DOJ to Amend Public Safety Officers' Benefits Program

The Justice Department's Office of Justice Programs on Thursday proposed minor changes in the regulation that implements the Public Safety Officers' Benefits Act, the law that provide financial support to some public safety officers or their survivors and families when the officers die or become permanently and totally disabled from line-of-duty injuries. It also provides assistance when the officers die of heart attacks or strokes sustained within a specified time of engaging in certain line-of-duty activity. DOJ said the proposed changes would amend the implementing regulation to reflect current policy and recent laws and court decisions.

Comments by mail are due by Sept. 8 to: Hope Janke, Counsel to the Director, Bureau of Justice Assistance, Office of Justice Programs, 810 7th St. NW, Washington, DC 20531 or by fax to her at 202-305-1367. Reference OJP Docket No. 1478 on the correspondence.

The changes respond to a law signed on Dec. 26, 2007, four decisions by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit in 2006 and 2007, and four decisions by the Court of Federal Claims in those same years. Examples are a change in the current definition of heart attack -- "while commonly accepted, is too narrow to capture some types of sudden cardiac-related deaths suffered by public safety officers," the bureau said in Thursday's proposed rule. Also being adjusted is how the regulation defines the term "routine." An October 2007 guidance letter says a response to an emergency call "shall presumptively be treated as non-routine"; the bureau asked Thursday for comments on whether the proposed rule successfully codifies the policies enunciated in that letter.

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