July 10, 2016

With Families Of Fallen First Responders Waiting Years To Receive Federal Benefits, Senator Gillibrand & Congressman King Announce Bipartisan Bill To Cut Red Tape & Help Families Get Compensation Their Loved Ones Earned

Average Wait for Decision on Federal Benefits More Than a Year for Families of First Responders Who Died In the Line of Duty; Some Families Waiting Two or More Years for Compensation

New York, NY – U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand and Congressman Pete King today announced bipartisan legislation, the Public Safety Officers’ Benefits Improvement Act, to cut bureaucratic red tape for families of fallen first responders who are seeking compensation that their loved ones earned from the federal government. Under the Public Safety Officers’ Benefits Program, a federal program, families of public safety officers – police, fire, and EMT – who died as a result of their work or in the line of duty can receive financial compensation from the federal government.

However, according to a report by USA Today, the average wait for a decision by the Public Safety Officers’ Benefits Program is more than a year, with some families waiting two or more years for the compensation. These include the families of first responders who worked at Ground Zero after the 9/11 attacks. Senator Gillibrand’s bipartisan legislation would help cut bureaucratic red tape and reduce the amount of time families have to wait to get compensation.

“The Public Safety Officers’ Benefits Improvement Act would go a long way toward helping us take care of the families of our fallen first responders,” said Senator Gillibrand. “Our public safety officers know that death or serious injury is a real risk in their jobs, but they show up to work anyway, ready to help and willing to sacrifice if that’s what it takes to make their communities safe. And when tragedy does strike, we should make it as easy as possible for their families to get the compensation they deserve and need. I will continue to urge all of my colleagues to support this bill, and I hope to see it passed into law soon.”

“Our first responders always put themselves in harm’s way. Unfortunately too many have made the ultimate sacrifice and lost their lives. The Public Safety Officer Benefits Program is a commitment to these heroes and their families. It is unconscionable that this commitment is too often mired in bureaucratic red tape. This legislation will reduce the delays and ensure that this commitment is honored in a timely and respectful manner,” said Congressman King.

“The Public Safety Officer Benefit program is a vital resource for first responders and their families,” said Congressman Jerrold Nadler. “I have worked for many years to reform the program, starting with expediting the payment of benefits for those killed on 9/11 and expanding the definition of eligible beneficiaries in the Mychal Judge Act. This bill makes much needed improvements to ensure that the program works as intended and properly honors those who made the ultimate sacrifice in the line of duty by easing undue hardship and burdens on grieving families. Thank you to Senator Gillibrand for introducing this important legislation.”

“Since September 11th, we have continued to lose members of the FDNY family, more than 110 of our members to date, because of illnesses directly related to their work in the rescue and recovery effort at the World Trade Center,” said Fire Commissioner Daniel A. Nigro. “It’s our job to fight for them, to honor them and to stand up for their families to make certain they are cared for after their terrible loss.”

The bipartisan Public Safety Officers’ Benefits Improvement Act would make the process for the families of fallen first responders and public safety officers to apply for and receive their compensation more transparent and more efficient, so that these families can receive the financial support they deserve and need when a loved one dies as a result of their job. It would require the Public Safety Officers’ Benefits Program to report – publicly – the status of every claim, so that families can know if and why their compensation is being delayed. The legislation would also give substantial weight to the findings and records of federal agencies, state agencies, and local agencies about the cause of the public safety officer’s death, so that families do not have to reproduce records that already exist. These steps would greatly reduce the wait time for families seeking the compensation they deserve and need from the federal government.