"With Great Appreciation to the President and his Team at the Justice Department"
Patrick Yoes, National President of the Fraternal Order of Police, applauded today’s announcement that law enforcement and other public safety officers who file a death benefit claim through the Public Safety Officers’ Benefit (PSOB) program for a COVID-19 related death will be found by the Bureau of Justice Assistance to have contracted the disease in the line of duty in most cases.
“This was a vitally important issue for the men and women on the front lines during this pandemic crisis,” Yoes said. “I hope this assurance will bring some comfort and peace of mind to our officers that their families will be taken care of should they contract this horrible virus in the line of duty.”
Current law recognizes “infectious diseases” as a potential line of duty injury, but to file a claim for such an injury requires substantial documentation to definitively link exposure and contraction of the disease to a line of duty action. The new guidance from the Justice Department provides:
In general, BJA will find that the evidence shows a public safety officer with COVID‐19 contracted it in the line of duty, when (1) the officer had engaged in line of duty action or activity under circumstances that indicate that it was medically possible that the officer was exposed to the virus, SARS‐CoV‐2, while so engaged; and (2) the officer did contract the disease, COVID‐19, within a time‐frame where it was medically possible to contract the disease from that exposure. In addition, in the absence of evidence showing a different cause of death, BJA generally will find that the evidence shows a public safety officer who died while suffering from COVID‐19 died as the direct and proximate result of COVID‐19.
“Recently, frustrated by a lack of conclusive guidance, we took this matter directly to the White House and to Attorney General Barr,” Yoes. “We are extremely grateful, as always, to President Trump for his decisive leadership, especially in this time of crisis and for the exceptional team he has put together at the Justice Department.”
Bureau of Justice Assistance Position: “COVID-19 Line of Duty Deaths”
Administered by the U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA), the Public Safety Officers' Benefits Program provides death benefits to the eligible survivors of public safety officers who are fatally injured in the line of duty, disability benefits to public safety officers catastrophically injured in the line of duty, and education benefits to the eligible spouses and children of fallen and catastrophically injured officers. BJA’s PSOB Office is honored to review the more than 1,000 claims submitted each year on behalf of America's fallen and injured public safety heroes and their loved ones.
With the recent outbreak of the novel coronavirus disease, or COVID-19, America’s law enforcement officers, firefighters, and other first responders face a new health risk as they continue to selflessly serve their communities.
Under the current Public Safety Officers' Benefits (PSOB) Act and its implementing regulations, conditions caused by infectious diseases, viruses, and bacteria may be found to be an injury sustained in the line of duty.
To establish eligibility for benefits under the PSOB Act in connection with a public safety officer’s death or disability due to COVID-19, the PSOB Act and regulations require that the evidence show that it is more likely than not that the disease resulted from the public safety officer’s exposure to the disease or the virus that causes the disease, SARS-CoV-2, while performing a line of duty activity or action.
In general, BJA will find that the evidence shows a public safety officer with COVID-19 contracted it in the line of duty, when (1) the officer had engaged in line of duty action or activity under circumstances that indicate that it was medically possible that the officer was exposed to the virus, SARS-CoV-2, while so engaged; and (2) the officer did contract the disease, COVID-19, within a time-frame where it was medically possible to contract the disease from that exposure. In addition, in the absence of evidence showing a different cause of death, BJA generally will find that the evidence shows a public safety officer who died while suffering from COVID-19 died as the direct and proximate result of COVID-19.
As the PSOB Office receives claims based on COVID-19 exposure, it will work closely with survivors, officers, and agencies to obtain whatever evidence may be needed to support each claim, through all available information, including incident reports and related documents.
For questions regarding the PSOB Program or filing a claim, please do not hesitate to visit PSOB’s online portal at www.psob.gov
or email the PSOB Director at [email protected]
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