June 11, 2021

Senate Passes Bipartisan Bill Cosponsored by Senator Hassan to Improve How Disabled Officers & Their Families Receive Benefits

WASHINGTONThe U.S. Senate unanimously passed bipartisan legislation yesterday that Senator Maggie Hassan cosponsored to better ensure that law enforcement officers and first responders who become disabled in the line of duty, as well as the families of those who died in the line of duty, have prompt access to the benefits that they deserve.

 

“Our law enforcement officers and first responders put their lives on the line for our communities, and we must ensure that if they are killed or injured in the line of duty that these Granite Staters and their families are receiving the benefits that they have earned,” said Senator Hassan. “This bipartisan bill will help more brave men and women, as well as their families, receive the benefits that they have been promised in a timely fashion. I am glad my colleagues on both sides of the aisle came together to pass this important legislation, and I urge the House to take up this bill without delay.”

  

The Protecting America’s First Responders Act of 2021, introduced by Senators Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), makes important updates to the Public Safety Officers Benefits Program (PSOB), a program Congress established in 1976 to provide death benefits to survivors of officers who die in the line of duty.

 

Over the years, the law has been amended to provide disability and education benefits, and to expand the pool of officers who are eligible for these benefits. However, a number of first responders and law enforcement officers who should qualify have not received benefits under this program due to gaps in coverage.

 

The Protecting America’s First Responders Act of 2021:

 

  • Updates the PSOB program’s definition of disability to ensure that disabled officers and first responders whose work is for therapeutic purposes, involves simple tasks, or provides special accommodations are eligible for benefits.
  • Would clarify that off-duty officers responding to an emergency, trainees, and volunteer fire fighters performing scene security and traffic management can receive benefits through the PSOB program.  
  • Mandates that the Justice Department provide back pay to children who qualify for benefits but failed to receive a payout in time due to processing delays, and allows children born after the death of the public safety officer parent to be included in the educational benefits.
  • Makes important improvements to ensure that the benefits awarded to a first responder or their family are adjusted to reflect any cost of living increases at the time the benefit is awarded, rather than the date of the injury or death of the officer.    
  • Expands he Justice Department’s subpoena authority to more efficiently secure records needed to evaluate claims. 

 

Senator Hassan is committed to providing law enforcement officers, first responders, and service members with the support that they deserve, especially when their health is compromised in the line of duty. In 2019, bipartisan legislation became law that Senator Hassan cosponsored to restore grant funding for law enforcement support services and allow grant recipients to use funds to establish suicide-prevention programs and mental health services for law enforcement officers. Senator Hassan also joined a bipartisan group of her colleagues in reintroducing the Protecting Firefighters from Adverse Substances (PFAS) Act, which passed the Senate last Congress, that directs federal agencies to develop best practices, training, and educational programs to reduce, limit, and prevent exposure to PFAS, also known as ‘forever chemicals’ because they do not naturally break down. Senator Hassan also introduced the Toxic Exposure in the American Military (TEAM Act), bipartisan legislation that fundamentally reforms and improves how veterans exposed to toxic substances receive health care and benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).

 

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