Bellevue police officer loses health insurance after being injured on the job

Attorneys for Bellevue police officer Kevin Bereta are accusing the city of leaving their client without health benefits months after he was injured while trying to protect the Vice President of the United States.

Bereta, 39, was working as a part of the security detail during Vice President Kamala Harris’ visit to Seattle on Aug. 15 of last year. As he was traveling over the Michigan Street on-ramp, investigators say Bereta’s motorcycle hit the side of the ramp, forcing him to be thrown from his bike.

He reportedly fell over the railing, landing 60 feet below on I-5.

The accident left him with serious injuries to his back, leg, and shoulder.

During a press conference on Thursday, his attorney said his client has been left disabled.

"He has to go out and ask for handouts to support his family. It’s just absurd," said attorney Mo Hamoudi with the Stritmatter Firm. "Our primary responsibility right now is to make sure that this issue is fixed because he is suffering. He’s in physical therapy, he’s in a great deal of pain every day."

The police union’s contract with the city stipulates healthcare coverage lasts six months after an officer is injured. The six months of eligible coverage will lapse on Friday.

"They now have to come up with a couple thousand dollars a month for health insurance, and they can’t afford it," Hamoudi said. "Right now, what he’s trying to do is he’s trying to recover."

His lawyer also shared that Bereta’s wife is only working part-time as a nurse and together they are struggling to raise their three children, all under the age of five.

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"The city needs to step up and say ‘you know what, we support you, and we’re going to make sure you’re not going to get off these benefits,’" Hamoudi said.

FOX 13 reached out to city officials for comment. While they couldn’t comment directly, a spokesperson did release a lengthy statement reading:

"When employees of the City of Bellevue are injured on the job, they are eligible for partial wage replacement and benefits coverage through the State Worker’s Compensation Program. Our city-provided benefits are consistent with other cities in the region, and they are based on best practices, medical insurance carrier contracts, and are ratified in agreements negotiated with the unions representing our employees. The city has a duty to administer our policies consistently and we will continuously evaluate these policies to ensure they reflect our value of commitment to employees and responsible stewardship to the community we serve.

In addition, the City of Bellevue works very closely with injured employees to explore all options and ways to prolong their city-provided benefits to the greatest extent possible, which includes offering light duty work when appropriate as a means to retain city-provided health coverage. The city does not arbitrarily choose to end health benefits for an employee but rather operates within established policies and contracts negotiated with our unions that are intended to cover typical circumstances. Thankfully, there are important community partners the city has coordinated with to support employees, particularly police officers, when standard policies do not meet their needs."

FOX 13 has learned the city tried working with Bereta to bring him back part-time and put him on "light desk duty," but his doctor wouldn’t sign off on it.

Helping support the Bereta family are a number of organizations, including the Bellevue Police Foundation.

"I’ve been totally touched by the outpouring of support that we’ve seen," said Villette Nolan, executive director and president of the Bellevue Police Foundation.

Nolan told FOX 13 that the organization immediately started fundraising for the officer on the day he was injured.

"A little over $60,000 has been raised for the Bereta family so far," she said.

A GoFundMe has also been set up to help Bereta and his family. 

She added that along with the Bellevue Police Officers Guild and the Police Benevolent Association, additional funds are being released to the family to pay for outside insurance.

"We just voted to give the family an additional set of funds to help pay for their COBRA payments," she said.