More changes are on the horizon for PSOB -- one to include fire police officers and another to streamline the filing process.
"...The era of red tape in this vital program is over..." U.S. Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. announced Monday night during the 25th annual candlelight vigil honoring the nation's fallen law enforcement officers.
The Public Safety Officers' Benefits Program -- administered by the Department of Justice -- awards $328,000 to survivors of firefighters, EMS personnel and law enforment officers killed in the line of duty.
Holder announced: "Over the years, through our Public Safety Officers’ Benefits Program, the Department (DOJ) has done important work in this regard. We’ve also heard, and responded to, a number of concerns about this program," Holder told those gathered at the memorial service.
"Last year, I pledged before this audience that – although these problems did not originate with this Administration, they will end with it. I indicated that it’s time to bring about fundamental changes.
"And tonight, I’m pleased to inform you that the Department’s Office of Justice Programs has just made a series of significant improvements to the PSOB Program. We’ll expedite the claims process with a new electronic case management system that allows families to check the status of their claims, online, whenever they want.
"We’ll reduce the burden on them by requiring only the documents truly necessary to support a claim. We’ll streamline the process further by bringing all PSOB functions, including legal, under one roof. Finally, we’ll ensure transparency and build an ongoing dialogue with those who need and deserve our assistance through regular consultation and meetings with our partners in field.
These changes will ensure that fallen officers and their families can get the benefits to which they’re entitled in a timely manner. The era of red tape in this vital program is over..."
Holder's announcement came eight days after Congressman Joe Courtney, D-CT, filed a bill to make Fire Police officers killed on duty eligible for benefits.
Fire police officers in many departments direct traffic and perform other functions. However, if they didn't have fire suppression training, their families wouldn't be eligible to receive the award.
The Fire Police Officer Fairness Act -- filed on May 6 -- has the support of all the major fire service organizations.