06.02.17

President Signs Bill To Strengthen Public Safety Officers’ Benefits Program, Including Three Improvements Authored By Senator Patrick Leahy

President Trump on Friday signed into law a bill to strengthen the Public Safety Officers’ Benefits Program (PSOB), which includes three improvements authored by Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.).  Leahy is a leading member of the Judiciary Committee, which handled the legislation, and the author of earlier PSOB improvements.  Following are Leahy’s remarks after the signing of the bill:

“Our nation’s law enforcement officers, firefighters and other first responders put their lives on the line every day to ensure the safety of our communities.  Congress needs to be there for these brave men, women and their families when tragedy strikes.  That is what the Public Safety Officers’ Benefits program was designed to do.  I have worked to improve the PSOB program for years, including on the Hometown Heroes Survivors Benefits Act in 2003.  That is also why I authored the Dale Long Emergency Medical Service Providers Protection Act in 2012, which extended PSOB benefits to nonprofit EMS providers, covering an estimated 1,200 EMS personnel in Vermont alone.

“The PSOB program unfortunately has been plagued by unnecessary delays in processing benefits.  The Public Safety Officers’ Benefits Improvement Act of 2017, which the President now has signed into law and which was sponsored by Senators Grassley (R-Iowa) and Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), will help to change that.  It will add transparency and will help expedite review of benefit applications.  This law includes an amendment I offered in the Judiciary Committee that makes three important improvements.  My amendment ensures that children are never disqualified from receiving education benefits due to delays within the PSOB program.  It prevents PSOB adjudicators from abandoning legitimate claims due to circumstances beyond the officer’s family’s control.  And it guarantees that all of the new protections in the law apply to the many backlogged claims, and not just to future petitions, as would have otherwise been required under an existing regulation.

“Fifty-five officers have already died in the line of duty this year.  Congress has a solemn responsibility to support their families.  These bipartisan reforms, while modest steps, do just that, and I am glad for our hometown heroes and their families that our bill is now the law.” 

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