The PSOB Act provides a benefit to the eligible survivors of a public safety officer whose death is the direct and proximate result of a traumatic injury sustained in the line of duty. The Act also provides the same benefit to a public safety officer who has been permanently and totally disabled as the direct result of a catastrophic personal injury sustained in the line of duty. The injury must permanently prevent the officer from performing any gainful work. (Benefit has been approved for quadriplegics and people existing in a comatose state).
The benefit is adjusted at the beginning of each fiscal year. On October 1, 2013, the benefit adjusted to $333,604.68.
Death Benefits: State and local law enforcement officers and fire fighters are covered for injuries sustained on or after September 29, 1976. Federal law enforcement officers and fire fighters are covered for injuries sustained on or after October 12, 1984. Members of public federal, state and local rescue squads and ambulance crews are covered for injuries sustained on or after October 15, 1986. Chaplains are covered effective September 11, 2001.
Federal, state and local law enforcement officers, fire fighters and members of public rescue squads and ambulance crews are covered for injuries on or after November 29, 1990.
ELIGIBLE PUBLIC SAFETY OFFICERS
A public safety officer is a person serving a public agency in an official capacity, with or without compensation, as a law enforcement officer, fire fighter or member of a public rescue squad or ambulance crew. Law enforcement officers include but are not limited to police, corrections, probation, parole, chaplains, and judicial officers. Volunteer fire fighters and members of volunteer rescue squads and ambulance crews are covered if they are officially recognized or designated members of legally organized volunteer fire, rescue or ambulance departments.
A public safety officer's death or total and permanent disability must result from injuries sustained in the line of duty. "Line of duty" means any action that the public safety officer is authorized or obligated to perform by law, rule, regulation or condition of employment or service. If law enforcement, fire suppression, rescue or ambulance service is not a person's primary function, then, to be covered by the Act, that person must be engaged in his or her authorized law enforcement, fire suppression, rescue or ambulance duties when the fatal or disabling injury is sustained.
"Public agency" means the United States, any state of the United States, the District of Columbia, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, and any territory or possession of the United States, or any unit of local government, combination of such states or units, or any department, agency, or instrumentality of any of the foregoing.
Once the U.S. Department of Justice approves a claim for death benefits, the benefit will be paid in a lump sum as follows:
(1) if there is no surviving child of such officer, to the surviving spouse of such officer;
(2) if there is a surviving child or children and a surviving spouse, one-half to the surviving child or children of such officer in equal shares and one-half to the surviving spouse;
(3) if there is no surviving spouse, to the child or children of such officer in equal shares;
(4) if there is no surviving spouse or surviving child, to the individual designated by suchofficer as beneficiary under such officer’s most recently executed life insurance policy, provided that such individual survived such officer; or*
(5) if none of the above, to the parent or parents of such officer in equal shares.
* Beneficiaries to receive the Public Safety Officers’ Benefits death payment for line-of-dutydeath were changed by the “Mychal Judge Police and Fire Chaplains Public Safety Officer’sBenefit Act of 2002”, enacted as Public Law No. 107-196 on June 24, 2002. Live-in situations and/or same sex partners will be eligible for the PSOB benefit if the most-recent life insurance policy lists them as beneficiary. Live-ins and same sex partners who are listed as beneficiary on the most-recent life insurance policy will receive the benefit before surviving parents of the officer. If the officer is divorced, has not remarried and has no eligible children, the former spouse could receive the benefit if she is still listed as a beneficiary on paperwork the officer failed to revise. If the officer is divorced, has not remarried but has had a live-in partner for 7 years, the former spouse could receive the benefit if they are still listed as a beneficiary on the most-recent life insurance policy. IT CANNOT BE STRESSED ENOUGH HOW IMPORTANT IT IS TO KEEP YOUR LIFE INSURANCE BENEFICIARY INFORMATION UP-TO-DATE
Public safety officers cannot name their own beneficiaries under the Act. Under the Act, "child" means any natural, illegitimate, adopted, or posthumous child or stepchild of a deceased public safety officer who is:
18 years of age or younger.
19 through 22 years of age, who has not completed four years of education beyond high school, and who is pursuing a full time course of study or training.
19 years of age or over and incapable of self support because of a physical or mental disability.
LIMITATIONS AND EXCLUSIONS
No benefit can be paid:
(1) If the death or permanent and total disability was caused by the intentional misconduct of the public safety officer or by such officer's intention to bring about his or her own death or permanent and total disability.
(2) If the public safety officer was voluntarily intoxicated at the time of death or permanent and total disability.
(3) If the public safety officer was performing his or her duties in a grossly negligent manner at the time of death or permanent and total disability.
(4) To a claimant whose actions were a substantial contributing factor to the death of the public safety officer(s).
(5) To military law enforcement officers or to any of their survivors. (See Effective Dates on Page 1 to determine eligibility of fire fighters, rescue squads, ambulance crews, and their survivors.) Deaths or permanent and total disabilities resulting from stress and strain, occupational illness, or chronic, progressive or congenital disease such as heart or pulmonary disease, are not covered by the Act, unless there is a traumatic injury which is a substantial factor in the death or permanent and total disability. Medical proof of the traumatic injury, such as a blood test for carbon monoxide, may be essential for coverage in such cases.
REDUCTION OF BENEFITS
State and local benefits should not be reduced by benefits received under PSOB statute. The PSOB benefit is not reduced by any benefit that may be received at the state or local level (Rose vs. Arkansas). The benefit is reduced by certain payments made under the District of Columbia Code and may reduce benefits under Section 8191 of the Federal Employees' Compensation Act.
ATTACHMENT TAX EXEMPTION
The act ensures that the benefit will not be subject to execution or attachment by creditors. The Internal Revenue Service has ruled that the benefit is not subject to federal income tax (Revenue Ruling No. 77-235, IRB 1977-28) or to federal estate tax (Revenue Ruling No.79397).
The Public Safety Officer's Benefits Act of 1976, Public Law 94430 (PSOB), authorizes the Department of Justice (DOJ) to prescribe the maximum fee that a representative may charge a claimant for services rendered in connection with any claim before the Bureau. Contracts for a stipulated fee and contingent fee arrangements are especially prohibited by the PSOB regulations, 28 C.F.R. 32.22 (b). DOJ assumes no responsibility for payment.
FILING A CLAIM
Eligible survivors or disability claimants may file claims directly with the U.S. Department of Justice, or may instead file through the public safety agency served. Normally, the public safety agency provides the information that enables the U.S. Department of Justice to determine whether the circumstances of the death or permanent and total disability entitle a claimant to a benefit payment. The public safety agency prepares a Report of Public Officer's Death or Permanent and Total Disability to accompany the survivors' or disabled public officer's claims. The U.S. Department of Justice will make the final determination on whether and to whom a benefit should be paid. To initiate the claim visit http://psob.gov or call (888) 744-6513.