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Peace Officer Disability Benefits

I have been asked by several disabled officers to include a fact page regarding the benefits available to officers who have been permanently disabled in the line of duty. So far the only federal benefit that I am aware of for all disabled peace officers is the PSOB benefit.  If anyone has any other benefit information regarding disabled peace officers that can be posted and shared with them, please send it to me at brokenbadge81@yahoo.com.  Thanks

 

Public Safety Officers' Benefits Program

The Public Safety Officers' Benefits (PSOB) Act (codified at 42 U.S.C. 3796, et seq.) was enacted in 1976 to assist in the recruitment and retention of law enforcement officers and firefighters. Specifically, Congress was concerned that the hazards inherent in law enforcement and fire suppression and the low level of state and local death benefits might discourage qualified individuals from seeking careers in public safety, thus hindering the ability of communities to provide for public safety.

The PSOB Act was designed to offer peace of mind to men and women seeking careers in public safety and to make a strong statement about the value that American society places on the contributions of those who serve their communities in potentially dangerous circumstances.

The PSOB Program provides death benefits in the form of a one-time financial payment to the eligible survivors of public safety officers whose deaths are the direct and proximate result of a traumatic injury sustained in the line of duty. As of October 1, 2003, the benefit amount is $267,494. Since October 15, 1988, the benefit has been adjusted each year on October 1 to reflect the percentage of change in the Consumer Price Index. For each death and disability claim, the award amount is solely determined by the actual date of the officer's death or disability.

The PSOB Program provides disability benefits for public safety officers who have been permanently and totally disabled by a catastrophic personal injury sustained in the line of duty if that injury permanently prevents the officer from performing any substantial and gainful work. Medical retirement for a line-of-duty disability does not, in and of itself, establish eligibility for PSOB benefits.

The PSOB Program includes the Public Safety Officers' Educational Assistance (PSOEA) Act. This act expands on the former Federal Law Enforcement Dependents Assistance Program to provide financial assistance for higher education for the spouses and children of federal, state, and local public safety officers who have been permanently disabled or killed in the line of duty. Educational assistance through the PSOEA Program is only available to the spouse or children of a public safety officer after the PSOB death or disability claim process has been completed and benefits have been awarded. The educational assistance may be used to defray relevant expenses, including tuition and fees, room and board, books, supplies, and other education-related costs. As of October 1, 2003, the maximum award for a full-time student is $695 per month of class attendance. All PSOEA awards must, by law, be reduced by the amount of other governmental assistance that a student is eligible to receive.

As defined by Congress in Public Law 90-351 (Sec. 1217), a public safety officer is an individual serving a public agency in an official capacity, with or without compensation, as a law enforcement officer, firefighter, or member of a rescue squad or ambulance crew. In October 2000, Public Law 106-390 (Sec. 305) designated employees of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) as public safety officers under the PSOB Act if they were performing official, hazardous duties related to a declared major disaster or emergency. The legislation also indicated that state, local, or tribal emergency management or civil defense agency employees working in cooperation with FEMA are, under the same circumstances, considered public safety officers under the PSOB Act. Retroactive to September 11, 2001, chaplains also are included in the PSOB Act definition of a public safety officer.

The PSOB office works with national-level police and firefighter groups to provide visibility and emotional support to this unique constituency. Concerns of Police Survivors (COPS), Inc., provides services and assistance for families and coworkers of fallen law enforcement officers during the annual National Police Week program. They also provide regional training sessions and several special seminars and extended programs for spouses, siblings, and children of slain officers. The National Fallen Firefighters Foundation provides peer counseling, training, and technical assistance for the families and coworkers of firefighters who were killed in the line of duty. Some of their specific activities include developing and disseminating publications and reference materials for survivors and senior fire department managers and creating a public awareness strategy to promote the fire service and its critical role in public safety.

Public Safety Officers' Benefits Program: Disability Benefits

The Public Safety Officers' Benefits (PSOB) Program provides disability benefits to public safety officers who have been permanently and totally disabled by a catastrophic personal injury sustained in the line of duty if that injury permanently prevents the officer from performing any substantial and gainful work. Medical retirement for a line-of-duty disability does not, in and of itself, establish eligibility for PSOB benefits.

Eligibility

PSOB Disability Program beneficiaries must comply with the PSOB Office's administrative review process by producing sufficient evidence to show that the public safety officer suffered a permanent and total disability as the direct and proximate result of a catastrophic injury sustained in the line of duty.

