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Family of Capitol Officer Who Committed Suicide Awarded Line-of-Duty Benefits

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Former U.S. Capitol Police Officer Howard C. Liebengood’s family won the first claim under the recently passed Public Safety Officer Support Act on Tuesday. Liebengood committed suicide in the days after working when rioters stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6. 

The law is part of the Public Safety Officers’ Benefits (PSOB) Program, which President Biden signed into law in August. The law recognizes the impact of traumatic events on public safety officers and their mental health, which includes considering claims for officer death, and significant injury due to suicide or attempted suicide.

Around the time of the new law, four former Capitol Police Officers had committed suicide, Jon Jackson reported for Newsweek. 

“While no amount of money will bring Howie back to his family, their successful claim is an important step in acknowledging that law enforcement suicides are service-connected and should be seen for what they are—line of duty deaths,” said Patrick Yoes, National President of the Fraternal Order of Police, in a statement. “Howie’s family will always be part of our family.

The PSOB Office reviews over 1,200 claims submitted each year on behalf of disabled and fallen public safety officials and their families, awarding over $2.4 billion in death and disability benefits since 1976. 

“We hope the changes to the Public Safety Officers’ Benefits (PSOB) program, which allowed Howie to receive this designation, will serve as a model for other entities that offer similar benefits and recognition,” said Liebengood’s family in a statement.

“This is an important step in a longer effort to change outdated processes and attitudes. We also hope that this helps other families who have felt the pain of losing a loved one to suicide.”

The Public Safety Officer Support Act supports first responders who encountered PTSD or died by suicide after exposure to specific events from work retroactively to Jan. 1, 2019. 

The events must include over three casualties, three left dead from a “common cause,” or mass shootings that left three dead within one event nearby. 

“Anyone who knew Howie knew he was kind-hearted and fiercely loyal,” Liebengood’s family said. “We all desperately miss his one-of-a-kind smile and his warm, gentle temperament, but we take some solace in knowing that Howie officially has received this well-deserved honor.”

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