Tester to Introduce Legislation to Protect Injured First Responders' Pensions

(Helena, Mont.)-In the upcoming Congress, Senator Jon Tester will be introducing bipartisan legislation to protect the pensions of hard working first responders who have been injured on the job.

Tester’s bill, the Fair RETIRE Act, will help federal firefighters, law enforcement officers, Border Patrol officials, and other federal employees with physically demanding jobs receive their full retirement benefits if they are injured on the job. Currently, federal employees who are injured in the line of service and return to work for the federal government are not eligible to access the benefits they had earned before their injury.

“Firefighters and law enforcement officers sacrifice every day to keep folks safe, and they shouldn’t be financially punished if they are hurt on the job,” Tester said. “This bill is about fairness, and it ensure that the folks who help keep our communities safe are able to access the full amount of their pensions that they have been paying into for years.”

“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 in a letter to Tester, the National President of the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association. “Thank you again 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.”

“This is a very important piece of legislation to many of our members and those we represent who work in federal land management agencies, who fall under special retirement due to the nature of the work they perform,” said William Dougan, President of the National Federation of Federal Employees. “This legislation will fix a long-standing problem these dedicated first responder civil servants have had which has caused them to be moved from their retirement system to the standard federal retirement system should they incur any injury in the performance of their duties resulting in their inability to continue on in their position.”

“We are happy that Senator Tester has taken on this issue that is so important to the Federal workers who put their health and safety on the line protecting American lives and resources every day. It’s extremely important to our firefighter and law enforcement workers, that they not lose the benefits that they were promised when they hired on to do this work and have paid for during their career,” added Melissa Baumann, President of NFFE’s Forest Service Council.

Federal employees with physically demanding jobs, known as “6c” occupations, have a mandatory retirement age, and they pay an additional portion of each paycheck towards their retirement.

If 6c employees, such as firefighters and law enforcement officers, are injured on the job and unable to return to work before they fulfill their mandatory 20-25 years of service, they lose all of the benefits they have paid into the early retirement system-even if they return to work for the federal government in a non 6c designated occupation.

Tester’s bipartisan bill will help these injured employees by allowing them to continue to pay into their 6c retirement account even if they don’t return to work in a 6c designated occupation.

Additionally, Tester’s bill will allow those public servants who were hurt while performing a 6c designated occupation to retire after 20-25 years of federal service and be eligible for a lump sum payment of the benefits owed to them from their 6c retirement funds.