Support aid to survivors of fallen public safety officers

U.S. Sen. Charles Grassley has a long record of working hard to make sure that federal government programs accomplish the purposes for which they were created. The Iowa Republican is among the Senate’s most diligent watchdogs of bureaucrats at work. He has made it central to his mission in our nation’s capital to see to it that tax dollars are used appropriately.

With that in mind, Grassley has teamed with Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., to introduce legislation to hold the Justice Department accountable for its processing of benefits claims for the survivors of public safety officers who have fallen in the line of duty.

As a result of the Public Safety Officers’ Benefits Act, which became law in 1976, death benefits are provided to families of officers struck down while protecting the public. Sadly, getting the mandated help to those entitled to it can be fraught with unacceptable delays. According to a statement by Grassley, for the reporting period July through December 2016 there were 792 active claims with the Justice Department’s PSOB Office. Claims active during the reporting period sat pending for an average of 744 days.

That appalling situation led Grassley and Gillibrand to create the Grassley-Gillibrand Public Safety Officers’ Benefits Improvement Act. It is designed to increase permanently the level of transparency surrounding this important benefits program.

“Transparency breeds accountability, and the Public Safety Officers’ Benefits program could use more of both,” Grassley said in a statement released by his office. “This legislation requires accountability for a program that has left far too many families of fallen officers in limbo for far too long. People deserve fair and timely consideration of their application for these benefits, instead of the run around from the federal government. Last year an Iowan whose claim had lingered for more than three years testified before the Judiciary Committee. Within two days of the hearing his claim was answered. This action just goes to show that the department can process other claims in a timely manner if properly motivated. We’re not asking for an automatic yes, just an answer.”

The bipartisan Public Safety Officers’ Benefits Improvement Act would require the Justice Department to post on its website weekly status updates for all pending claims and report to Congress other aggregate statistics regarding these claims twice a year.

Grassley and Gillibrand are demonstrating that bipartisanship is still alive in an all-too-partisan Senate. The Times-Republican applauds their collaboration to make government work better. We hope their colleagues in both houses of Congress will emulate this spirit. We also urge the prompt passage of this useful legislation.