Most public safety officers (federal, state, and local law enforcement officers, firefighters, and members of public rescue squads and ambulance crews) are covered for catastrophic personal injuries sustained on or after November 29, 1990. As of October 30, 2000, employees of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and state, local, and tribal emergency management and civil defense agency employees working in cooperation with FEMA are considered to be public safety officers under the PSOB Program, provided they were performing official, hazardous duties related to a declared major disaster or emergency. Retroactive to September 11, 2001, chaplains also are included in the definition of a public safety officer. All line-of-duty injuries that result in a disability retirement are not necessarily covered under the Public Safety Officers' Disability Program. The injury has to prevent the public safety officer from performing any substantial and gainful work.

Applying for Disability Benefits

If mentally and physically able, the permanently and totally disabled public safety officer may file a claim directly with the PSOB Program Office. Otherwise, a legally appointed representative or the public agency where the permanently and totally disabled public safety officer was employed may file on the officer's behalf. The public safety officer must be medically retired from his or her employing agency for the line-of-duty injury he or she sustained, and the public safety officer must be receiving the maximum compensation for a permanent and total disability from his or her benefit provider. A benefit provider may be a retirement fund through the department or workers' compensation. Social Security does not count as a benefit provider.

The prerequisite disability certification (PDC) is the first process the public safety officer must satisfy before a claim is initiated. When the public safety officer or the officer's representative calls the PSOB Office to request an application, the PDC letter is sent if the officer's line-of-duty injury occurred on or after November 29, 1990. The letter describes exactly what the officer has to submit to meet PDC criteria.

If the public safety officer has met PDC criteria, a claim is initiated and the PSOB Office will request specific documentation to support the claim, including an investigation report and medical records. The public safety officer and his or her former agency also must complete the "Report of Public Safety Officer's Permanent and Total Disability" claim form. This form, in conjunction with the supporting documents, is used to determine the officer's eligibility. When the PSOB Office has received all the claimant's documentation, the medical records will be forwarded to its medical consultant. The consultant will review the claimant's records and submit a written report within 45 days to the PSOB Office identifying whether the claimant is permanently and totally disabled in accordance with the PSOB Act (42 U.S.C. 3796).

The PSOB Office will prepare a determination based on the medical consultant's findings and other requisite information. The determination is then sent to the Office of Justice Programs' Office of General Counsel for review and concurrence and to ensure that all legal requirements have been met.

Payment of Disability Benefits

The claimant is notified of the decision in writing. If the decision is favorable, the payment will be made through the U.S. Department of the Treasury either by direct deposit or by check mailed directly to the claimant's home address (provided on the "Report of Public Safety Officer's Permanent and Total Disability" claim form) within 14 business days after the claimant's receipt of notification. If direct deposit is desired, banking information will be required. If the decision is unfavorable, the claimant will receive the grounds for that finding and have 30 days from receipt of notification to request an appeal of the decision and offer any new evidence or line of reasoning on the issues in controversy.

Questions and Answers

Question:
My line-of-duty injury occurred in 1989, but I was not medically retired until 1991. Can I apply for the disability benefit?

Answer:
PSOB's Disability Program was enacted on November 29, 1990. The line-of-duty injury had to occur on or after that date. Eligibility is determined by the date you were injured, not the date you were medically retired.

Question:
If I meet the requirements of the prerequisite disability certification, does that mean I will receive the disability benefit?

Answer:
No. Meeting the requirements of the prerequisite disability certification only enables you to initiate a claim.

Question:
I was on duty and hurt my back. My doctor says I am permanently and totally disabled. Do I now qualify for the benefit?

Answer:
Your doctor's evaluation is very important to our medical consultant when he or she conducts a record review, but it is not the deciding factor as to whether you will be awarded the disability benefit.

 

Public Safety Officers' Benefits Program: Educational Assistance Benefits

The Public Safety Officers' Benefits (PSOB) Program includes the Public Safety Officers' Educational Assistance (PSOEA) Program, which expands on efforts started under the Federal Law Enforcement Dependents Assistance (FLEDA) Act (Public Law 104-238 (PDF or ASCII)) of 1996. The PSOEA Program provides assistance for higher education for the spouses and children of federal, state, and local public safety officers who have been killed or permanently disabled in the line of duty. The act was amended in 1998 (Public Law 105-390 (PDF or ASCII)) to include educational assistance to spouses and children of state and local public safety officers.

