Washington, DC — On February 26, legislation was reintroduced in both the House and Senate that would expand the Public Safety Officers Benefits (PSOB) Program to ensure that the families of more fallen heroes are provided for.
More specifically, The Hometown Heroes Survivors Benefits Act (H.R. 919 / S. 459) would extend the current PSOB Program to public safety officers who die as a result of a heart attack or stroke while on duty. Heart attacks and strokes represent a significant risk among public safety officers, accounting for nearly half of firefighter deaths each year. The legislation passed in the House last Congress, but the Senate did not have time to consider it prior to adjournment.
The bill was introduced in the House by Representatives Bob Etheridge (D-NC), Steny Hoyer (D-MD), Curt Weldon (R-PA), and Michael Oxley (R-OH) and in the Senate by Senators Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Susan Collins (R-ME), and Jim Jeffords (I-VT).
“Our hometowns are blessed to have the support of brave and dedicated folks who keep our streets safe, and are the first to respond to an emergency,” Rep. Etheridge said. “Our hometown heroes deserve to know that their families will be compensated in the event of a tragedy. Since 9/11, there has been a lot of talk about assisting first responders but now is the time to take action for these heroes and their families. Congress should pass this legislation without further delay.”
The 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.