August 01, 2022

Bipartisan Duckworth-Cornyn Public Safety Officer Support Act Passes Senate


[WASHINGTON, DC] – Bipartisan legislation authored by U.S. Senators Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) and John Cornyn (R-TX) that honors the public service of police officers, firefighters and emergency responders by supporting the families of public safety officers who are lost to trauma-linked suicides passed the Senate today and heads to the President’s desk to be signed into law.

“Today, the Senate took an important action to recognize that our nation must honor and support surviving family members of police officers, firefighters and emergency responders that tragically died by suicide after experiencing work-related trauma or exposure to traumatic events while serving their communities,” said Duckworth. “Our bipartisan Public Safety Officer Support Act will help ensure surviving family members of public safety officers that died by suicide are eligible to receive support their loved ones earned through a life of service—just as surviving family members already are eligible for when a public safety officer dies from heart disease or COVID in the line of duty, or as the United States Military does in designating nearly every servicemember suicide a line of duty death.”

“Law enforcement and first responders shoulder heavy burdens each and every day as they work to keep us safe,” said Cornyn. “I’m grateful to my Senate colleagues for passing this legislation to ensure emergency workers experiencing PTSD and families who lose a loved one to suicide can get the support they deserve.”

“State and local law enforcement officers are our nation’s first responders,” said Bill Johnson, Executive Director, National Association of Police Organizations (NAPO). “They respond to our country’s greatest tragedies as well as violent and abhorrent crimes that unfortunately occur with some frequency in our neighborhoods. They have seen and experienced horrors that they cannot forget, yet they still put their lives on the line every day to protect and serve our communities.  NAPO is proud to support the Public Safety Officer Support Act and its passage today brings us one step closer to officially recognizing PTSD as a line of duty injury under the Public Safety Officers’ Benefits Program and ensuring the families of officers who tragically take their own lives due to line of duty trauma receive much-needed assistance. We thank Senators Duckworth and Cornyn for championing this important bill.”

“Long-term exposure to mental stress and traumatic events over the course of service can inflict ‘invisible injuries’ on the men and women in law enforcement, injuries that may be left untreated and have a fatal outcome,” said Patrick Yoes, National President of the Fraternal Order of Police. “These disorders can be just as disabling as a physical injury and an officer who suffers from this or a similar disorder that may result in suicide is just as service-connected as any other line-of-duty death.  This bill shows compassion and support for our officers and their families and that it provides another step towards building support for officers facing mental wellness crises.”

“The ‘Public Safety Officer Support Act’ recognizes the toll that frequent exposures to on-the-job trauma and traumatic events can have on the brave men and women of law enforcement, and that the cumulative psychological stress and strain of these exposures can all too often be overwhelming,” said President Vincent Vallelong of the NYPD Sergeants Benevolent Association. “We are extremely grateful for the leadership and persistent efforts of Sens. Duckworth and Cornyn on this important legislation and look forward to the President swiftly signing the measure into law.”

“Law enforcement face severe stressors in service to the public that are far beyond what the average American experiences,” said Larry Cosme, President, Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association. These stressors often lead to mental health issues which, if untreated, can lead to long-term disability and even death. As law enforcement face increasing rates of suicide and stress disorders, the Public Safety Officer Support Act appropriately recognizes the need for our federal health benefits system to support officers struggling with mental health issues. This legislation is needed now more than ever. We applaud Senators Duckworth and Cornyn for championing this legislation through the Senate and demonstrating their commitment to advancing the health and safety of law enforcement.”

“AFSP commends Sen. Tammy Duckworth, Sen. John Cornyn, Rep. David Trone, and Rep. Guy Reschenthaler for championing the Public Safety Officer Support Act through Congress,” said Laurel Stine, J.D., M.A., Executive Vice President and Chief Policy Officer, American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. “First responders place their lives on the line every day to protect the public, and while physical injuries sustained in the line of duty are generally recognized, mental trauma is too often not. This legislation corrects this injustice and acknowledges the daily sacrifices of first responders by addressing the stigma of suicide and mental health, and by providing support to officers and the families of officers who die by suicide or who become permanently disabled as a result of trauma encountered while on duty.”

The Public Safety Officers’ Benefits (PSOB) program provides financial support to the families of firefighters, police officers, chaplains and emergency medical technicians who die in the line of duty or who have been permanently disabled as a result of a physical injury. Duckworth and Cornyn’s Public Safety Officer Support Act, which they introduced in February, improves the PSOB program to reflect the reality that law enforcement officers, firefighters and emergency responders face a heightened risk of developing post-traumatic stress disorders that may lead to trauma-induced suicides, and that surviving family members of public safety officers that end their lives also face an elevated risk of self-harm as a result of a loved one’ loss being compounded by severe financial harm and significant emotional distress.

The Public Safety Officer Support Act would:

  • Create an avenue for officers to seek disability benefits for PTSD by directing the PSOB to designate work-related post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and acute stress disorder as a line of duty injury for eligible officers as well as those who are permanently disabled as a result of attempted suicide.
  • Allow families of officers who die by trauma-linked suicide to apply for death benefits by directing the PSOB to presume that suicides are a result of job duties in certain traumatic circumstances where there is evidence that PTSD or acute stress disorder would be the cause of the injury.

The Public Safety Officer Support Act has been endorsed by a wide range of leading law enforcement and mental health agencies and organizations: U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ); National Association of Attorneys General (NAAG); National District Attorneys Association; Fraternal Order of Police (FOP); National Association of Police Organizations (NAPO); Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association (FLEOA); Sergeants Benevolent Association; National Sheriffs Association; Major County Sheriffs of America; National Border Patrol Council; United States Capitol Police Labor Committee; Blue H.E.L.P.; The Wounded Blue; National Narcotics Officers Associations’ Coalition; National Prison Council; International Association of Police Chiefs (IACP); AFSCME; International Union of Police Associations; American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP); American Psychological Association (APA); National Association for Children’s Behavioral Health; International Society for Psychiatric Nurses; Meadows Mental Health Policy Institute; Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance, SMART Recovery; Kennedy Forum; Inseparable; National Council for Mental Wellbeing; National Association for Rural Mental Health; American Mental Health Counselors Association; National Association of Social Workers; Postpartum Support International; National Association of State and Mental Health Program Directors; American Association for Psychoanalysis in Clinical Social Work; Association for Behavioral and Cognitive Therapies.

In May, Duckworth and Cornyn applauded both the U.S. Senate Committee on Judiciary for passing their bipartisan bill and the House companion passing the U.S. House of Representatives.