U.S. SENATE — Today, U.S. Senator Steve Daines’ bipartisan bill, the “Protecting America’s First Responders Act of 2021,” was signed into law. Daines’ bill will ensure that Montana’s first responders who are disabled or killed in the line of duty have prompt access to the benefits they earned and were promised during their service.
“Montana law enforcement officers and first responders put their lives on the line every day to protect our families and communities. When they are tragically disabled or killed in the line of duty, these men and women and their families deserve our full support, and with my bill now signed into law, it’ll help ensure they receive it,” Daines said.
Statement of Support:
“Law enforcement officers permanently disabled in the line of duty are not ones to give up easily, yet many of these men and women have felt given up on for far too long. The passage of PAFRA brings much needed reform to our PSOB system for all first responders catastrophically injured in the line of duty. Thank you, Senator Grassley, Senator Gillibrand, Senator Daines, and all who worked tirelessly to move this much needed legislation forward on behalf of our nation’s disabled first responders.” – Heidi Paulson, The Wounded Blue
Background on the bill:
Congress established the Public Safety Officers Benefits Program (PSOB) program 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, the program has been marked by delayed adjudication of death and disability claims. In some cases, claims have taken years to process. A lack of Justice Department (DOJ) guidelines for adjudicating disability claims has also delivered inconsistent results.
The “Protecting America’s First Responders Act of 2021” updates the PSOB program’s definition of disability to ensure that officers who are permanently unable to secure meaningful gainful employment following a catastrophic injury in the line of duty remain eligible for benefits.
To address delays in processing claims, the bill expands DOJ’s subpoena authority to more efficiently secure records needed to evaluate claims.
Under the current program, disability or death benefits are provided in the form of a one-time lump sum payment, which is adjusted yearly based on the consumer price index. Benefits may also be issued to a surviving spouse or children in the form of monthly education assistance. This bill requires the benefit award amount to be based on the date of the adjudication rather than the date of the injury to account for increases in the cost of living that may occur during lengthy adjudication periods.