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9/11-Affected Public Safety Officers

Additional Benefits Available to 9/11-Affected Public Safety Officers

By Troy Rosasco

What is the Public Safety Officers’ Benefits Program?

The Public Safety Officers’ Benefits Program (PSOB) is a unique collaboration between the U.S. Department of Justice and federal, state, local, and tribal public safety agencies as well as national organizations. It provides compensation and other benefits to public safety personnel that became disabled in the line of duty, or to the family members of public safety personnel who died in the line of duty.

This program processes about 1,000 claims a year submitted on behalf of injured public safety workers and their loved ones.

What Kind of Compensation Can 9/11 Responders and Their Families Receive Through PSOB?

The compensation that 9/11 first responders, fire department personnel, and police officers and their families can obtain include:

  • A one-time lump sum for disability or death occurring after October 1, 2021, of nearly $390,000. An application and review process approves the funds.
  • Up to 45 months of vocational training or full-time education for surviving spouses or dependents of public safety officers who died in the line of duty.

Can Responders Receive Compensation Through Both the PSOB and the VCF?

The September 11th Victim Compensation Fund (VCF) is another program administered by the Department of Justice that also provides compensation for 9/11 responders and their families for the disabling conditions caused by exposure to the toxins of the 9/11 terrorist attack sites.

Individuals can seek compensation from both programs. However, the programs offset each other so they compensate as many affected responders as possible.

What Does It Mean if the PSOB Benefits Are Offsets?

The Dale Long Public Safety Officers’ Benefits Improvement Act of 2012 set up the mechanism that offsets the two federal 9/11 compensation programs. According to this law, the Bureau of Justice Assistance—the arm of the Department of Justice that administers the PSOB program—must reduce PSOB benefits by the amount the VCF provides.

Likewise, if someone seeks compensation through the VCF but already receives assistance through other programs such as the PSOB, the VCF Special Master must offset those benefits.

How Do Program Administrators Know if Someone Receives Benefits From Both Programs?

To offset benefits for individuals who receive compensation from both programs, the PSOB and the VCF offices share information.

Additionally, the PSOB must generate a public report every 180 days regarding the 9/11-related claims it has paid.

These reports include:

  • The number of PSOB claims related to toxic exposure following the 9/11 attacks for which a final determination was made during that reporting period.
  • The average amount of compensation provided for approved claims.
  • The number of claims that qualified for compensation through both the PSOB and the VCF.
  • The number of claims qualifying for both programs for which the PSOB made a final determination, as well as pending cases.
  • The amount of compensation for any such claims that the VCF provided.

How the Government Monitors Offsets

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) helps administer these two programs.

Under the Dale Long PSOB Improvement Act, the GAO must match claim data from the two programs to:

  • Verify whether an offset was correctly applied
  • Conduct follow-up interviews with agency officials when the offsetting information is unclear.

The GAO found that the data provided by the agencies was sufficiently reliable for determining the accuracy of claims information provided in the BJA’s180-day reports. Further, the GAO found no discrepancies between the PSOB and the VCF when offsetting benefits.

What Other Payments Do a PSOB or VCF Award Offset?

The VCF offsets collateral payments from sources such as life insurance policies, disability or death benefits including those available through pensions, and settlements through lawsuits for damages the terrorist attack caused. Payments that are not offset include charitable gifts, donations from charitable entities, and federal tax benefits received from the Victims of Terrorism Tax Relief Act.

Applying for PSOB Benefits

To apply for PSOB benefits:

  • The public safety officer, their family members, or their legal representative creates an online account with the program’s website and submits the two completed parts of the application. The public safety officer or their representative completes the first part of the application and the second part by the public safety agency.
  • The application undergoes an initial review to inspect the information for correctness and the submission of all required supporting documentation
  • Once the PSOB receives all documents for the application, it assigns a case number, reviews it to ensure it meets the program’s criteria, and makes a determination.
  • A Senior Benefits Specialist, the PSOB Director, and the program’s legal department review the determination.
  • Once the determination is final, the PSOB notifies the applicant, family member, or representative.

Can You Appeal a PSOB Award Decision?

Yes. The PSOB offers two levels of administrative appeals, including a hearing officer level and a BJA Director level. Claimants have 33 days to appeal a decision at the hearing level and 33 days to appeal a BJA Director’s decision.

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Posted under: 9/11 Victim Compensation, FDNY, The Victims' Compensation Fund, World Trade Center Health Program

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