Tester, Collins, Gillibrand Team Up to Protect First Responder Retirement Benefits with Bipartisan FAIR Retire Act

Bill would support federal law enforcement officers, first responders injured in the line of duty

U.S. Senators Jon Tester (D-Mont.), Susan Collins (R-Maine), and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) are teaming up to ensure the country’s first responders receive full retirement benefits if they are injured on the job.

The Senators’ bipartisan 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.

“Montanans rely every day on the brave women and men who keep our families safe, and our federal first responders and law enforcement officers shouldn’t be punished if they get hurt while serving their communities,” Tester said. “This bill will right that wrong, and ensure that the folks who protect us can access the full pensions they’ve paid into for years.”

“Communities in Maine and across the country count on federal law enforcement officers, firefighters, and other public safety employees when tragedy strikes,” said Senator Collins. “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 bipartisan bill would ensure that first responders do not lose the retirement benefits they have earned.”

“Our brave public safety officers put themselves at risk every day to keep our communities safe. It’s shameful that for years they have been denied benefits after getting hurt while doing their jobs,” said Senator Gillibrand. “While we can’t go back in time, this bill will take the first step to ensure we stand up for these brave Americans going forward. These workers, who are often on the front lines of the COVID-19 crisis, have stepped up for our country when we needed them-now our country needs to step up for them.”

Because of the physically demanding and dangerous nature of these federal jobs, designated “6c” occupations, Congress created an accelerated retirement system and established a mandatory early retirement age of 57. These employees pay a higher percentage of their wages toward their retirement, and are entitled to an annuity after 20 years of service. 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.

The First Responders Fair RETIRE Act will allow federal public safety officers to retain their enhanced 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 years of federal service and will also be eligible to receive a lump sum payment of the benefits owed from their 6c retirement funds.

U.S. Representatives Gerry Connolly (D-VA), Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA), and Jim Langevin (D-RI) also introduced companion legislation in the House.

The First Responders Fair RETIRE Act is supported by the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association, the National Federation of Federal Employees, and the International Association of Fire Fighters.

“The current federal retirement system penalizes law enforcement officers for injuries sustained on the job. Rather than supporting officers for heroically risking their lives for public safety, our system undermines their sacrifice. That is why this legislation is so important,” said President Larry Cosme of the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association. “As law enforcement have faced threats on all fronts in the last year, it is critical our Congress recognize the expense and support the financial stability of our officers. We greatly appreciate Senator Tester reintroducing the First Responder Fair RETIRE Act to do exactly this.”

“For Federal Firefighters and Law Enforcement Officers, there is a very real potential for incurring debilitating injury every day of their working lives. Year after year they risk their health and in return, they are promised an enhanced ‘6c’ retirement program paid into at a higher employee contribution rate than other employees. Tragically, after sustaining a debilitating injury, many lose their enhanced retirement. They are forced to work years longer while injured plus they lose the money they paid into the retirement plan. It’s a travesty in every sense. We thank Senator Tester and urge the Senate to take up this bill immediately,” said Randy Erwin, National President of the National Federation of Federal Employees.

“Federal fire fighters deserve the right to their hard-earned retirement when transitioning to other duties after a career-ending injury or illness,” said Harold A. Schaitberger, General President of the International Association of Fire Fighters. “On behalf of our federal fire fighter members, and more than 324,000 professional fire fighters of the IAFF, I want to thank to Senator Tester for his leadership on this important issue.”

The text of the legislation is available HERE.