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S. 3635: Public Safety Officer Support Act of 2022


The text of the bill below is as of Jun 14, 2022 (Reported by Senate Committee).


II

Calendar No. 420

117th CONGRESS

2d Session

S. 3635

IN THE SENATE OF THE UNITED STATES

February 10, 2022

(for herself, Mr. Cornyn, Mr. Durbin, Mr. Tillis, Mr. Kaine, Ms. Collins, Mr. Inhofe, Mr. Booker, Mr. Leahy, Mr. Coons, Mr. Blumenthal, and Mr. Padilla) introduced the following bill; which was read twice and referred to the Committee on the Judiciary

June 14, 2022

Reported by , with an amendment

Strike out all after the enacting clause and insert the part printed in italic

A BILL

To amend the Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act of 1968 to authorize public safety officer death benefits to officers suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder or acute stress disorder, and for other purposes.

1.

Short title

This Act may be cited as the Public Safety Officer Support Act of 2022.

2.

Findings

Congress finds the following:

(1)

Every day, public safety officers, including police officers, firefighters, emergency medical technicians, and others, work to maintain the safety, health, and well-being of the communities they serve.

(2)

This means public safety officers are routinely called to respond to stressful and potentially traumatic situations, often putting their own lives in danger.

(3)

This work not only puts public safety officers at risk for experiencing harm, serious injury, and cumulative and acute trauma, but also places them at up to 25.6 times higher risk for developing post-traumatic stress disorder when compared to individuals without such experiences.

(4)

Psychological evidence indicates that law enforcement officers experience significant job-related stressors and exposures that may confer increased risk for mental health morbidities (such as post-traumatic stress disorder and suicidal thoughts, ideation, intents, and behaviors) and hastened mortality.

(5)

Public safety officers often do not have the resources or support they need, leaving them at higher risk for long-term mental health consequences.

(6)

Whereas, although the Department of Defense already considers servicemember suicides to be line-of-duty deaths and provides Federal support to eligible surviving families, the Federal Government does not recognize public safety officer suicides as deaths in the line of duty.

(7)

In 2017, the Department of Justice approved 481 claims under the Public Safety Officers' Benefits Program under subpart 1 of part L of title I of the Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act of 1968 (34 U.S.C. 10281 et seq.), but not one of them for the more than 240 public safety officers who died by suicide that year.

(8)

Public safety officers who have died or are disabled as a result of suicide or post-traumatic stress disorder do not qualify for the Public Safety Officers' Benefits Program, despite the fact that public safety officers are more likely to die by suicide than from any other line-of-duty cause of death.

3.

Public safety officer death benefits for post-traumatic stress disorder and acute stress disorder

(a)

In general

Section 1201 of title I of the Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act of 1968 (34 U.S.C. 10281) is amended by adding at the end the following:

(o)

Post-Traumatic stress disorder and acute stress disorder

(1)

Definitions

In this section:

(A)

Mass casualty event

The term mass casualty event means an incident resulting in casualties to not fewer than 3 victims, including—

(i)

an incident that exceeds the normal resources for emergency response available in the jurisdiction where the incident takes place; and

(ii)

an incident that results in a sudden temporal surge of injured individuals necessitating emergency services.

(B)

Mass fatality event

The term mass fatality event means an incident resulting in the fatalities of not fewer than 3 individuals at 1 or more locations close to one another with a common cause.

(C)

Mass shooting

The term mass shooting means a multiple homicide incident in which not fewer than 3 victims are killed—

(i)

with a firearm;

(ii)

within 1 event; and

(iii)

in 1 or more locations in close proximity.

