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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.

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