Monday, January 7, 2013
Capping a 3 year effort by Senator Patrick
Leahy (D-Vt.), President Obama has signed into law legislation authored by Leahy
that will remedy coverage gaps in the federal program that provides a crucial
safety net for the families of first responders who are killed or permanently
disabled in the line of duty.
The measure is Leahy’s most recent effort to
close gaps in the Public Safety Officers’ Benefits Act that have left some first
responders without benefits when they are injured or killed in the line of duty.
He first introduced the Dale Long Emergency Medical Service Providers Protection
Act in June 2009, naming the bill in honor of the Bennington emergency medical
technician who was tragically killed in an ambulance accident.
added his bill to the Senate’s version of the annual defense authorization bill.
Because it was not also in the House version, he convinced conferees to keep it
in the final bill. The Senate Judiciary Committee, which Leahy chairs, had
approved the bill in 2010, but further action on the legislation had stalled due
to a single Republican senator’s objection. The President signed the defense
bill, with the Dale Long Act included, on Wednesday.
The PSOB program was
launched more than three decades ago to provide assistance to the surviving
families of police, firefighters and medics who died or became disabled in the
line of duty. Under current law, the PSOB program applies only to public safety
officers employed by federal, state and local government entities.
measure will extend the PSOB program to cover private, nonprofit emergency
medical services volunteers and personnel. In Vermont alone Leahy’s bill will
qualify an estimated 1,200 EMS personnel for the PSOB program.
also includes provisions to lessen the length of a currently unwieldy appeals
process for claimants, clarify the list of eligible survivor beneficiaries, and
make those who have been catastrophically injured eligible for peer support and
counseling programs. It removes artificial distinctions under current law to
include vascular ruptures in the types of injuries that would make a public
safety officer’s survivors eligible for benefits.
Leahy credited the efforts
of several public safety organizations for their help in building support for
his bill, including the American Ambulance Association, the Fraternal Order of
Police and the International Association of Firefighters.
Vt., to Newtown, Conn., first responders are flesh-and-blood lifelines to all of
us," Leahy said. "When tragedy strikes, they lay their lives on the line with a
sense of duty, with skill and with selflessness. All first responders should be
treated as professionals, whether paid, volunteer, municipal or private
nonprofits. We count on them, and they need to be able to count on us. This is
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