USA TODAY Investigation Finds Significant Delays in PSOB Program

A USA TODAY Media Network investigation, including a review of nearly 1,500 Public Safety Officer’s Benefits (PSOB) claims filed since 2009, identified significant delays in a number of claims in spite of numerous efforts to attempt to improve processing times. An article describing the findings of the investigation was published on September 2.
In July, the Inspector General (IG) for the Department of Justice (DoJ) published the results of an audit of the PSOB program that reviewed 2,510 claims and found a similar pattern of delays. The IG audit found three primary factors contributing to the most significant delays in processing claims:
  • Claimants filing incomplete applications, which the audit attributed in part to inadequate application guidance from the PSOB Office.
  • Claimants and agencies being unresponsive to PSOB Office requests for additional information.
  • The PSOB Office not adequately documenting the basis for its initial determination, which led the Office of General Counsel to conduct a complete review of the claim.
“Delays in processing PSOB claims are unacceptable,” said National Volunteer Fire Council (NVFC) Chairman Kevin D. Quinn. “The families and departments that have to endure a line-of-duty death deserve better than this. No one should be forced to relive the death of a loved one by having to go through a claims process that in far too many cases drags on for years. The NVFC is working with DoJ and our partners in Congress and the fire service to fix this problem.”
The NVFC has been in touch recently with several fire departments that have submitted PSOB claims that have not been paid after one or more years. Steve Hirsch, the NVFC’s Kansas Director and 1st Vice Chair has been involved with one such claim filed by the Downs (KS) Fire Department.
“Firefighter Jimmy Niles died of a heart attack at a house fire on January 18, 2011,” Hirsch said. “To this day – nearly five years later – Jimmy’s family’s claim is stuck in the system. The United States made a commitment to our firefighters, AND to their families, that they would be taken care of if a death in the line of duty struck. That commitment needs to be upheld, not just for Jimmy’s family but for all those across America in the same situation.”