Fallen Officer Act of 2014

March 27, 2014

The Honorable Patrick Leahy
Committee on the Judiciary
224 Dirksen Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510

The Honorable Charles Grassley
Ranking Member
Committee on the Judiciary
152 Dirksen Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510

Dear Chairman Leahy and Ranking Member Grassley:

I am writing on behalf of the more than 26,000 members of the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association (FLEOA) to advise you of our strong support of the "Fallen Officers Act of 2014” bill to amend the Public Safety Officers’ Benefits Program (PSOB) regulations to include officers who die from climate-related injuries.

With the passage of the Hometown Heroes and Dale Long Acts, the PSOB regulations now afford certain "natural cause” deaths to meet the criteria for line-of-duty recognition and extend the payment of the one-time, Federal death benefits to those surviving families. However, on occasion, there are deaths of officers who are the fittest of the fit, the bravest of the brave, and the greatest risk-takers who have died from overexertion, severe dehydration, rhabdomyolosis, hypothermia and hyperthermia. Those deaths are not listed in the current PSOB regulations and that loophole needs to be corrected.

On June 9, 2001, Officer Charles McDonald, 35, was proud of the fact that he was trying out for Forest Park Police Department’s SWAT team. However, following an intense day of training, Officer McDonald died from rhabdomyolosis, a condition caused by extreme overexertion where the skeletal muscles manufacture a toxin that destroys the kidneys.

On November 8, 2003, Lt. Lorenzo Gomez, 38, ICE/DHS, died from rhabdomyolosis following a full-day of training where he not only did the intense training, but led it. He collapsed during the training, was taken to the hospital, and was found dead in his hospital bed the next morning.

The differences in these two PSOB claims is that Officer McDonald’s claim was paid by PSOB after a 3-year appeal process; 11 years after Lt. Gomez’s death, his surviving spouse and dependent children still are awaiting PSOB’s determination in their final appeal effort.

On behalf of the membership of the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association, we strongly support this legislation. The "Fallen Officer Act of 2014” it vital legislation that will remedy this loophole in PSOB’s criteria. The Hometown Heroes Act made it possible to recognize heart attack and stroke deaths as line-of-duty deaths. The "Fallen Officer Act of 2014” will expand on that coverage to include those to the fittest of the fit who are willing to serve on teams facing the highest risks in law enforcement.

This bill deserves the support of all Senators, and it should be enacted at the earliest possible time. Please do not hesitate to contact me if you require any additional information or assistance.

Frank Terreri