G reeting, I hope everyone had a wonderful holiday season filled with great memories with family and friends. I would like to take a moment to remember the family of Russell Hayes, El Dorado Springs Fire Department who gave his life in service to his community, this past October. Our organization has had the honor of working with the Hayes family and the El Dorado Springs FD.
I have had the honor of presenting to many fire service agencies and organizations regarding Line of Duty Death (LODD). If you have attended any of my training classes, you may recall me sharing that when someone is considering the loss of an agency member and has to determine if this meets LODD criteria, that we must apply the circumstances of the loss a minimum of 5 times, to begin to find an answer. The Federal Public Safety Officer Benefit (PSOB), the State of Missouri Line of Duty Compensation, the National Memorial, the State of Missouri Memorial and the International Association of Fire Fighters each have their own defining parameters. Sometimes the answer is easy, and the circumstances surrounding the death will meet the parameters of each organization. It can be very confusing for families and agencies when the circumstances of the death meet one or two of the parameters, but not all. This is especially true with it comes to Federal and State benefits.
I recently attended a benefits update training class hosted by the Bureau of Justice Assistance Programs through the Department of Justice (DOJ). The class provided us new information regarding the Federal PSOB benefits and how the laws have changed that impact the circumstances in which the benefit may be considered compensable.
The Department of Justice has been working very hard to eliminate obstacles, making the benefit easier to achieve. Navigating the process is still very complex and filled with many nuances.
While there were several changes in the PSOB rules and regulations, I want to highlight the ones that may affect you the most.
Candidate Officer Provision
In certain cases, a person in training to become a public safety officer may be covered for benefits if the trainee is employed by a covered agency (public or instrumentality of), is officially enrolled as a trainee in a formal or recognized training program, and has legal authority or responsibility.
Out of Jurisdiction Provision
In certain cases, a person who meets the federal criteria of a public safety officer and employed by a covered agency (public or instrumentality), may be covered off duty, if they are providing aid / rescue / etc., outside of their own jurisdiction, so long as the act is not forbidden, the out of jurisdiction agency authorizes the public safety officer to perform the act (can be retroactive), AND the surviving family member have been paid the maximum allowed benefits by law for performing the action (work comp – state benefit).
Volunteer Fire Department Provision
VFD’s no longer will be required to submit their charter or meeting minutes showing how they were formed. It will be presumed to be as such. The requirement for a statement from an elected official will still be required.
Physical Fitness & Training Provision
Physical fitness claims have been somewhat difficult to prove without other identifiable stressor events being present. We are required to provide direct and proximate relationship between identifiable stressor events for and any heart attack, stroke, or vascular rupture (Hometown Heroes Act) to be potentially compensable. If you have attended any of my classes, we discussed that in order for the physical fitness program to potentially meet their criteria, it had to be a part of a structured and monitored program. The DOJ has clarified the requirements physical fitness programs must meet, in order for the program to be considered.
• The officer formally participates as a trainee or trainer in a structured activity within an official training (or fitness) program of the officer’s agency and
• The structured activity is required by the agency, officially tested, graded, or times by the agency, or directly supervised, proctored, or monitored, for example, by a member of the agency in the vicinity of the trainee.
• The official fitness program is captured in a policy, plan, process, or system to train officers in fitness activities to a particular standard; is officially sponsored, conducted or authorized by the agency the officer serves; and is intended to train officers in specific fitness activities relevant to the officer’s line of duty. Key elements of an official fitness program include:
- Title of Fitness Program
- Statement of Purpose
- Description of Requirements, Goals, Objectives
- Approved Fitness Activities
- Performance Standards
- Evaluation, Supervision, Monitoring Methods
- Approving Official
- Effective Date
If you would like an actual copy of the DOJ directive related to training and fitness, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will forward you a copy.
National Fallen Firefighters Foundation occupational illness recognition: The National Fallen Firefighters Foundation has indicated that as of January 1, 2018 they will now honor any deaths directly resulting from cancer, disease, or infection, that are defined as meeting the criteria of the home state occupational exposure presumptive laws. This is a significant change from past practice and, on validation, will now provide recognition and allow families to participate in the National memorial. Please note – this provision does not change the requirements set forth by the Federal PSOB program in which a direct and proximate parallel must be established from the call in which the cancer / occupational illness occurred, to be benefit eligible.
If you have any questions related to Line of Duty Death, the various benefit process, or if you would like to schedule training for your department or region, please do not hesitate to ask.
Best wishes for a safe and Happy New Year!