WASHINGTON, D.C. – Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge today attended a bill signing ceremony at the White House in the Diplomatic Reception Room where President Donald J. Trump signed legislation supporting law enforcement, as well as veterans.
“As Arkansas’s Chief Law Enforcement Officer, I was honored to join President Trump as he signed two important pieces of legislation that will directly benefit law enforcement,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “Grants will now be used to encourage the hiring of veterans as law enforcement officers, and a new effort has been initiated to eliminate the backlog for officers and their next of kin to receive benefits in a timely fashion. Members of law enforcement and veterans deserve our utmost respect, and I am proud to stand with our President and his administration in support of these brave men and women.”
Two pieces of legislation recently passed by Congress became law. The American Law Enforcement Heroes Act of 2017, sponsored by U.S. Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-Texas), allows for the use of Department of Justice (DOJ) grant funding to be used for hiring and training veterans for law enforcement officer positions.
The Public Safety Officers’ Benefits (PSOB) Improvement Act of 2017, sponsored by U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), aims to improve the DOJ’s processing of public safety officers' death, disability and educational assistance claims. These benefits created via the PSOB program include support for permanently disabled law enforcement officers and education scholarship funding for the next of kin of deceased law enforcement officers.
Despite numerous internal and non-legislative external efforts to reduce delays in processing claims for these benefits, the DOJ has consistently failed to process claims promptly. According to the Judiciary Committee, as of April 2016, 431 of the 738 pending PSOB applications had been pending for more than one year.
Today’s law will improve the process by providing an online portal for benefit applicants to initiate and track the progress of their PSOB program claims; directing the use of existing regulatory authority to improve the operation and efficiency of the PSOB program; allowing the DOJ to give substantial weight to evidence and findings of fact of state, local, tribal and other federal agencies in making eligibility determinations; requiring the DOJ to adopt certified factual findings from the heads of state, local, tribal and other federal agencies; clarifying that educational benefit applicants will not lose access to any authorized benefits if there are processing delays that are attributable to DOJ; reaffirming that the DOJ can use its existing array of information-gathering authorities to fully adjudicate benefit applications, including its subpoena power; and establishes that absent clear and convincing evidence to the contrary the PSOB program will not presume that an officer is ineligible for benefits.
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