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First Responder Benefits 

  Louisiana lawmakers have introduced federal legislation that would enhance the disability benefits for certain public safety officers in the New Orleans area and elsewhere. The proposed policy would be triggered if a first responder is permanently and totally disabled by a catastrophic injury sustained in the line of duty. In south Louisiana, that scenario could include responses before, during and after a hurricane. It also could mean a routine traffic stop or house fire that went terribly wrong.

  The legislation, which has been endorsed by the Fraternal Order of Police, builds upon another bill filed last spring by U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu and Rep. Charlie Melancon, D-Napoleonville. The First Responders Act would streamline the Department of Justice's Public Safety Officers' Benefits Program and increase benefits for spouses and children of deceased public safety officers, such as police officers, firefighters and emergency medical technicians.

  Under existing law, surviving family members receive a one-time payment of $311,810. The legislation would increase the benefit to $350,000. The legislation also creates an office within the Justice Department that distributes grants to local organizations that provide free or reduced-cost mental health services and counseling to family members. — Jeremy Alford

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