(2)

Personal injury sustained in line of duty

(A)

In general

Except as provided in subparagraph (B), as determined by the Bureau—

(i)

post-traumatic stress disorder or acute stress disorder suffered by a public safety officer, and diagnosed by a licensed medical or mental health professional, shall be presumed to constitute a personal injury within the meaning of subsection (a), sustained in the line of duty by the officer, if the officer, while on duty, engages in situations involving stressful, tensional, or traumatic law enforcement, fire suppression, rescue, hazardous material response, emergency medical services (including responding to opioid overdoses, or traumatic psychological or psychiatric distress calls), prison security, disaster relief, or other emergency response activity;

(ii)

post-traumatic stress disorder or acute stress disorder suffered by a public safety officer who has contacted or attempted to contact the employee assistance program of the agency or entity that the officer serves, a licensed medical or mental health professional, suicide prevention services, or another mental health assistance service in order to receive help, treatment, or diagnosis for post-traumatic stress disorder or acute stress disorder, shall be presumed to constitute a personal injury within the meaning of subsection (a), sustained in the line of duty by the officer, if the officer, while on duty, engages in situations involving stressful, tensional, or traumatic law enforcement, fire suppression, rescue, hazardous material response, emergency medical services (including responding to opioid overdoses, or traumatic psychological or psychiatric distress calls), prison security, disaster relief, or other emergency response activity; and

(iii)

post-traumatic stress disorder or acute stress disorder suffered by a public safety officer who engages in a response to a mass casualty incident, mass death incident, or mass shooting involving stressful, tensional, or traumatic law enforcement, fire suppression, rescue, hazardous material response, prison security, disaster relief, or other emergency response activity shall be presumed to constitute a personal injury within the meaning of subsection (a), sustained in the line of duty by the officer.

(B)

Exceptions

(i)

Disorder unrelated to engagement

Subparagraph (A) shall not apply if the Bureau establishes, by clear and convincing evidence, and based on competent psychological or medical evidence, that the post-traumatic stress disorder or acute stress disorder was completely unrelated to engagement in situations described in clause (i), (ii), or (iii) of that subparagraph.

(ii)

Other direct and proximate cause

Subparagraph (A) shall not apply if competent psychological or medical evidence establishes that the post-traumatic stress disorder or acute stress disorder was directly and proximately caused by something other than the mere presence of post-traumatic stress disorder or acute stress disorder risk factors.

(3)

Death or disability

(A)

In general

(i)

Death by suicide of any officer

For purposes of a claim under subsection (a), if a public safety officer described in clause (i), (ii), or (iii) of paragraph (2)(A) of this subsection dies by suicide, that death shall be presumed to be a direct and proximate result of the post-traumatic stress disorder or acute stress disorder suffered by the public safety officer.

(ii)

Disability of diagnosed officers

For purposes of a claim under subsection (b), if a public safety officer described in paragraph (2)(A)(i) of this subsection is permanently and totally disabled as a result of the post-traumatic stress disorder or acute stress disorder suffered by the public safety officer, including as a result of attempted suicide, that disability shall be presumed to be a direct and proximate result of the post-traumatic stress disorder or acute stress disorder suffered by the public safety officer.

(iii)

Disability of non-diagnosed officers due to attempted suicide

For purposes of a claim under subsection (b), if a public safety officer described in clause (ii) or (iii) of paragraph (2)(A) of this subsection is permanently and totally disabled as a result of attempted suicide, that disability shall be presumed to be a direct and proximate result of the post-traumatic stress disorder or acute stress disorder suffered by the public safety officer.

(B)

Permanent and total disability

For purposes of clauses (ii) and (iii) of subparagraph (A), an individual shall be considered permanently and totally disabled as a result of an attempted suicide or of post-traumatic stress disorder or acute stress disorder if the individual is unable to serve as a public safety officer in the same or a substantially similar role as the individual was serving prior to the attempted suicide or prior to suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder or acute stress disorder, respectively.

(4)

Applicability of limitations on benefits

(A)

Intentional actions

Section 1202(a)(1) shall not apply to any claim for a benefit under this part that is payable in accordance with this subsection.

(B)

Substance use

Section 1202(a)(2) shall not preclude the payment of a benefit under this part if the benefit is otherwise payable in accordance with this subsection.

.

(b)

Retroactive applicability

The amendment made by subsection (a) shall take effect as if enacted on January 1, 2019, and shall apply to any public safety officer who dies or is permanently and totally disabled on or after that date.

4.

GAO report

Not later than 1 year after the date of enactment of this Act, the Comptroller General of the United States shall submit to Congress a report that details benefits issued pursuant to subsection (o) of section 1201 of title I of the Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act of 1968 (34 U.S.C. 10281), as added by section 3, and includes any recommendations to improve that subsection.

