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NAPO: Officers should document all coronavirus exposure to preserve PSOB benefits

Posted by: jgomori Posted date: March 31, 2020

UPDATE: NAPO is urging the Department of Justice to issue a new policy memorandum for the Public Safety Officers’ Benefits (PSOB) Program stating any public safety officer who perishes from COVID-19 is presumed to have contracted the virus in the line of duty, and are thus eligible for PSOB death benefits. NAPO sent a letter to Director of the Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) Michael Costigan making this request (see link below). There is precedence for the BJA Director to issue such policy memos and NAPO strongly believes officers deserve to know their families will be taken care of as they work in this dangerous and uncertain time. If this change is not made through regulation, NAPO will pursue it legislatively.

NAPO President Bill Johnson and NAPO’s Director of Governmental Affairs Andy Edmiston participated in a conference call with the U.S. Department of Justice’s Public Safety Officers’ Benefits (“PSOB”) program administrators regarding claims for death and injury benefits due to officers’ exposure to coronavirus (COVID-19).

PSOB works like a life insurance program for officers killed (or grievously injured) in the line of duty. It covers almost all law enforcement officers in the United States.

For COVID-19 – or any other illnesses contracted due to on the job exposure – the “claimant” (the officer or officer’s survivors) must show it was more likely than not that the illness and/or death was due to exposure to the virus while performing a line of duty activity or action, Johnson wrote in an email to NAPO members.

“Unfortunately, there is no presumption in the PSOB program that an illness or injury/death of an officer was due to an on the job exposure,” Johnson wrote. “Some states do have such a presumption, but the national PSOB program does not.”

Johnson shared these important tips to protect officers and their families if an officer is stricken with this illness and dies:

  1. Document: Document every possible, likely or confirmed exposure to the virus, including calls for service to a facility or location where the illness/virus is suspected or confirmed or with individuals who are exhibiting symptoms of the infection (dry cough, fever, shortness of breath) whether or not they have received a confirmed medical diagnosis. If the location, such as a hospital ER or a nursing home, already is known or reported to be serving infected persons, that information should be documented.
  2. How to document: Include relevant facts in any official report you are required to make and take time to note it yourself in any personal log or report. If it’s an official police department report, that’s the best, but even personal notes, made at the time of the incident, will be considered by the PSOB program in evaluating a claim.
  3. What to document: Location (type of facility, on the street, vehicle, enclosed space, etc.); whether it’s known, reported or suspected that persons with COVID-19 are/were present; proximity of contact; length of time of contact. Was the person out of the country recently? Where? Have they been in contact with other people or locations where COVID-19 has been reported or suspected?
  4. Medical information: Whether you were informed there was a diagnosis of COVID-19 for that person/location. In the absence of a formal diagnosis, especially since testing is still lagging, note such things as “I observed the person had a fever, a dry cough, and was complaining of shortness of breath, which I recognized as symptoms of infection by the COVID-19 virus, according to published guidance by the United States CDC.”

For more information, please see the guidance letter from the PSOB office below.

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