Congress Changes POLICE Rule – The First Time Ever
(UnitedVoice.com) – For decades, the military and Veterans Affairs (VA) recognized that combat soldiers returning home from Iraq and Afghanistan struggled with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Congress created programs to help them cope with mental health challenges and live the best life possible. Yet, law enforcement officials often find themselves struggling after experiencing a horrific event, and the system hasn’t recognized their sacrifice until now.
In the days following January 6, suicide among police became a national discussion. Four officers took their own lives in the days and weeks after. Still, others experienced mental health challenges. Due to stigmas, many didn’t talk about the pain, further complicating the matter. In the wake of an officer’s self-fatality or PTSD, the system didn’t provide financial or mental health benefits. That’s about to change thanks to a law just passed by Congress.
President Biden Expected to Sign New Legislation
On Monday, August 1, the Senate approved the Public Safety Officer Support Act. It’s now on its way to President Joe Biden’s desk for his signature. The law would provide death benefits for law enforcement officials who die from suicide after experiencing a traumatic event on the job. It will also ensure those who experience PTSD receive disability benefits.
In May, the House passed the legislation with strong bipartisan support. The Senate was much slower to act and needed some pressure. It finally passed thanks to the wife of a Metropolitan Police officer who took his life following the January 6, 2021, riot on Capitol Hill. Jeff Smith was a 12-year veteran of the force who became a target of numerous assaults after some rioters broke into the Capitol Building. His wife, Erin, spent over a year fighting for officials to designate his death occurring in the line of duty.
Mrs. Smith told CBS News she was thankful the Senate unanimously passed the bill. She added it would change the national narrative and help remove the stigma surrounding the silent injuries peace officers face. She hoped the White House would call all the widows of January 6 to attend the signing ceremony and recognize the sacrifices of their loved ones.
What Does the Legislation Overcome
Before the federal law update, the government only covered police injuries sustained during an event. It didn’t provide disability for those who experienced trauma, let alone death benefits. Many spouses faced crippling financial challenges due to injuries sustained through a loved one’s public service. Many believe the change to the law will help families recover from deep losses.
The federal government doesn’t keep an official count of how many officers die due to suicide each year. According to the Marshall Project, an average of 130 law enforcement community members take their lives each year.
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