Recently, Congress passed the Public Safety Officer Support Act of 2022, which NAAG endorsed in a policy letter signed by 53 attorneys general. The bipartisan legislation addresses gaps in support for public safety officers who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) associated with the high-risk nature of their jobs. The House passed the bill in May with overwhelming bipartisan support, and it passed unanimously in the Senate at the beginning of August.
In the NAAG policy letter, the attorneys general praised the work of public safety officers including police, firefighters, and emergency medical technicians who respond to stressful and potentially traumatic situations. Studies have shown that public safety officers are 25.6 times more likely to develop PTSD than the average person and research shows those suffering from PTSD are at increased risk of suicide.
Public Safety Officers’ Benefits Program’s (PSOB) provides financial support to the families of firefighters, police officers, chaplains and emergency medical technicians who die in the line of duty or who have been permanently disabled as a result of a physical injury. The Public Safety Officer Support Act expands the program in two ways. First, it directs the PSOB to designate work-related PTSD and acute stress disorder as a line of duty injury for eligible officers as well as those who are permanently disabled as a result of attempted suicide. Second, it directs the PSOB 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, allowing families to apply for death benefits.
The PSOB is managed by the U.S. Department of Justice’s (USDOJ) Bureau of Justice Assistance and was endorsed by the agency. The bill was signed by President Biden on August 16, 2022.