1.

Short title

This Act may be cited as the Public Safety Officer Support Act of 2022.

2.

Findings

Congress finds the following:

(1)

Every day, public safety officers, including police officers, firefighters, emergency medical technicians, and others, work to maintain the safety, health, and well-being of the communities they serve.

(2)

This means public safety officers are routinely called to respond to stressful and potentially traumatic situations, often putting their own lives in danger.

(3)

This work not only puts public safety officers at risk for experiencing harm, serious injury, and cumulative and acute trauma, but also places them at up to 25.6 times higher risk for developing post-traumatic stress disorder when compared to individuals without such experiences.

(4)

Psychological evidence indicates that law enforcement officers experience significant job-related stressors and exposures that may confer increased risk for mental health morbidities (such as post-traumatic stress disorder and suicidal thoughts, ideation, intents, and behaviors) and hastened mortality.

(5)

Public safety officers often do not have the resources or support they need, leaving them at higher risk for long-term mental health consequences.

(6)

Although the Department of Defense already considers servicemember suicides to be line-of-duty deaths and provides Federal support to eligible surviving families, the Federal Government does not recognize public safety officer suicides as deaths in the line of duty.

(7)

In 2017, the Department of Justice approved 481 claims under the Public Safety Officers’ Benefits Program under subpart 1 of part L of title I of the Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act of 1968 (34 U.S.C. 10281 et seq.), but not one of them for the more than 240 public safety officers who died by suicide that year.

(8)

Public safety officers who have died or are disabled as a result of suicide or post-traumatic stress disorder do not qualify for the Public Safety Officers’ Benefits Program, despite the fact that public safety officers are more likely to die by suicide than from any other line-of-duty cause of death.

3.

Public safety officer death benefits for post-traumatic stress disorder, acute stress disorder, and trauma- and stress-related disorders

(a)

In general

Section 1201 of title I of the Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act of 1968 (34 U.S.C. 10281) is amended by adding at the end the following:

(o)

Post-traumatic stress disorder, acute stress disorder, and trauma- and stress-related disorders

(1)

Definitions

In this section:

(A)

Covered disorder

The term covered disorder means post-traumatic stress disorder, acute stress disorder, or a trauma- and stress-related disorder.

(B)

Exposed

The term exposed, with respect to an event, includes—

(i)

directly experiencing or witnessing the event; or

(ii)

being subjected, in an intense way, to aversive consequences of the event (including a public safety officer collecting human remains).

(C)

Mass casualty event

The term mass casualty event means an incident resulting in casualties to not fewer than 3 victims, including—

(i)

an incident that exceeds the normal resources for emergency response available in the jurisdiction where the incident takes place; and

(ii)

an incident that results in a sudden temporal surge of injured individuals necessitating emergency services.

(D)

Mass fatality event

The term mass fatality event means an incident resulting in the fatalities of not fewer than 3 individuals at 1 or more locations close to one another with a common cause.

(E)

Mass shooting

The term mass shooting means a multiple homicide incident in which not fewer than 3 victims are killed—

(i)

with a firearm;

(ii)

within 1 event; and

(iii)

in 1 or more locations in close proximity.

(F)

Traumatic event

The term traumatic event means an event that is—

(i)

a homicide, a suicide, or the violent or gruesome death of another individual (including such a death resulting from a mass casualty event, mass fatality event, or mass shooting);

(ii)

a harrowing circumstance posing an extraordinary and significant danger or threat to the life of or of serious bodily harm to any individual (including a mass casualty event, mass fatality event, or mass shooting); or

(iii)

an act of criminal sexual violence committed against any individual.

(2)

Personal injury sustained in line of duty

As determined by the Bureau—

(A)

a covered disorder suffered by a public safety officer and diagnosed by a licensed medical or mental health professional shall be presumed to constitute a personal injury within the meaning of subsection (a), sustained in the line of duty by the officer, if the officer was exposed, while on duty, to 1 or more traumatic events and that exposure was a substantial factor in the covered disorder;

(B)

a covered disorder suffered by a public safety officer who has contacted or attempted to contact the employee assistance program of the agency or entity that the officer serves, a licensed medical or mental health professional, suicide prevention services, or another mental health assistance service in order to receive help, treatment, or diagnosis for the covered disorder shall be presumed to constitute a personal injury within the meaning of subsection (a), sustained in the line of duty by the officer, if the officer was exposed, while on duty, to 1 or more traumatic events and that exposure was a substantial factor in the covered disorder; and

(C)

a covered disorder suffered by a public safety officer who was exposed, while on duty, to 1 or more traumatic events shall be presumed to constitute a personal injury within the meaning of subsection (a), sustained in the line of duty by the officer if that exposure was a substantial factor in the covered disorder.

