Biden signs bipartisan bill updating public safety officer benefits program

President Biden signed Thursday at the White House on U.S. First Responder Protection Act, 2021 (PAFRA) enacted, which was unanimously adopted by the Senate in November. This law will guarantee first responders and law enforcement personnel with disabilities in the performance of their duties rapid access to services.

“Today is a monumental day for our first responders and law enforcement officers who risk their health and their lives to keep us safe,” said Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (DN.Y.). America’s First Responder Protection Act will set a clear framework to ensure that our nation’s heroes who have died or become permanently disabled in the line of duty can have their disability claims processed in a timely manner. and ensure that their families remain eligible for the additional benefits that have been promised to them. We owe a great debt to our veterans, and we applaud President Biden for keeping that promise and enacting this bill. “

“The daily work of first responders across the country makes our communities better and safer. They illustrate the best that our country has to offer, but often face significant risks. Our legislation will reduce bureaucratic hurdles and reduce unacceptable delays that too many families of first responders have faced after a loved one has made the ultimate sacrifice, ”said Senator Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa).

Congress first established the Public Safety Officer Benefit Program (PSOB) in 1976 to provide death benefits to survivors of officers who died 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 eligible for these benefits. However, the program has been marked by delays in adjudicating death and disability claims. In some cases, claims have taken years to process, and the lack of guidelines from the Department of Justice in adjudicating disability claims has led to inconsistent results.

To compensate for delays in processing complaints, the U.S. First Responder Protection Act, 2021 (S. 1511) updates the definition of disability in the PSOB program to ensure that officers who are permanently unable to find employment as a result of a catastrophic injury in the line of duty remain eligible for benefits. Prior to today’s signing, disability or death benefits were paid as a one-time lump sum payment, adjusted annually based on the Consumer Price Index. This new law will now require that the amount of benefits be based on the date of arbitration rather than the date of injury to account for increases in the cost of living that can occur during long periods of arbitration. The bill also expands DOJ’s subpoena power to more effectively secure the records needed to assess claims.

Learn more at Senator Gillibrand’s office

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Susan W. Lloyd