It is Police Week and while there are many ways to support law enforcement, encouraging your representative to support legislation that assists the law enforcement community is a great way to ensure lasting change. Here are three pieces of legislation currently in Congress that you, and your legislators, can get behind:
The Law Enforcement Officer Safety Act Reform Act
The Law Enforcement Officer Safety Act Reform Act, also called LEOSA Reform Act, builds upon legislation passed in 2004 which allows retired and current officers to concealed carry firearms across state lines and in “gun free” zones. The law was intended to ensure that an officer is equipped to combat a threat immediately whether or not they are on duty.
Unfortunately, states eager to restrict gun ownership have worked to circumvent this law. New Jersey, for example, has placed burdensome regulation on officers attempting to purchase and carry a firearm.
To combat this, Representative Don Bacon introduced the LEOSA Reform Act to strengthen the protections established in 2004 and restrict state’s ability to deny law enforcement officers their right to carry a firearm.
The Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association noted in press conference introducing the legislation, “There is simply no better respondent to a public crisis than a trained law enforcement who is prepared and ready to act. The LEOSA Reform Act ensures that American law enforcement remain ready to protect and serve.”
Never Forget the Heroes: Permanent Authorization of the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund Act
The tragedy which occured on September 11, 2001 has not ended for many Americans, particularly law enforcement officers who responded to the scene. In the years following 9/11 it became clear those exposed to the falling debris were also exposed to toxins which cause cancer and other health effects on those inhaling them.
In 2011, President Obama signed into law the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act which established the World Trade Center Health Program and the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund (VCF). The Act was reauthorized in 2015 with an amendment making the World Trade Center Health Program effectively permanent by extending it to monitor and treat those with 9/11-related health conditions until 2090.
Unfortunately, the VCF, which provides economic support for those dealing with 9/11-related illnesses was not extended in the same way. It’s authorization expires in 2020.
The legislation introduced by Representative Carolyn Maloney would reauthorize and make permanent the VCF program. The bill has 272 bipartisan cosponsors but has not moved through the House since its introduction in February.
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Protecting America’s First Responders Act
In 1976 Congress established the Public Safety Officers’ Benefits program to provide death benefits to survivors of officers who died in the line of duty. Since then, the law has been expanded to provide disability and educational benefits to officers and their survivors. However, these benefits are not always distributed in the most timely or beneficial way. Too often benefits go delayed due to bureaucratic procedures or rejected due to a vague and uncommon definition of “disability”.
The Protecting America’s First Responders Act would change the definition of disability for the PSOB program to match the definition used by the Social Security Administration, making it more consistent and easier to manage. Applicants who have been denied benefits will also have the opportunity to reapply after three years.
The legislation would also expand the educational benefits and allow them to be delivered monthly rather than annually. Currently, awards are also determined based on the date of application rather than the date of adjudication. This often results in a lower award amount due to cost of living increases over time. This legislation switches this to ensure survivors get the most assistance possible.
The National Association of Police Organizations noted in a letter to Senator Grassley,
“The PSOB Program was designed to offer peace of mind to men and women seeking careers in public safety and to make a strong statement about the value that American Society places on the contributions of those who serve their communities in potentially dangerous circumstances. The current state of the PSOB Program, however, does little to instill confidence in officers that the federal government will do its part to take care of them should they become disabled in the line of duty, which is why the Protecting America’s First Responders Act is so important.”