounds,” Villela said.
As it turns out, the family has five more years of access before the help their mother’s service has been able to afford runs out.
The only way to change that is through legislation in Albany.
“I’ve contacted several senators, senators in the state of New York and several members of the New York State Assembly, and I’ve been very detailed about what I need and what the next steps are, and I just hope that there can be something is being done, “said Villela.
Rincon also reached out to several lawmakers but did not respond, and two previous attempts to provide some assistance to this particular family never received the support they needed.
This is the only known case where a child of a fallen officer in New York City has become the primary caregiver for their siblings.