(3)

Presumption of death or total disability

A public safety officer shall be presumed to have died or become permanently and totally disabled (within the meaning of subsection (a) or (b)) as the direct and proximate result of a personal injury sustained in the line of duty, if (as determined by the Bureau)—

(A)
(i)

the officer took an action that—

(I)

was intended to bring about the officer’s death; and

(II)

directly and proximately resulted in the officer’s death or permanent and total disability; and

(ii)

the officer's exposure to 1 or more traumatic events was a substantial factor in the action described in clause (i); or

(B)
(i)

the officer took an action, within 45 days of the end of the officer's exposure to a traumatic event, that—

(I)

was intended to bring about the officer’s death; and

(II)

directly and proximately resulted in the officer’s death or permanent and total disability; and

(ii)

the action described in clause (i) was not inconsistent with a psychiatric disorder.

(4)

Applicability of limitations on benefits

(A)

Intentional actions

Section 1202(a)(1) shall not apply to any claim for a benefit under this part that is payable in accordance with this subsection.

(B)

Substance use

Section 1202(a)(2) shall not preclude the payment of a benefit under this part if the benefit is otherwise payable in accordance with this subsection.

.

(b)

Retroactive applicability

(1)

In general

Except as provided in paragraph (2), the amendments made by this section shall—

(A)

take effect on the date of enactment of this Act; and

(B)

apply to any matter pending, before the Bureau of Justice Assistance or otherwise, on the date of enactment of this Act, or filed (consistent with pre-existing effective dates) or accruing after that date.

(2)

Exception

The amendments made by this section shall apply to any action taken by a public safety officer described in subsection (o)(3) of section 1201 of title I of the Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act of 1968 (34 U.S.C. 10281), as added by this section, that occurred on or after January 1, 2019.

4.

Technical fixes

(a)

Subpoena power; employment of hearing officers; authority to hold hearings

Section 806 of title I of the Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act of 1968 (34 U.S.C. 10225) is amended—

(1)

in the first sentence—

(A)

by striking The and all that follows through Assistance and inserting The Assistant Attorney General, the Bureau of Justice Assistance;

(B)

by striking by the Attorney General;

(C)

by striking Code) and inserting Code (without regard to the days limitation prescribed therein), but shall, in no event, be understood to be (or to have the authority of) officers of the United States);

(D)

by striking such hearing examiners or administrative law judges and inserting or administrative law judges; and

(E)

by striking necessary to carry out and all that follows and inserting the following: necessary or convenient to assist them in carrying out their respective powers and duties under any law administered by or under the Office.; and

(2)

in the second sentence—

(A)

by striking The and all that follows through Assistance and inserting The Assistant Attorney General, the Bureau of Justice Assistance;

(B)

by striking or any and inserting , or (subject to such limitations as the appointing authority may, in its sole discretion, impose from time to time) any;

(C)

by inserting a comma after thereby; and

(D)

by striking examinations and and inserting examinations, and.

(b)

Definitions

Section 1204 of title I of the Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act of 1968 (34 U.S.C. 10284) is amended—

(1)

in paragraph (11), by striking and at the end;

(2)

in paragraph (12)(B), by striking basis. and inserting basis;; and

(3)

in paragraph (14), by redesignating the second subparagraph (F) as subparagraph (G).

5.

GAO report

Not later than 1 year after the date of enactment of this Act, the Comptroller General of the United States shall submit to Congress a report that details benefits issued pursuant to subsection (o) of section 1201 of title I of the Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act of 1968 (34 U.S.C. 10281), as added by section 3, and includes any recommendations to improve that subsection.

June 14, 2022

Reported with an amendment