Reschenthaler’s bipartisan bill expanding benefits for first responders signed into law

Bipartisan legislation offered by U.S. Rep. Guy Reschenthaler (R-PA) that extends death and disability benefits under the Public Safety Officers’ Benefits Program (PSOB) became law on Aug. 16 with President Joe Biden’s signature.

Specifically, the Public Safety Officer Support Act of 2022, which Rep. Reschenthaler and U.S. Rep. David Trone (D-MD) introduced in March, will expand the PSOB program to include coverage for first responders who die as a result of suicide or are disabled as a result of traumatic service-related experiences, according to a bill summary provided by the lawmakers, which noted that the program previously only covered physical injuries, excluding coverage for mental health issues. 

“I’m immensely proud we were able to get critical support for our nation’s first responders and their families across the finish line,” said Rep. Reschenthaler. “Police officers, firefighters, and emergency medical technicians serve on the front lines every day to keep American communities safe. For far too long, the Public Safety Officers Benefits program treated the physical and mental wounds officers suffered during their service differently. I’m grateful that changed today.”  

Specifically, the new law will allow public safety officers to seek disability benefits for PTSD linked to severe trauma by designating work-related PTSD and acute stress disorders as a line-of-duty injury for eligible officers, as well as those who are permanently disabled as a result of attempted suicide, the summary says.

Additionally, families of public safety officers who die by trauma-linked suicide will be permitted 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, according to the summary.  

“First responders often experience more trauma in one day than many of us will experience in our lifetimes. This takes a significant toll on the officers and sometimes leads to disability or even suicide,” said Rep. Trone. “We got the job done for millions of first responders across our country by putting partisanship second and our people first.” 

The organizations that supported the initial bill include the Fraternal Order of Police, the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association, the National Association of Police Organizations, the Sergeants Benevolent Association, and the National Sheriffs Association.