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May 2, 2019

Tester, Daines Fight for First Responders

Senators Introduce Bill to Fairly Compensate Injured First Responders

(U.S. Senate) - U.S. Senators Jon Tester and Steve Daines reintroduced the bipartisan Putting First Responders First Act to clarify the current tax code to ensure injured first responders do not have to pay taxes on injury-related compensation. Tester and Daines introduced the bill ahead of National Police Week.

"Montana's first responders put themselves in harm's way to keep our communities safe," Tester said. "We have a responsibility to ensure that folks injured in the line of duty have full access to their disability payments. They shouldn't have to pay for their sacrifices by being unreasonably taxed or audited by the IRS."

"Montana's first responders risk their lives every day to protect our communities," Daines said. "This legislation will ensure these brave men and women will no longer endure unfair taxes or audits from the IRS as a result of the sacrifices they have made for our safety."

Background:

The legislation was inspired by the story of the now retired Billings police officer, Ladd Paulson. In 2002, Mr. Paulson was hit by an impaired driver while he was conducting a routine traffic stop on his motorcycle. He survived the near-death experience, but was left with severe injuries. After the accident, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) audited Mr. Paulson for five years in a row after he did not file taxes on treatment for his injuries. To this day, Mr. Paulson still receives letters from the IRS.

On May 18th, 2018, Tester and Daines first introduced the Putting First Responders First Act during National Police Week.

Statements of Support:

"Our nation's first responders put their lives on the line for communities across the country every day," said Heidi Paulson, Wife of Ladd Paulson, an injured retired policeman from the Billings Police Department; author of Dependence Day; member of Wounded Officers Initiative. "When they are permanently disabled in the line of duty, their ability to work and support their families is suddenly cut off. Their ability to save for their children's education and retirement is greatly diminished. Disability pensions average 50% of base pay, which is currently exempt from federal withholding tax. Without this legislation, once the officer reaches "retirement" age, those disability pension dollars suddenly become taxable. Passage of the Putting First Responders First bill means more money that these heroes can use to pay their bills. This seems the least that we can do as a nation to thank them for their service and for their sacrifice. Thank you, Senator Daines, for your efforts to support these men and women, and their families." 

"The 640 members of the Montana Police Protective Association and the 500 plus members of the Montana Retired Police Officers Association fully support the actions of Sen. Tester and Sen. Daines in introducing legislation that will benefit the officers that provided a tremendous sacrifice for Montana citizens," said Jerry Williams, Executive Director Montana Police Protective Association, President Montana Retired Police Officers Association. "Officers that are injured in the line of duty and are forced to retire because of the injury deserve the benefits provided in the legislation introduced by Sen. Tester and Sen. Daines. We can only hope that all members of Congress will support legislation to help injured officers that are forced to retire because of injury." 

"Many auditors and first responders are not aware that the IRS has ruled that service-connected disability compensation for first responders is tax-exempt, and the first responders, who gave up so much in the line of duty, end up being taxed unnecessarily," said Bill Johnson, Executive Director, National Association of Police Organizations. "By codifying the IRS Revenue Ruling and making it permanent, the Putting Our First Responders First Act will ensure permanent tax relief for those who were disabled serving their country and communities. It is the right thing to do. NAPO is grateful to have worked with Senator Daines and for his leadership on this important issue." 

"As the Chief of Police here in Great Falls, MT I am in favor of the Putting First Responders First Act," said David Bowen, Chief of Police, Great Falls Police Department. "This legislation will ease the strict requirements for disabled officers to qualify for disability benefits, ensuring that officers who are catastrophically injured in the line of duty, but can perform some level of meaningful work, would still qualify for the much-needed benefit. I urge our lawmakers to make a strong statement about the value that American Society places on the contributions of those who serve their communities in potentially dangerous circumstances." 

"The Montana Sheriff's and Peace Officers Association are in full support of the Putting First Responders First bill," said Brian M. Gootkin, Sherriff, Gallatin County. "When our responders are hurt in the line of duty, they and their families need all the help they can get for as long as necessary. We wish to thank Senators Tester and Daines for sponsoring this bill." 

"On behalf of the National Association of Police Organizations (NAPO), I am writing to you to express our full support for the Putting Our First Responders First Act." - Letter from National Association Of Police Organizations

"On behalf of How2LoveOurCops and disabled first responders across the country, I want to thank you for your continued support of our nation's heroes who serve and protect in communities across the country." - Letter from How 2 Love Our Cops

"This legislation will provide significant assistance to those catastrophically injured serving their communities by helping to alleviate the confusion over the taxability of line of duty disability pensions." - Letter from The Wounded Blue

"I am writing this letter in support of the Putting First-Responders First Act. I believe it is not only fair but vital to show these first responders that their sacrifice is not only recognized but not forgotten years down the road." - Letter from Golden Valley County Sherriff's Office

 

Office Contact Information

Senator Tester's Montana staff serves the state from offices in Billings, Bozeman, Butte, Great Falls, Helena, Kalispell, and Missoula. Please bring your concerns with federal agencies, academy nominations, and other situations to one of these Montana offices.

Billings

Judge Jameson Federal Building
2900 4th Ave N, Suite 201
Billings, MT 59101
Phone: (406) 252-0550
Fax: (406) 252-7768

Bozeman

Avant Courier Building
1 E Main Street, Suite 202
Bozeman, MT 59715
Phone: (406) 586-4450
Fax: (406) 586-7647

Butte

Silver Bow Center
125 W Granite, Suite 200
Butte, MT 59701
Phone: (406) 723-3277
Fax: (406) 782-4717

Great Falls

119 1st Avenue N, Suite 102
Great Falls, MT 59401
Phone: (406) 452-9585
Fax: (406) 452-9586

Helena

Capital One Center
208 N Montana Avenue, Suite 202
Helena, MT 59601
Phone: (406) 449-5401
Fax: (406) 449-5462

Kalispell

8 Third Street E
Kalispell, MT 59901
Phone: (406) 257-3360
Fax: (406) 257-3974

Missoula

130 W Front St.
Missoula, MT 59802
Phone: (406) 728-3003
Fax: (406) 728-2193

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