Improvements announced to federal health benefits for responders

Attorney General Eric Holder plans to bring PSOB functions, including legal, under one roof, in an effort to ensure that fallen or injured officers and their families receive benefits in a timely manner


Updated June 2015

Justice Department improves PSOB program

Several important improvements to the Public Safety Officers’ Benefits (PSOB) program were announced by Attorney General Eric Holder in May following a comprehensive review of the program by his office during the past year.

Holder discussed some of the changes his office has made to ease and expedite the process and additional changes that he anticipated would be in place in the months to come. He announced the changes during his speech at the 25th Annual National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Candlelight Vigil in Washington, D.C., where he pledged last year to reform the system that pays a federal financial benefit to eligible survivors of law enforcement officers and other first responders killed in the line of duty.

The application process was reorganized to reduce the burden on claimants by eliminating paperwork to require only the documents truly necessary to support a claim. Holder plans to streamline the process further by bringing PSOB functions, including legal, under one roof, all in an effort to improve efficiency to ensure that fallen or injured officers and their families receive benefits in a timely manner. Unnecessary outside legal review has been criticized for prolonging the review process and delaying the delivery of benefits. A new electronic case management system was implemented so claims can be expedited and families can check the status of their claims online at their convenience.

Holder’s speech is at here
 

NHTSA sees EMS use for crash notification data

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is assessing the ways in which advanced automatic crash notification (AACN) telematics systems can be used to develop dispatch and triage protocols by providing important information before emergency responders are on scene. AACN provides real-time motor-vehicle crash data from information produced live from such automobile features as OnStar and Safety Connect.

NHTSA is assessing the potential utility of these data in reducing death and disability by optimizing dispatch of appropriate EMS resources to the scene, improving triage of crash victims and arranging transport to the appropriate level of trauma care. NHTSA is also examining the current use of AACN data in EMS response and medical direction, where it exists, in developing EMS and 911 protocols by incorporating real-time information.

By collecting vehicle crash data such as location and collision severity, AACN data can potentially decrease disability and death by:
 

  • Predicting the likelihood of serious injury to the vehicle occupants
  • Decreasing response times by all necessary levels of prehospital care providers
  • Providing additional information for field triage destination and transport decisions
  • Decreasing time to definitive trauma care

AACN could also save money by validating minor crashes that don’t need a full EMS response. The strategy assessment is expected to be completed in late 2013.

“NHTSA Explores Automatic Crash Notification Use For EMS and 911” is available at here.

More responders to receive health fenefits

Emergency responders who are or who could become ill from their work on Sept. 11, 2001, at the Pentagon or Shanksville, Pa., terrorist attack sites were made eligible for health care benefits under the Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act of 2010, effective May 1, under a rule of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) published in March.

The World Trade Center Health Program (WTCHP), ultimately run within HHS, provides the long-term medical care mandated by the Zadroga Act, such as free annual medical exams and free treatment for any diagnosed 9/11-related health conditions. Prior to May 1, 2013, when the WTCHP was expanded, the program was open only to responders who worked or volunteered at the World Trade Center site.

For new responders to be eligible for the WTCHP, they must have been a member of a fire, emergency or police department, whether active or retired; worked for a recovery or cleanup contractor or were volunteers; or performed rescue, recovery, demolition, debris cleanup or other related activity at either the Pentagon or airplane crash site. Pentagon responders must have participated at the site for at least one day between Sept. 11 and Nov. 19. Shanksville responders must have worked for at least one day through Oct. 3.

HHS estimates that between 540 and 1,467 responders will enroll in the WTCHP in 2013. The total cost of initial medical exams, annual monitoring and treatment is expected to be at least $988,300 and no more than $3,203,400 annually through 2016. Due to the high-risk nature of the situation, the HHS secretary exercised the available rights to waive prior notice and comment procedures usually governing agency Rules and Interim Rules. These actions will enable responders to apply for enrollment in the WTCHP as soon as possible.

For the Interim Final Rule, which became effective May 1, see tinyurl.com/cvvzp2o. For more information about the program and a link to the application page, go to cdc.gov/wtc.

 

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