Dr. Ruiz Calls for Action to Support Families of Fallen First Responders

Tiani Jadulang

Washington, D.C. – Today, on the first day of National Police Week, Congressman Raul Ruiz, M.D. (CA-36) took to the House floor to call for Congress to take up his legislation, the Heroes Lesley Zerebny and Gil Vega First Responders Survivors Support Act, which would increase the financial assistance provided to the families of law enforcement officers killed in the line of duty. The legislation was inspired by the deaths of Palm Springs Police Department Officers Lesley Zerebny and Gil Vega, who were tragically killed in the line of duty on October 8, 2016.

“Today marks the first day of National Police Week, and our fallen heroes and their families are weighing heavily on my mind,” said Dr. Ruiz. “We must…pass my bill in its entirety to fully honor our fallen heroes. I urge my colleagues to follow words with action and follow praise with pragmatic solutions that will improve the lives of fallen first responders’ families.”

BACKGROUND

The Heroes Lesley Zerebny and Gil Vega First Responders Survivors Support Act would support families of fallen first responders by making four key changes to the Public Safety Officer Benefits (PSOB) program:

  1. Increases the PSOB death and disability benefit from $370,376 to $550,000.
  2. Increases the education benefit from $1,265 to $2,200 and sets the inflation rate to reflect the actual cost of rising tuition.
  3. Authorizes a GAO study to identify ways to improve access and utilization of the PSOB education benefit.
  4. Fixes the benefit determination date by setting it to the date of disbursement rather than the date of death.

Last fall, portions of Dr. Ruiz’s bill were signed into law in the Protecting America’s First Responders Act, bipartisan legislation aimed at improving access to benefits for law enforcement and first responders who are disabled in the line of duty. Specifically, the bill included Dr. Ruiz’s provision to fix the benefit determination date so that families would not miss out on tens of thousands of dollars owed to them.

Now, Dr. Ruiz is calling for Congress to take up his legislation in its entirety to increase the PSOB death and disability benefit and to get law enforcement families the benefits they deserve.

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