Senate Votes to Expand PSOB
November 29, 2012 -- The Senate voted November 28
to improve the Public Safety Officers Benefit (PSOB) program, expanding the
definition of cardiovascular disease to include deaths caused by aneurysms.
Under current law, PSOB can be paid to the families of fire fighters who die
from heart attacks and strokes, but the Department of Justice has narrowly
interpreted that language and excluded deaths caused by aneurysms.
The new provision is included in a package of amendments to the PSOB program
crafted by Senate Judiciary Chair Pat Leahy (D-VT). Working closely with the
IAFF and other fire service organizations, Leahy had been working on his
proposal for more than a year but had previously been unable to bring the bill
to the Senate floor due to objections from one senator. To overcome this
obstacle, Leahy offered his PSOB reform proposal as an amendment to a must-pass
defense bill. The amendment was adopted on a vote of 85-11.
In addition to the clarification that aneurysms should be covered, the bill
makes a number of administrative changes to the program that should result in
expedited review of applications and more prompt payment of benefits.
The PSOB program, which was first enacted in 1976, provides a one-time payment
to the survivors of public safety officers who are killed in the line of duty.
The benefit was originally set at $50,000, but has been increased over the years
and indexed to inflation. Currently, the benefit exceeds $328,000.
With Senate passage of the Leahy amendment, the issue now moves to a
House-Senate conference committee which will be tasked with resolving
differences between the House and Senate versions of the defense bill. The Leahy
amendment enjoys bipartisan support in the House, and is expected to be retained
in the final version that is sent to the president for his signature.