10/27/21 - The House passed the Protecting America’s First Responders Act (S. 1511) today by voice vote taking us one step closer to getting this important legislation signed into law. The Senate passed the bill by unanimous consent on June 10. We were able to amend the bill prior to the House vote to include a two year extension of the COVID presumption for PSOB eligibility for public safety officers who had COVID-19 at the time of death or who are disabled due to COVID-19. The presumption will last through December 31, 2023 or until the end of the COVID-19 pandemic, whichever occurs later.
This is a major victory for NAPO as we have been working on this legislation over the past three years. NAPO worked closely with Senator Charles Grassley (R-IA) and Congressman Bill Pascrell (D-NJ) to introduce this bill, which will make it easier for public safety officers disabled in the line of duty to qualify for the federal Public Safety Officer’s Benefits (PSOB) Program’s disability benefits, in addition to several other important programmatic changes.
Senator Grassley and Congressman Pascrell have been very vocal about the unfair and inconsistent application of the program’s “very stringent requirements” for officers disabled in the line of duty. They share our concerns that the stringent requirements for PSOB disability benefits make it extremely difficult for officers to qualify, and that the PSOB regulations regarding disability benefits do not match up with what Congress intended when it created the disability benefit in 1990.
The Protecting America’s First Responders Act will ease the strict requirements for disabled officers to qualify for PSOB disability benefits, ensuring that officers who are catastrophically injured in the line of duty, but can perform some level of meaningful work, would still qualify for the much-needed benefit. Further, officers who become quadriplegic, paraplegic, or blind due to the line of duty injury will automatically qualify for the PSOB disability benefit. Disabled officers have been left behind and this bill will ensure they are not forgotten.
Additionally, the Protecting America’s First Responders Act will ensure that beneficiaries receive the highest award amount possible and it will make certain that all children of public safety officers disabled or killed in the line of duty are able to benefit from the Public Safety Officers’ Education Assistance Program.
We thank Senator Grassley and Representative Pascrell for their efforts to secure passage of this important legislation, thus ensuring that America’s public safety officers, who put their lives on the line every day in service to our nation, get the benefits promised to them.
The bill will now go back to the Senate, where we believe it will be taken up quickly and again be passed by unanimous consent, and then it goes to the President’s desk to be signed into law.
Director of Governmental Affairs
National Association of Police Organizations