Bill to Expand PSOB Benefits for Heart Attacks Gaining Momentum in House

Washington, D.C. - Legislation that would expand the Public Safety Officers Benefits (PSOB) program to ensure that the families of more fallen firefighters, police, and EMS personnel are provided for is quickly gaining momentum in the U.S. House of Representatives and now has a majority of House members as cosponsors.

The Hometown Heroes Survivors Benefits Act (H.R. 919) would ensure that a public safety officer who suffers a fatal heart attack or stroke while on duty or not later than 24 hours after participating in a training exercise or responding to an emergency situation, is presumed to have died in the line of duty for purposes of public safety officer survivor benefits. The legislation was introduced by Representatives Bob Etheridge (D-NC), Steny Hoyer (D-MD), Michael Oxley (R-OH), and Curt Weldon (R-PA), has amassed an impressive 247 cosponsors.

The NVFC is encouraging the fire service to contact its representatives and ask them to become a cosponsor of the Hometown Heroes Survivors Benefits Act (H.R. 919).

"The fire service needs to once again make their voice heard in Washington on this crucial issue." said NVFC Chairman Philip C. Stittleburg. "The only way to ensure that more families of fallen firefighters receive proper benefits when their loved ones fall while serving their community is to pick up the phone and call your Member of Congress."

The Public Safety Officers Benefits (PSOB) program currently provides a one-time death benefit payment of $262,100, which is administered by the U.S. Department of Justice, to families of public safety officers (fire, police and EMS) killed in the line of duty, as well as to officers permanently disabled while on the job. The death benefit is payable to the survivors of a public safety officer who "has died as the direct and proximate result of a personal injury sustained in the line of duty."

Unfortunately, in almost every incidence of death by heart attack or stroke, it is ruled that the heart attack or stroke was not a direct result of an injury sustained in the line of duty and the family receives no benefits even though the deaths were clearly triggered by the rigors of the job. The Hometown Heroes Survivor Benefit Act would correct that deficiency in the law. Passage of this legislation is a priority for the NVFC and a wide array of fire, police and EMS organizations.

The Senate unanimously passed their version of the Hometown Heroes Survivors Benefits Act (S. 459) on May 16. The legislation was spearheaded in the Senate by Senators Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Susan Collins (R-ME) and Jim Jeffords (I-VT).

To contact your Representative immediately and ask them to become a cosponsor of H.R. 919, the Hometown Heroes Survivor Benefit Act, or call the U.S. Capitol Switchboard at (202) 224-3121.

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