Recently Enacted Legislation Extends PSOB Coverage to Suicides

On August 16, 2022, President Biden signed the Public Safety Officer Support Act of 2022 (PSOSA). This law extends Public Safety Officers’ Benefits (PSOB) to cover certain circumstances where a public safety officer (such as a firefighter, police officer, or other first responder) dies by suicide or is totally and permanently disabled by a suicide attempt. To qualify for PSOB, the self-inflicted death or injury must follow exposure to certain traumatic events while on duty. Generally speaking, a survivor or injured public safety officer who meets the traumatic exposure criteria is eligible for PSOB if the suicide or attempt occurred on or after January 1, 2019.

PSOSA created slightly different procedures for public safety officers who attempt or commit suicide less than 45 days from exposure to a traumatic event from those who attempt or commit suicide more than 45 days after a traumatic exposure. Suicides or attempts that occur less than 45 days after a traumatic event require evidence of all the following criteria to be eligible for PSOB:

  • The public safety officer must have been exposed to one or more traumatic events while on duty.
  • The public safety officer took an action intended to cause their death.
  • The public safety officer’s action was the direct and proximate cause of the officer’s death or permanent and total disability.
  • The public safety officer’s action was consistent with a psychiatric disorder.

The main difference in PSOB eligibility requirements for suicides and attempts that occur more than 45 days after a traumatic event is instead of showing consistency with a psychiatric disorder, evidence must be shown that the traumatic exposure was a significant factor in the public safety officer’s suicidal action.

The PSOB program defines a traumatic event as:

  • A homicide, suicide, or the violent or gruesome death of another individual.
  • 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).
  • An act of criminal sexual violence committed against any individual.

For more information on the suicide and stress disorder related additions PSOSA made to PSOB, refer to the Bureau of Justice Assistance’s PSOSA FAQ sheet.

For information on the PSOB program as a whole and how to apply, refer to the Bureau of Justice Assistance’s PSOB FAQ sheet.

If you know of anyone who needs help or may be at risk for suicide, the national Suicide and Crisis Lifeline is available at 988. The NVFC also offers a First Responder Helpline and a Directory of Behavioral Health Professionals to help responders who are struggling.