(June 15, 2016) – On Thursday, June 9th, the Senate Judiciary Committee approved S. 2944, the Public Safety Officers’ Benefits Improvement Act. The legislation, sponsored by Senator Charles Grassley (IA) and Senator Kristen Gillibrand (NY), was approved by voice vote.
The legislation makes changes to the Public Safety Officers’ Benefits (PSOB) program in order to increase the effectiveness and transparency of the program. Specifically, the legislation would:
- Allow PSOB to issue rules, regulations and procedures that are based on standards developed by other Federal agencies dealing with death or disability claims of public safety officers (this is a direct response to DOJ’s delay in adopting WTC/VCF findings associated with 9/11-related claims);
- Restore the “substantial weight” standard that required PSOB to give substantial weight to the findings of federal, state, and local agencies as to the cause of the public safety officer’s death or disability prior to the rewrite of regulations in 2005;
- Require PSOB to post a public weekly status report on claims; and
- Require PSOB to make a detailed biannual report to Congress on claims.
On April 29th, H.R. 5123, the Honoring Emergency Response Officers (HERO) Benefits Reform Act, was introduced by Congressman Bill Pascrell, Jr. (NJ-9), chairman of the Congressional Fire Services Caucus. H.R. 5123 also makes several improvements to the PSOB program to increase the effectiveness and transparency of the program. Additionally, Congressman Pascrell’s bill contains language clarifying that fire police and fire investigators are considered public safety officers for purposes of the program.