The Senate has unanimously passed the Protecting America’s First Responders Act.
I authored this legislation to expand benefits to first responders who are injured in the line of duty.
The Public Safety Officers Benefit Program – or PSOB for short – offers a one-time lump sum payment to first responders who are killed or permanently disabled in the line of duty.
I started investigating this program when I heard complaints about long delays in processing payments.
Those delays reached up to three years on average.
We fixed that issue with my 2017 bill, the Public Safety Officers’ Benefits Improvement Act.
However, my investigation uncovered a lot of other problems.
The Justice Department was denying payments to folks that should’ve gotten them.
In one case, a disabled police officer suffered a traumatic brain injury.
The department said he wasn’t disabled because he held a part-time position at Home Depot as a greeter.
In another case, again a police officer with a brain injury was denied the benefit.
Why? Because the officer tinkered on a motorcycle in his garage.
It would take this officer months to do simple things that would have otherwise taken him days.
Still, the department said he wasn’t disabled.
My bill will correct this problem.
It clarifies that first responders who are totally and permanently disabled, but can still perform some simple tasks, can still get benefits.
It adds a fair boost in payments to first responders who’ve waited years for benefits.
It provides the Justice Department with more tools so it can process claims more quickly.
Finally, my bill extends a presumption in the law that ensures that first responders who contract COVID-19 on duty don’t have to jump through hoops to prove it.
This bill will go a long way to helping our first responders.
I’d like to thank Senators Gillibrand and Booker as well as all our other co-sponsors.
I also want to thank our House counterparts, specifically Congressman Pascrell and his staff, who led the effort to pass this bill in the House.
Lastly, I want to thank the Justice Department for working closely with us to improve this language.
Before I wrap up, I just want to say a few words about our first responders.
Whether it’s police officers, firefighters or EMT’s, first responders embody the best qualities of all Americans.
Their daily sacrifices make our society better and safer.
I am proud to have sponsored this legislation and I urge the President to quickly sign it into law.