By Allan Lengel
The Justice Department on Tuesday announced improvements to the Public Safety Officers’ Benefits Program including provisions addressing claims of fatal heart attacks, strokes and vascular ruptures and those injured in the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.
“At this Department of Justice, we back the blue,” Attorney General Jeff Sessions said in a statement. “Officers killed or wounded in the line of duty and their families deserve our gratitude and our support. That’s why we are determined to make improvements to the Public Safety Officers’ Benefits Program, which provides for them when they need it most. We are making it simpler to apply for benefits for those who are injured. We have already made significant progress in reducing the time for application processing. Now, we are also doing our part to help some of the brave first responders who are suffering from the effects of the September 11th terrorist attacks. ”
The Public Safety Officers’ Benefits Program provides death and education benefits to the eligible survivors of fallen law enforcement officers, firefighters and other first responders, and disability benefits to officers catastrophically injured in the line of duty.
Improvements and updates to the Program include:
- Heart Attack, Stroke, and Vascular Rupture Claims: The new rule helps implement a change in the law that reduces the need in many cases for families to submit difficult-to-find and costly medical records for their loved ones. This regulatory change alone positively impacts nearly one-third of the PSOB death claims filed each year.
Filing Process: The new rule includes administrative updates to make filing claims more straightforward and less burdensome for survivors and public safety agencies.
Law Enforcement and Firefighter Trainees: Recognizing the dangerous nature of law enforcement and fire suppression, and the rigorous training required to help keep communities safe, the new rule clarifies the coverage of certain individuals fatally or catastrophically injured during formal training provided by law enforcement and fire academies.
September 11th Exposure Claims: The new rule facilitates the PSOB Program’s medical examiners’ review of the nearly 150 claims pending for certain public safety officers who responded to the September 11th attacks to assist in rescue, recovery, and clean-up efforts, and who were exposed to hazards and toxins resulting from the attacks.