Public Safety Officers’ Benefits (PSOB) updates program to include COVID-19 deaths / COVID-19 line of duty deaths.
The outbreak of COVID-19 has presented difficult challenges for the entire world, as people from all walks of life are having their day to day lives severely impacted. In addition to health care workers, public safety employees are also at the epicenter of a challenging situation that seems to evolve each day. Peace officers, firefighters, and EMT’s all face dangerous risks in the course of serving their communities.
The Department of Justice (DOJ) issued a statement regarding the Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) and Public Safety Officers’ Benefits (PSOB) Program in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. Historically, the PSOB 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.
The current PSOB Act and regulations, any conditions caused by infectious diseases, viruses, and bacteria can be found to be an injury sustained in the line of duty. In order to be eligible for 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 virus resulted from the public safety officer’s exposure while performing a line of duty activity or action. While some states have laws that presume a public safety officer’s infectious disease resulted from their employment, eliminating the need for evidence of when the transmission of a disease or infection occurred, the PSOB Program has no such presumption. The important factor to not is that extensive documentation will be a key aspect of any PSOB Program claims.
Goyette & Associates has decades of experience with labor and employment matters with respect to public safety officer survivor benefits. The situation at hand is rapidly evolving, so please check back for updates and additional or subsequent posts on any PSOB issues.