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August 18, 2022

President Biden signs law extending PSOB benefits for PTSD, acute stress, suicide

Credit: Police1, Michael Kirby

Following House passage in May and the Senate’s assent on Aug. 1, President Joe Biden on Tuesday signed into law the Public Safety Officer Support Act, a bill that expands death and disability benefits under the Public Safety Officers’ Benefits program to include first responders who die by suicide or are disabled by traumatic experiences.

Reasoning that public safety officers – police, fire and EMS personnel – face higher risk of PTSD and “mental health morbidities,” the bill follows the Defense Department in recognizing first responder work-related suicide as line-of-duty death.

The Public Safety Officer Support Act retroactively supports first responders who experienced PTSD or died by suicide following exposure to one of the following events in their work since Jan. 1, 2019:

  • Mass-casualty incident (over three victims)
  • Mass-fatality event (three dead “with a common cause”)
  • Mass shooting (three dead “within one event … in close proximity”)

According to the law, first responders who witnessed or experienced such incidents’ “aversive consequences” or gruesome scenes, who were in harrowing danger, or who were exposed to “criminal sexual violence” are all eligible in the language of the bill.

Additionally, the law “would right past wrongs and ensure that families of police officers and first responders receive critical financial assistance as they grieve the loss of their loved ones,” Rep. Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.) noted in the House debate. Rep. David Trone (D-Md.), a lead co-sponsor, said the bipartisan bill “will address the issue of stigma and provide the overdue parity between physical and mental injuries.”

Learn more about the Public Safety Officers’ Benefits program, and read the full bill below: