President Biden recently signed a bill on Tuesday, August 16, that will make benefits available to the families of officers who commit suicide or suffer from PTSD.
The Public Safety Officer Support Act of 2022, a bipartisan effort, passed the Senate with unanimous consent, and classifies suicide as a “line-of-duty” death.
“First responders often experience more trauma in one day than many of us will experience in our lifetimes,” bill sponsor Representative David Trone (D-Maryland) said. “This takes a significant toll on the officers and sometimes leads to disability or even suicide.”
The bill will expand the Public Safety Officers’ Benefits Program — which previously only addressed physical injuries sustained by officers on duty — by making families of officer suffering from the mental health impact of PTSD and suicide eligible for benefits.
Supporters of the bill hope it will shine a spotlight on the mental and emotional struggles faced by law enforcement.
Erin Smith, whose husband died nine days after the Capitol riots on January 6, fought for months to receive compensation for the loss.
“I have gone through hell and back to get my husband’s death declared line of duty, and to get the Metropolitan Police Department and the city of D.C. to recognize that the brain injury he received on duty is the reason he is no longer here with us today,” Erin Smith stated.
Without this bill, Smith and others like her would not receive health insurance or income following the death of their spouse.
“This bill is not only for my husband, but for all law enforcement and first responder families that have been tossed to the side because no one believed that their family members’ death was line of duty and caused by their job,” Smith continued.
The legislation will allow all public safety officers the potential to receive disability benefits for PTSD caused by severe trauma in the line of duty and classifies suicide as a “line-of-duty death.”
The DOJ also weighed in on the bill with their support.
“Every day, public safety officers across the country put themselves in harm’s way to respond to some of the most difficult and traumatic moments that our communities face,” Attorney General Merrick B. Garland said in a press release. “The Justice Department welcomes the passage of the Public Safety Officer Support Act of 2022, which will enable us to provide support to the families of fallen officers who have died by suicide and to officers who have suffered debilitating trauma-related mental health injuries.”
The signing ceremony for the bill took place behind closed doors.