Beyer Statement on Senate Passage of the Public Safety Officer Support Act to Recognize Suicide as a Line-of-Duty Death

August 2, 2022 (Washington, D.C.) – U.S. Representative Don Beyer (D-VA), co-sponsor of the House companion bill introduced by Rep. David Trone (D-MD) and Rep. Guy Reschenthaler (R-PA), issued the following statement after the Public Safety Officer Support Act passed by unanimous vote in the Senate. The bill, which previously passed in the House with 402-17 votes, would amend the federal Public Safety Officers’ Benefits Program (PSOB) to add coverage for first responders who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder or acute stress disorder following a stressful situation while on duty or to survivors of those who die by suicide as a result of service-related traumatic events and now heads to the President’s desk for signature.

“Our law enforcement officers serve on the front lines of events that can inflict severe emotional trauma – from mass shootings to protecting the United States Capitol during a violent insurrection,” said Rep Beyer. “This bipartisan bill would ensure officers suffering from work-related PTSD are offered the same benefits as those suffering from a physical injury, in addition to providing surviving family members of officers who died by suicide with PSOB death or disability benefits. I thank Reps. David Trone (D-MD) and Guy Reschenthaler (R-PA), and Senators Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) and John Cornyn (R-TX) for their leadership on this very important issue, and look forward to President Biden signing this bill into law.”

Beyer represents many of the officers who defended the Capitol on January 6th, 2021, including MPD Officer Jeffrey Smith who died by suicide days after responding to the attack on the Capitol. After a year of advocacy by his widow Erin Smith with the support of elected leaders including Beyer, the D.C. Police and Firefighters’ Retirement and Relief Board ruled earlier this year that his injury was sustained “while performing his duties” and “was the sole and direct cause of his death.”

The bill’s text includes language directing that its provisions “shall apply to any action taken by a public safety officer [as defined earlier in the text] that occurred on or after January 1, 2019,” which will effectively apply coverage to officers who responded to the U.S. Capitol on January 6th, 2021.