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Administration Proposes Significant Cuts to Benefits of Slain Officers

The president's proposed budget calls for cutting the Public Safety Officers' Death Benefits Program from $110 million to $60 million.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

WASHINGTON -- The Obama administration is asking Congress to slash almost in half a 43-year-old Justice Department program that provides death, disability and education benefits to the families of slain police and public safety officers.

President Obama's 2010 budget reduces funding for the Public Safety Officers' Death Benefits Program from $110 million this year to $60 million for next year's budget.

The program, which pays benefits of more than $300,000 to the survivors of a safety officer killed in the line of duty, received $118 million in 2008.

A Justice Department finance spokeswoman told FOX News that the proposed cut is a false statistic because the program requires "mandatory funding," which means the money is automatically paid to all the families of slain officers.

The proposed reduction to $60 million pertains to a projection for the Justice Department's planning purposes and last year's figure was high because it included a number of families that weren't in the system before, Justice spokeswoman Melissa Schwartz said.

"Any family member who is eligible for benefits under this program will receive them," she said. "If the amount of claims surpasses the amount requested, the program will be further funded."

This budget cut comes days before National Police Week in Washington. As is customary, Attorney General Eric Holder is scheduled to attend ceremonies honoring slain and disabled police officers.

The program offers a one-time disability payment to officers who suffer "catastrophic" injuries in the line of duty. It also provides higher education subsidies to spouses and children of officers killed or permanently disabled in the line of duty.

Killings of police officers reached their lowest point in decades last year, but are rising so far this year.

So far this year, 45 officers have died in the line of duty, according to The Officer Down Memorial Page Web site. By the end of May 2008, 43 officers had been killed. For all of 2008, 134 officers died in the line of duty.

FOX News' Major Garrett and Mike Levine contributed to this report.