After an 18th month delay, the Department of Justice has finally issued proposed regulations implementing the Hometown Heroes Act, which expands the Public Safety Officer Benefit (PSOB) to fire fighters who die from a heart attack or stroke suffered in the line of duty. The IAFF will be carefully reviewing the draft regulations and providing comments to ensure the interests of its members and their families are protected.
The regulations provide that if a public safety officer dies as a result of a heart attack or stroke, the death may be presumed to have been the result of a personal injury sustained in the line of duty. The law requires that the heart attack or stroke occurred while the officer was on duty (or within 24 hours of the end of the work shift) during which time he or she engaged in an emergency response activity or participated in a training exercise. Currently, the benefit under the PSOB is $275,658.00 and this new provision will only cover deaths occurring on or after December 15, 2003.
Three days after the legislation was signed into law, Brother Thomas Brown of Baltimore County, MD Local 1311, died in the line of duty from a heart attack. Since his death, 21 IAFF members have died in the line of duty from either a heart attack or stroke. None of these families has received benefits due to the delay in issuing these regulations, which is why the IAFF, along with other fire service organizations, has pressured the Bush administration to issue these regulations.
“We are pleased that these regulations are finally available for review, but it is deeply unfortunate that these families have been put on hold for almost two years,” says IAFF General President Harold Schaitberger. “The IAFF will be reviewing these rules word by word to ensure they are consistent with the letter of the law we worked so hard to enact.”
In addition to implementing the Hometown Heroes Act, the regulations also address beneficiary changes to the PSOB as required by the Mychal Judge Police and Fire Chaplains Safety Officers Benefit Act. The legislation, named after FDNY Chaplain Father Judge who was killed on September 11, 2001, provides for coverage of fire chaplains and allows fire fighters who do not have immediate family to bequeath the benefit to a non-relative.
The proposed regulations also include certain technical and administration changes to the way the program is administered.
The regulations have a 60-day public comment period, which runs through September 26, 2005. Once the comment period closes, the Department of Justice will review the comments and make any changes it deems appropriate before issuing the final rule.