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Mr. JOHNSON of Georgia. Madam Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.
H.R. 4018, the Public Safety Officers' Benefits Improvements Act, appropriately expands the scope of this important program to better assist our public safety officers and their families. The PSOB program has been an important means of supporting our public safety officers since 1976, when the authorizing legislation was enacted.
Initially, the program provided death benefits for certain officers, but it has since been expanded to apply to a wide range of those who protect us to now include Federal, State and local police officers, firefighters, public rescue squads, ambulance crews, and chaplains of those agencies.
The PSOB program currently provides death benefits in the form of a onetime financial payment to the eligible survivors of public safety officers whose deaths are the direct and proximate result of a personal injury sustained in the line of duty. The program also provides financial assistance to help pay higher education costs for the spouses and children of public safety officers for whom PSOB death or disability benefits have been paid.
This bill extends the coverage of the program to members of nonprofit rescue squads and ambulance crews who suffer fatal or catastrophic injury as a result of their performances of certain specified public safety activities within their specific lines of duty. The bill also extends the coverage to vascular ruptures in addition to the existing coverage of heart attacks and strokes occurring during non-routine line-of-duty activities.
H.R. 4018 also includes a number of other provisions clarifying the inconsistencies that have arisen due to prior amendments to the PSOB Act, and it makes the administration of the program more efficient so that these officers may more quickly obtain the benefits they and their families deserve.
Our public safety officers willingly undergo long hours and often dangerous conditions to protect all of us, and we all know that they are not compensated at a level commensurate with the dangers they face and the importance of the services that they provide. When they die or become disabled because they are acting to help us, providing these benefits is the right thing to do. I hope this bill will make this program work even better during those unfortunate instances when it is necessary.
I urge my colleagues to support this legislation, and I yield back the balance of my time.
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