Klobuchar attended the White House signing ceremony for the bill
WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) announced that the bipartisan Protecting America’s First Responders Act was signed into law. This legislation will help first responders who are disabled or killed in the line of duty and their families receive compensation. Klobuchar attended the White House signing ceremony for the bill.
“Our first responders put themselves at risk every day to keep our communities safe, and we must provide those who are injured or killed and the families of our fallen heroes with the benefits they deserve,” said Klobuchar. “This bill will ensure they are compensated in a timely manner so they can get the care they need. I was proud to attend the White House signing ceremony for this legislation.”
The Protecting America’s First Responders Act improves the Public Safety Officers’ Benefits (PSOB) program, which provides disability benefits to officers who are permanently injured in the line of duty and to the survivors of officers who die in the line of duty. The legislation allows benefit amounts to be calculated based on the date of the award. Currently, the amount is calculated based on date of injury and does not account for cost of living increases.
The Public Safety Officers’ Benefits (PSOB) program was established by Congress in 1976 to provide death benefits to the survivors of officers who die in the line of duty. The law has expanded to provide disability and education benefits, as well as to expand the pool of officers who are eligible for these benefits. The program provides disability or death benefits in a one-time lump sum payment, which is adjusted yearly based on the consumer price index. The program has also been marked by delayed adjudication of death and disability claims. In some cases, claims have taken years to process. A lack of Department of Justice guidelines for adjudicating disability claims has also resulted in PSOB benefits being denied to officers whose work-related injuries would result in a disability determination under the Social Security Administration’s guidelines.
The Protecting America’s First Responders Act, which Klobuchar introduced alongside Senators Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Thom Tillis (R-NC), Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), and Mazie Hirono (D-HI) will improve the PSOB program by:
- Requiring that the disability or death benefit award amount is based on the date of the adjudication rather than the date of the injury. This would account for increases in the cost of living that may occur during lengthy adjudication periods;
- Updating the PSOB program’s definition of “disability” to ensure that officers who are permanently unable to find gainful employment following a catastrophic injury in the line of duty can remain eligible for benefits;
- Ensuring that applicants who have been denied benefits in the past three years as a result of the current standards could be able to re-apply using the updated definition; and
- Guaranteeing retroactive education assistance for eligible survivors who pay out-of-pocket education expenses while awaiting the adjudication of a claim.
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