Warner & Kaine Applaud Senate Passage of Bipartisan Bill to Support Families of Public Safety Officers
Aug 04 2022
WASHINGTON— Today, U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine applauded unanimous Senate passage of bipartisan legislation Kaine helped craft to honor the public service of police officers, firefighters, and emergency responders by supporting the families of public safety officers lost to trauma-linked suicides, such as the families of Virginia Officers Jeffrey Smith and Howard Liebengood. The bill passed the Senate this week and now heads to the President’s desk to be signed into law.
“Our public safety officers deserve a tremendous debt of gratitude for their sacrifice to our nation,” said the senators. “Especially after the tragic January 6th attack on the Capitol, where we lost officers to trauma-linked suicide, it is even more critical to pass this legislation to help families of officers access benefits. We urge President Biden to sign this legislation as quickly as possible.”
The Public Safety Officers’ Benefits (PSOB) program provides financial support to the families of firefighters, police officers, chaplains and emergency medical technicians who die in the line of duty or who have been permanently disabled as a result of a physical injury.
The Public Safety Officer Support Act, of which Kaine is an original cosponsor and was led by Senators Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) and John Cornyn (R-TX), was introduced in February to improve the PSOB program to reflect the reality that law enforcement officers, firefighters and emergency responders face a heightened risk of developing post-traumatic stress disorders that may lead to trauma-induced suicides, and that surviving family members of public safety officers that end their lives also face an elevated risk of self-harm as a result of a loved one’s loss being compounded by severe financial harm and significant emotional distress.
The Public Safety Officer Support Act would:
- Create an avenue for officers to seek disability benefits for PTSD by directing the PSOB program to designate work-related post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and acute stress disorder as a line of duty injury for eligible officers as well as those who are permanently disabled as a result of attempted suicide.
- Allow families of officers who die by trauma-linked suicide to apply for death benefits by directing the PSOB program to presume that suicides are a result of job duties in certain traumatic circumstances where there is evidence that PTSD or acute stress disorder would be the cause of the injury.
Kaine and Warner have long advocated for the granting of benefits to the families of officers who died by suicide after defending the Capitol on January 6.
The Public Safety Officer Support Act has been endorsed by a wide range of leading law enforcement and mental health agencies and organizations: U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ); National Association of Attorneys General (NAAG); National District Attorneys Association; Fraternal Order of Police (FOP); National Association of Police Organizations (NAPO); Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association (FLEOA); Sergeants Benevolent Association; National Sheriffs Association; Major County Sheriffs of America; National Border Patrol Council; United States Capitol Police Labor Committee; Blue H.E.L.P.; The Wounded Blue; National Narcotics Officers Associations’ Coalition; National Prison Council; International Association of Police Chiefs (IACP); AFSCME; International Union of Police Associations; American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP); American Psychological Association (APA); National Association for Children’s Behavioral Health; International Society for Psychiatric Nurses; Meadows Mental Health Policy Institute; Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance, SMART Recovery; Kennedy Forum; Inseparable; National Council for Mental Wellbeing; National Association for Rural Mental Health; American Mental Health Counselors Association; National Association of Social Workers; Postpartum Support International; National Association of State and Mental Health Program Directors; American Association for Psychoanalysis in Clinical Social Work; Association for Behavioral and Cognitive Therapies.