Bipartisan Legislation Introduced to Reform Public Safety Officers’ Benefits Program

Representative Bill Pascrell, Jr. (D-NJ) and Senator Charles Grassley (R-IA) introduced bipartisan legislation last week to make necessary changes to the U.S. Department of Justice’s (DOJ) Public Safety Officers’ Benefits (PSOB) program. The PSOB program provides death and educational benefits to the families of fallen fire, EMS, and law enforcement personnel, along with benefits to public safety officers who become disabled in the line of duty.  

The Protecting America’s First Responders Act (H.R. 2936/S. 1511) would: 

  • Allow new categories of public safety officers to be eligible for the program, including trainees; fire police; and public safety officers acting as “Good Samaritans” outside of their jurisdictions.  

  • Direct the DOJ to pay the PSOB families any death or disability benefits on the day of the agency determination of the claim (instead of the day of the injury) in cases where the claim is pending for more than a year. 

  • Authorize retroactive disability benefits to public safety officers who responded to the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. 

  • Increase the interim payments that a PSOB family might receive from $3,000 to $6,000 and tie an increase in the interim payments to the consumer price index on an annual basis.  

  • Revise the definition of “disability” under the PSOB program. This legislation would allow “disabled officers” to perform sedentary work involving ordinary or simple tasks, involving minimal duties; or perform work for therapeutic purposes or with special accommodations and still receive the PSOB disability award.  

  • Direct the DOJ to provide retroactive educational assistance to the children of dead or disabled officers who qualified for the PSOB educational benefits, but failed to receive a payout in time due to processing delays. 

  • Provide the opportunity for responders at the World Trade Center to apply for PSOB disability benefits under the newly expanded definition of disability. 

The legislation has 8 cosponsors in the House and 10 cosponsors in the Senate. 

The IAFC endorsed this legislation. “I would like to thank Representative Pascrell for introducing the Protecting America’s First Responders Act. This legislation would revise the Public Safety Officers’ Benefits program to provide necessary assistance to more families of fallen public safety officers during their time of need,” said Fire Chief Ken Stuebing, Acting President and Chairman of the Board of the International Association of Fire Chiefs. “The IAFC looks forward to working with Congress to pass this important legislation.” 

 

Ken LaSala is the IAFC’s Director of Government Relations & Policy. 

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