Skip to Highlights
Highlights

In 1976, Congress established the Public Safety Officers' Benefits (PSOB) program, which is administered by the Department of Justice (Justice) and provides lump-sum payments to eligible public safety officers and their survivors after a line-of-duty death or permanent and total disability. The program also provides educational benefits to an eligible officer's spouse and children. GAO was asked to determine (1) the extent to which claimants receive PSOB program benefits and how long the claims process takes, (2) any issues raised by state and local agencies and others who assist claimants in seeking benefits, and (3) the extent to which the PSOB program follows recognized government standards and guidelines for effective program management. To address these objectives, we reviewed PSOB claims that were opened during fiscal years 2006 to 2008 for all three types of claims, reviewed relevant agency documents, and interviewed PSOB program officials, representatives of advocacy organizations, and state and local officials in five selected states.

Skip to Recommendations

Recommendations

Recommendations for Executive Action

Agency Affected Recommendation Status
Office of the Assistant Attorney General 1. To strengthen PSOB's accountability, enhance potential claimants' and the general public's awareness about its benefits and program accomplishments, and ensure claimants and those who assist them receive the most efficient, consistent, and effective service, the Assistant Attorney General of OJP should direct the Director of Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) to establish appropriate performance goals and measures related to the program's key activities, such as claims processing, outreach, and application assistance, based on reliable information about processing times, feedback from stakeholders and cost-effective approaches.
Closed - Implemented
In May 2014, the Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) posted the PSOB performance measures and related data on its public website. Specifically, for claims established in fiscal year 2013, information on the average time to collect basic required documents for death and disability claims and to make a claim determination after the documents are received is now publicly available. Furthermore, program officials reported that they have scheduled several meetings with public safety stakeholder groups in fiscal year 2014 to discuss the program and its performance measures. Although BJA has not established performance goals for this program, the posting of information on its performance measures and planned dialogue with external stakeholders may enhance program accountability, transparency, and awareness and promote discussions on increasing efficiency and effectiveness.
Office of the Assistant Attorney General 2. To strengthen PSOB's accountability, enhance potential claimants' and the general public's awareness about its benefits and program accomplishments, and ensure claimants and those who assist them receive the most efficient, consistent, and effective service, the Assistant Attorney General of OJP should direct the Director of BJA to, once goals and measures have been established, collect and use reliable data to monitor and publicly report on how well key program activities are being performed, including how successfully PSOB's automated claims-processing system, Workflow, is addressing agency needs.
Closed - Implemented
The Bureau of Justice Assistance has begun publicly reporting on two performance measures: average time to receive basic required claims documents (including outreach to claimants) and average time to review and determine a claim. This report is available at the bureau's website: https://www.psob.gov/files/psobmeasures.pdf. We commend the bureau's actions to report on program performance but it would be helpful to put performance in proper context to determine how well performance goals are being met.

Full Report