Booker joins bipartisan effort to support families of public safety officers
WASHINGTON DC – U.S. Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) joined Senators Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) and John Cornyn (R-TX) to introduce a bill that would support the families of officers struggling with their mental health or who are lost to trauma-related suicides. These families are struggling to receive the benefits they deserve because federal law currently limits the Public Safety Officer Benefits (PSOB) program to only cover physical injuries – completely excluding any support for mental health issues. U.S. Representative David Trone (D-MD-06) introduced accompanying bipartisan legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives. US Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL), Thom Tillis (R-NC), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Susan Collins (R-ME) and Jim Inhofe (R-OK) also helped introduce this legislation.
The PSOB provides financial support to the families of firefighters, police officers, chaplains and emergency medical technicians who die in the line of duty or are permanently disabled from physical injury, including physical ailments resulting from the stress of work such as heart attacks. While the US military already recognizes military suicides as deaths in the line of duty, the PSOB does not.
Booker has previously worked bipartisanly to ensure the PSOB program takes into account the unique challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2020, it introduced the Safeguarding America’s First Responders Act (SAFR) which establishes a temporary presumption that COVID-19 infections among police officers and first responders will be considered acquired while on duty if diagnosed within 45 days. following an agent’s last shift. SAFR is ensuring that the families of officers and first responders lost or disabled in the fight against the pandemic do not face unnecessary obstacles to the benefits they have already been promised. The legislation was enacted in August 2020.
“Law enforcement is on the front lines of major crises – from responding to mass shootings and incidents of domestic violence, to protecting the United States Capitol during a violent insurgency,” said Senator Booker. “These harrowing experiences can have long-lasting repercussions, with many officers suffering from PTSD and others tragically taking their own lives. To support officers who have made the greatest sacrifice in the line of duty or who face lifelong trauma, I am proud to join in a bipartisan, bicameral effort to ensure that the officer benefits program Public Safety provides financial benefits to officers who have developed mental health issues. problems, and in the worst cases, died by suicide.
“It is a tragedy that the families of police officers and first responders who took their own lives after putting their own safety on the line to keep us safe are fighting to have the deaths of their loved ones recognized as deaths in the line of duty. functions,” Senator Duckworth said. “I am proud to introduce this important bill that would provide so many grieving families with the recognition and support they need after their tragic losses.
“Like our troops who have served in combat, members of our law enforcement community also carry with them unseen wounds inflicted by traumatic incidents experienced in the line of duty,” said Senator Cornyn. “That’s why it’s critical that these men and women have ready access to mental health resources and that the families of police officers who die by suicide receive the benefits to which they are entitled.” This important bill will provide both support and closure to those who need it, and I am proud to join Senator Duckworth in introducing this bill.
“January 6 underscored the tragic toll the violent events take on law enforcement,” said Senator Kaine. “We owe our law enforcement officers a huge debt of gratitude. I am pleased to help introduce this bipartisan legislation to ensure that the families of Virginia officers Howie Liebengood, Jeffrey Smith and other officers we have lost to trauma-related suicide can access support and to essential advantages.
“Every day across the country, public safety officers put their lives on the line, experience enormous pressures and witness unimaginable tragedies in the line of duty to protect our communities. Family members of public safety officers worry immensely about the safety of their loved ones when they are in danger,” said Senator Collins. “We owe these brave men and women, and their families, more than our gratitude. This bipartisan bill will provide support for officers suffering from work-related PTSD, as well as provide grieving families with the resources and support they need.
“American law enforcement puts their lives on the line every day for our freedoms,” Senator Inhofe said. “They deserve to have access to quality care for their mental health, their physical health and the assurance that their families will receive the benefits they deserve. That is why I am proud to co-sponsor this bill alongside Senator Cornyn and Senator Duckworth to support the families of officers who have lost loved ones in service-related suicide.
“While law enforcement officers benefit from support for physical injuries on the job, it is important to remember the emotional and mental toll that traumatic events can take on the lives of our officers and their families. For the well-being of those who put their own safety on the line, we must improve access to mental health resources and recognize the link between death by suicide and work-related trauma,” said Senator Durbin. “These officers and their families are entitled to the same benefits as those who suffer a physical injury, and I hope this legislation will help provide them with the support they deserve and eliminate the stigma around mental health effects. in law enforcement.”
“As a profession, we do a good job of protecting the physical safety of our officers by providing them with tools like bulletproof vests, but too often we have failed to recognize or address the enormous mental stress that our officers accordingly endure of their service,” Patrick Yoes, president of the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP), said. “Law enforcement and other public safety officers face a 25.6 times greater risk of developing post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or acute stress disorder than those in other professions. We believe that law enforcement suicides are underreported, but to our knowledge 169 officers committed suicide in 2021. Your legislation provides that officers in crisis who commit suicide or attempt to do so will be considered service related and, in some cases, the officer or their surviving family will be eligible for PSOB death or disability benefits.It is time to recognize that long-term exposure to mental stress and traumatic events during service can inflicting “invisible wounds” on the men and women of law enforcement. The fact is that severe PTSD is just as debilitating as a physical injury and an officer who suffers from this or a similar disorder can ent Suicide is just as service-related as any other death in the line of duty.
“As suicide continues to overtake all other deaths in the line of duty except COVID, this landmark legislation marks a turning point in first responder culture,” said Karen Solomon, co-founder and chief financial officer of Blue Help. “The ability to recognize those who suffer mental injuries as a result of their work will open doors for families left behind and first responders who are suffering right now. We will no longer treat them or their services as deserving of less honor and recognition.
the Public Safety Officers Support Act would like:
· Create a way for officers to apply for disability benefits for PTSD directing the PSOB to designate work-related post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and acute stress disorder as a duty injury line for eligible officers as well as those who are permanently disabled as a result of a suicide attempt.
· Allow families of police officers who died by trauma-related suicide to apply for death benefits directing the PSOB to presume that suicides are the result of work duties in certain traumatic circumstances when there is evidence that PTSD or Acute Stress Disorder is the cause of the injury.
the Public Safety Officers Support Act has been endorsed by the Fraternal Order of Police, the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association, the National Association of Police Organizations, the Sergeants Benevolent Association, the National Sheriffs Association, Blue H.EL.P, the National Border Patrol Council, the United States Capitol Police Labor Committee, and American Psychological Association.