The educational assistance may be used to defray relevant expenses, including tuition and fees, room and board, books, supplies, and other education-related costs. As of October 1, 2003, the maximum award for a full-time student is $695.00 per month of class attendance. For classes taken after July 1, 2004, this rate will increase to $788 per month. (All award amounts are proportionately less for part-time students.) All PSOEA awards must, by law, be reduced by the amount of other governmental assistance that a student is eligible to receive.

This program has three primary purposes:

  1. To enhance the appeal of service in public service agencies.

  2. To extend the benefits of higher education to qualified and deserving people who, by virtue of the death or total disability of an eligible officer, may not otherwise be able to afford it.

  3. To allow family members of eligible officers to attain the vocational and educational status that they would have attained had the parent or spouse not been killed or disabled in the line of duty.

Who is eligible ?
How do I apply ?
How is payment received ?
 

Eligibility

Educational assistance through the PSOEA Program is only available to the spouse or children of a public safety officer after the PSOB death or disability claim process has been completed and benefits have been awarded. PSOB specialists work with each PSOEA applicant to confirm that the parent's or spouse's disability or death claim had previously been approved by the PSOB Office and that, in cases regarding an officer's death, the applicant had received at least a portion of the PSOB benefits. Eligibility dates for PSOB benefits can be found on the pages that discuss death claims and disability claims.

The spouse of a public safety officer is eligible to receive PSOEA funds for educational expenses at any time during his or her lifetime. However, a child of the deceased or disabled officer is only eligible to receive PSOEA funds for educational expenses that occur prior to his or her 27th birthday. Also, no spouse or child is eligible to receive PSOEA funds for a period greater than 45 months of full-time education or a proportionate period of a part-time program.

Applying for Educational Assistance

Individuals who meet the eligibility requirements should request an application for educational assistance directly from the PSOB Office. Before an application is sent out, the applicant is asked for standard information, which is then checked to verify that, as required, the PSOB Death Benefit has been received by the applicant or the applicant's spouse or parent. Also, the name of the school being attended is checked to ensure that it is on the list of eligible institutions of higher learning, as authorized by the U.S. Department of Education.

If the applicant is eligible to receive educational assistance, a packet of materials is sent out. Included in this mailing are the program regulations and a guidance letter detailing what materials the applicant must submit, such as a transcript and a list of expenses.

Based on the documentation subsequently received, the PSOB Office calculates the payment amount for which the applicant is eligible. A determination is prepared and sent along with the case file to the Office of Justice Programs' Office of General Counsel for concurrence and to confirm that all legal requirements have been met.

Because there is a maximum amount that can be paid, assistance from the PSOEA Program often does not cover all of the student's expenses. It is also important to note that, per the PSOEA legislation, Public Law 105-390 (PDF or ASCII), payments must be reduced (and may be eliminated entirely) if educational assistance has been or otherwise would have been received from other federal, state, or local government sources or public schools. Assistance from loans, private schools, or private foundations or organizations will not directly reduce PSOEA benefits. With regard to student loans, however, the PSOEA regulations state that an individual who is in default on any student loan (e.g., Stafford or Perkins loans) obtained through Title IV of the Higher Education Act of 1965 cannot receive PSOEA benefits unless those benefits are used for repayment of the defaulted loan.

Even though applicants can apply for retroactive assistance for all semesters already completed, they can request prospective assistance only for the current or upcoming semester. Therefore, applicants who are still in school typically receive multiple PSOEA awards as they submit updated documentation each time they complete one semester and prepare to attend the next. This is to ensure that students continue their schooling and make satisfactory progress, as PSOEA payments may be discontinued if the student does not achieve at least a 2.0 (letter grade of "C") grade point average.

Payment of Educational Assistance

PSOEA award payments are made through the U.S. Department of the Treasury and sent directly to the claimant. A check is mailed to the applicant's home address (as provided on the PSOEA application) within 14 business days after he or she receives a notification letter. Payment can also be made by direct deposit if the applicant provides banking information. The average time for an applicant to receive a PSOEA award is 46 weeks after all the necessary documentation has been submitted to the PSOB office. If the decision is unfavorable, the claimant will receive the grounds for that finding and have 30 days from receipt of notification to request an appeal of the decision and offer any new evidence or line of reasoning on the issues in controversy.

 

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