The community of disabled first responders is celebrating this week after winning a major battle for benefits.

On Thursday, the U.S. Senate unanimously voted to pass new laws that would improve access to assistance for emergency responders that were personally injured in the line of duty.

It’s called the Protecting America’s First Responders Act – and it couldn’t have come at a better time.

National Police Week Candlelight Vigil for fallen officers. (LET)

National Police Week honored fallen officers that were killed in the line of duty. For those willing to sacrifice everything — we need to be ready to step up and give them the care they need when they are injured.

The legislation was authored by Senator Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.)

“This week is National Police Week, a time to honor America’s law enforcement officers for their sacrifices serving our communities. So it’s only fitting that the Senate unanimously passed our bipartisan bill to help those who have given so much to help us. This bill helps ensure public safety officers whose lives have been permanently altered by a catastrophic injury in the line of duty get the support they deserve. The House of Representatives should swiftly pass this bill and send it to President Trump,” Grassley said.

‘The Protecting America’s First Responders Act (S. 1208) updates the PSOB program’s definition of disability to ensure that officers who are permanently unable to secure meaningful gainful employment following a catastrophic injury in the line of duty remain eligible for benefits.’

 

Eddie Richardson, the Peer Support Coordinator for The Wounded Blue, a national charity for wounded and disabled police officers, and a retired disabled officer from Lexington County, SC weighed in on the bill.

“Considering the length of time that most officers wait for their benefits, and the bureaucracy involved, this bill was a necessary step to ensure that wounded officers aren’t overlooked or forgotten in the process,” Richardson said in an interview with Law Enforcement Today.

“This is particularly important in the subpoena power that is granted to the DOJ as many officers are not able to force their agencies to complete Part B, paperwork specifically for the agency they worked for, due to ongoing workers comp and civil litigation that they are forced to resort to in order to receive their regular benefits.”

HAVE A QUESTION? NEED A FRIEND? LOOKING FOR SUPPORT? CHECK OUT THE ‘FORUMS’ SECTION OF LAW ENFORCEMENT TODAY

 

“Our first responders have a dangerous job and they take extraordinary risks to keep the rest of us safe. This bill would make sure that public safety officers who are injured or killed in the line of duty – including our sick 9/11 first responders – and the families of our fallen heroes are receiving the correct amount compensation from the PSOB program. I was proud to fight with Senator Grassley to pass this bill in the Senate, and I will continue to work to ensure that it can get signed into law,” Gillibrand said. 

Legislation was originally written in 1976 to provide benefits to survivors of officers who gave their life in the line of duty.  But over time, the law has been changed to give disability and education benefits to those affected. But caseloads have built up, and sometimes take years to process.

Aurora warehouse

Aurora police officers injured in warehouse shooting. Upper row left to right: Adam Miller, Marco Gomez, John Cebulski. Bottom row left to right: James Zegar, Reynaldo Rivera, Diego Avila. (Aurora Police Department)

 

The new bill also guarantees education assistance retroactively for survivors who have paid their own education expenses while waiting for a claim to be processed.

Finally, we’re uniting politicians to put aside the issue of party lines and actually taking steps to protect those who protect us. 

TUNE INTO THE LAW ENFORCEMENT TODAY RADIO SHOW – HOSTED BY RETIRED BALTIMORE SERGEANT JOHN ‘JAY’ WILEY