president biden signs law providing benefits for first responders who suffer from ptsd
Politics

President Biden signs law providing benefits for first responders who suffer from PTSD

us capitol
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Bipartisan legislation signed Tuesday by President Biden will provide benefit coverage for first responders who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder or acute stress disorder after responding to a traumatic event.

The Public Safety Officer Support Act, sponsored by Rep. David Trone (D-MD) in the House and Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) in the Senate, will also expand survivor benefits for families by changing the definition of a “line-of-duty death” for the federal Public Safety Officer Benefit to include suicide in cases of first responders who respond to a mass casualty event or other kinds of traumatic events.

The law’s changes were drafted to apply retroactively, which means the bill’s provisions will apply to families of law enforcement and other first responders who died by suicide after responding to traumatic events dating back to Jan. 1, 2019.

The law’s expansion of benefits will therefore include the surviving next of kin for officers who died by suicide after defending the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6th, 2021.

Congressman Don Beyer (D-VA-08), whose Northern Virginia seat represents many of the officers who defended the Capitol on Jan. 6th, 2021, cosponsored the bill after meeting with his constituent Erin Smith, widow of MPD Officer Jeffrey Smith and a forceful advocate for this bill.

Officer Smith died by suicide days after responding to the attack on the Capitol, where he was struck in the head with a metal pipe, an injury which Erin Smith later said “changed him.”

“Our first responders work on the front lines of events that inflict severe trauma, including the Jan. 6th defense of the Capitol,” Beyer said. “Four of the officers who put their lives at risk to protect our democracy that day later died by suicide. First responders who face these conditions to protect the public deserve recognition, respect, and financial recompense just like those of officers who experience other physical injuries in the line of duty. We owe so much to these heroes and to their surviving family members – people like my constituent Erin Smith, who has been fighting stigma and bureaucracy to get recognition for the sacrifices made by her husband, Officer Jeffrey Smith.

“In enacting this bill, Congress has taken a strong step to counter the stigma wrongly attached to mental illness and suicide. There is more that we can do on that front, and I look forward to continuing those efforts with my colleagues. For anyone experiencing crisis, please know that you can get help at any time of day or night by calling or texting 9-8-8,” Beyer said.

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