AG Racine & AG Slatery Lead Bipartisan Coalition of 53 AGs Calling on Congress to Pass Bill Providing First Responders With Additional Benefits

Legislation Would Allow Public Safety Officers & Their Families to Receive Federal Benefits If Their High-Risk Jobs Harm Their Mental Health

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Attorneys General Karl A. Racine (D-DC) and Herbert H. Slatery III (R-TN) today led a bipartisan coalition of 53 attorneys general—nearly unanimous support from attorneys general across the country—urging Congress to pass bipartisan legislation that would support the families of public safety officers who become disabled by post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or lose their lives to trauma-linked suicide.

“Every day our first responders work to keep our communities safe,” said AG Racine. “They risk their physical and mental health to protect District residents in often difficult, dangerous, and stressful situations. But tragically, many struggle to access mental health care, and the families of those who die by suicide are deprived of benefits. Now, our strong bipartisan coalition of attorneys general across the country is urging Congress to quickly pass Senator Duckworth’s and Senator Cornyn’s critical legislation and take care of those who take care of us.” 

“Those who serve and protect us by putting their own lives at risk deserve to know help is available,” said Attorney General Slatery. “This legislation will provide essential support for officers and their families suffering from trauma experienced in the line of duty.”

U.S. Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) and U.S. Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) introduced the legislation.

"Much like our troops who have served in combat, members of our law enforcement community also carry with them invisible wounds inflicted by traumatic incidents experienced in the line of duty," said Senator Cornyn. "That's why it's critical these men and women have easy access to mental health resources and families of officers who have died by suicide receive the benefits they are entitled to. This important bill will offer both support as well as closure to those who need it, and I'm proud to join Sen. Duckworth in introducing this legislation."

“It’s a tragedy that the families of the police officers and first responders who died by suicide after putting their own safety on the line to keep us safe are struggling to get their loved ones’ deaths to be recognized as deaths in the line of duty,” said Senator Duckworth. “That’s why I introduced my bipartisan legislation that would provide so many grieving families with the acknowledgement and support they need after their tragic losses. I’m proud and honored that more than 50 state and territorial Attorneys General—both Democrats and Republicans—have co-signed a letter of support for my bill and I’m hopeful their voices can help convince my colleagues that this should pass quickly.”

The Public Safety Officer Support Act of 2022 would close existing gaps in support for public safety officers—including police, firefighters, and emergency medical technicians—who work every day to protect the safety and health of the communities they serve. In the letter, the attorneys general laud the critical work of first responders and call on Congress to change federal law that prevents them from receiving certain benefits if they suffer from PTSD associated with their high-risk jobs.

Public safety officers regularly respond to stressful and dangerous situations. According to research, they are 25.6 times more likely to develop PTSD than members of the general public, and research shows those suffering from PTSD are at increased risk of suicide. However, these public servants and their families can receive benefits only if they suffer from physical injuries.

“Each of our jurisdictions is served by thousands of brave first responders who show up for us in tragic situations every day,” write the attorneys general. “Now we need to show up for them. These individuals deserve access to quality treatment and their loved ones deserve the benefits they have earned.”

AG Racine co-led this letter with AG Slattery, and they were joined by the attorneys general of Alaska, American Samoa, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Guam, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Northern Mariana Islands, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virgin Islands, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.

This effort builds on AG Racine’s previous advocacy for increased support for first responders. In 2020, he led a bi-partisan coalition urging congress to extend federal benefits to public safety officers killed and disabled by COVID-19.

A copy of the coalition’s letter to Congress is available here and the full text is below.


Dear Congressional Leaders,

Every day public safety officers, including police officers, firefighters, emergency medical technicians, and others, work to maintain the safety, health, and well-being of the communities they serve. They regularly respond to stressful and potentially traumatic situations, often putting their own lives in danger.

This work not only puts public safety officers at risk for harm and serious injury but it also places them at up to 25.6 times higher risk for developing post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) when compared to the general public.1 Research shows that law enforcement officers experience significant job-related stressors and exposures that may confer increased risk for mental health morbidities—such as PTSD and suicidal thoughts, ideation, intents, and behaviors—and hastened mortality.

Currently, public safety officers who have died or are disabled as a result of suicide, suicide attempts, or PTSD do not qualify for the Public Safety Officers' Benefits Program (PSOB), despite the fact that they are more likely to die by suicide than all other line-of-duty deaths combined. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, 1 in 4 police officers have had thoughts of suicide at least once in their lives.

As Attorneys General, ensuring that public safety officials have the support they need is a top priority of ours. We write today to request that Congress work expeditiously to pass S.3635, the Public Safety Officer Support Act of 2022, as a significant step toward ensuring public safety officers and their families are supported in the event of a death or disability resulting from the trauma inherent in their profession.

While this bill will not prevent suicide and trauma endured by public safety officials, it will address crucial gaps in available support for those who suffer from PTSD. First, it creates an avenue for officers to seek disability benefits for PTSD by directing the PSOB to designate work related PTSD and acute stress disorder as a line-of-duty injury for eligible officers and those who are permanently disabled as a result of attempted suicide. Second, it allows families of officers who die by trauma-linked suicide to apply for death benefits by directing the PSOB to presume that suicides are a result of job duties in certain traumatic circumstances where there is evidence that PTSD or acute stress disorder would be the cause of the injury.

This bipartisan legislation is endorsed by the American Psychological Association, the Fraternal Order of Police, the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association, National Association of Police Organizations, Sergeants Benevolent Association, National Sheriffs Association, Blue H.E.L.P, the National Border Patrol Council, and the United States Capitol Police Labor Committee.

Each of our jurisdictions is served by thousands of brave first responders who show up for us in tragic situations every day. Now we need to show up for them. These individuals deserve access to quality treatment and their loved ones deserve the benefits they have earned. We therefore strongly encourage members of Congress to support S. 3635.