Woman says '80 death benefits don't add up in 2019

SPARKS, Nev. (KOLO) Ask Linda Wicksten to describe her husband Gordon, and just about anything to do with planes, and flying, and skydiving comes out of her mouth.

“When he got his pilot’s license he was the youngest licensed pilot in the world,” says Wicksten. “When he got his sky diving license he was youngest licensed skydiver in the world," she says.

Sadly Gordon would die doing the thing he loved. March 2, 1980, he would be one of four people killed in an airplane he co-piloted working for the Desert Research Institute.

It was a snowy day.

She says she considered it just another flight, and couldn't even comprehend what the wife of a fellow-passenger was trying to tell her that night, when Gordon did not come home.

“And she said, 'Linda, they are gone,'” says Wicksten of the call. “And I said, where did they go? And she said, 'No, they are gone.'” And I said, “What, are they staying overnight in Sac or something?”

His ashes were spread the next month by skydivers.

She received a monthly death benefit check from workman's compensation. And that check continues today for the exact same amount. While appreciative, in 2019 it doesn't go as far as it used to.

Just ask many of the women who are in the same boat as Linda.

“Some of the ladies have to decide if they are going to buy groceries or prescriptions. And they all have major medical problems,” says Wicksten.

Over the years she's gone to Nevada lawmakers to get that cost-of-living increase written into law. During that time the bill has died in committee, or time has run out for the legislature to vote on it.

She says she's run into opposition from state senators even when they voted themselves a raise.

“If there is money in the budget for you to get a raise, why isn’t there money in the budget for us,” she asked one Northern Nevada Senator. “And I quote, he said, 'Well life isn't always fair.'”

Then she says she found out lawmakers had passed a bill that gave cost-of-living benefits to widows and widowers if their spouses died after 2004.
April 1, 2019, she and others testified in favor of Assembly Bill 370, which would plug in a cost-of-living increase to the 500-plus widows and widowers across the state, who because of the timing of their spouses' deaths do not see a cost-of-living increase in their death benefits.

Unlike in other years, she says she did not run into much opposition. But she says she knows the clock is ticking and she's running out of time to make things right.

Money would come from an increase in workman's compensation fees paid by businesses across the state.

She says because the increase in benefits would be paid across the board by insurers, that fee increase would be minimal.

If you are a widow or widower who would be impacted by this legislation, Linda would like to hear from you. Her email is matildaq@nvbell.net.