Tester, Collins Aim to Protect Pensions for First Responders Injured in Line of Duty
Bipartisan Fair RETIRE Act Supports Firefighters, Law Enforcement Officers, and Customs and Border Protection Officials
(U.S. Senate) - U.S. Senators Jon Tester (D-Mont.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine) are introducing bipartisan legislation to ensure the country's first responders receive full retirement benefits if they are injured on the job.
The Senators' First Responders Fair Return for Employees on Their Initial Retirement Earned (RETIRE) Act will help federal firefighters, law enforcement officers, Customs and Border Protection officials, and other federal employees with potentially dangerous jobs receive their full retirement benefits if they get hurt while on duty. Currently, federal public safety officers lose their early retirement benefits if they are injured on the job and return to federal service in another position.
"Our law enforcement officers and firefighters who risk their lives every day to keep folks safe shouldn't be punished if they're hurt on the job," Tester said. "Taking away the pensions they've paid into for years isn't right, and this bill fixes that injustice."
"Communities across the country count on federal law enforcement officers, firefighters, and other public safety employees when tragedy strikes," Collins said. "These brave men and women make countless sacrifices to protect our communities, and their strenuous and often dangerous occupation puts them at an increased risk of injury. Should they be injured in the line of duty, this important legislation would ensure that first responders do not lose the retirement benefits they have earned."
Physically demanding federal jobs, designated "6c" occupations, require mandatory retirement after 20-25 years, so these employees pay a higher percentage of their wage into their retirement accounts. If they are injured at work and unable to complete their mandatory years of service, funds that they've paid into early retirement are eliminated, even if they return to the federal government in a non-6c position.
Tester and Collins' bill will allow federal public safety officers to retain their 6c retirement status when they return to the federal government after getting injured in the line of duty. They would still be able to retire after 20-25 years of federal service and will also be eligible to receive a lump sum payment of the benefits owed from their 6c retirement funds.
The Fair RETIRE Act is supported by the National Federation of Federal Employees, the Federal Managers Association, the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association, the Federal Bureau of Investigation Agents Association, and the National Fraternal Order of Police.
"On behalf of the 110,000 federal employees represented by the National Federation of Federal Employees, I want to thank you for again introducing the First Responder Fair RETIRE Act." said Randy Erwin, National President of the National Federation of Federal Employees. "The bill is crucial to supporting our brave Federal Firefighters and Law Enforcement Officers, who sacrifice their well-being in order to protect and serve the American people."
"It is unacceptable that the benefits they pay into the early retirement system are eliminated if they are injured on the job and unable to fulfill the mandatory years of service," said Renee Johnson, National President of the Federal Managers Association. "Your legislation corrects this and ensures these selfless federal employees receive the benefits they have rightfully earned by answering the call of duty."
"Law enforcement officers and other federal public safety employees who suffer a disabling injury in the line of duty should not be penalized by the very retirement system that ought to be honoring their sacrifice and service," wrote Nathan Catura, National President of the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association. "Thank you Senators Tester and Collins for your strong leadership on this important issue. We look forward to continuing to work with you to ensure that the Fair RETIRE Act is enacted into law as quickly as possible."
"The Fair RETIRE Act would help prevent injured Special Agents from losing the retirement benefits they have earned by allowing injured employees to retain their 6c retirement benefits if they return to work for the federal government, even if they cannot return to service in a position covered by 6c," said Thomas O'Connor, President of the Federal Bureau of Investigation Agents Association.
"These officers were severely injured in the defense of their nation and may want to continue to work for the Federal government. They should not lose the benefits they earned from their time as a law enforcement officer because they were injured in the line of duty," said Chuck Canterbury, National President of the National Fraternal Order of Police. "Your bill would allow these re-employed officers to receive the 6c retirement benefits they earned and allow them to retire after 20 years of service, just as if they were still a law enforcement officer. We are proud to support this bill."