Tester’s Bill to Support First Responders, Law Enforcement, Passes House Unanimously

Bipartisan Fair RETIRE Act will support federal fire fighters, law enforcement officers, first responders injured in the line of duty

This week, the U.S. House of Representatives unanimously passed Senator Tester’s First Responders Fair Return for Employees on Their Initial Retirement Earned (RETIRE) Act which 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.

Tester introduced the bipartisan legislation in the Senate in January 2021.

“Our first responders put themselves in harm’s way to keep Montanans safe, and we owe them their full retirement benefits if they’re hurt on the job,” said Tester. “This bipartisan legislation will help to make our first responders whole, and I’m looking forward to working with my colleagues in the Senate to get this bill across the finish line and signed into law.”

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. Currently, 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.

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

Tester is a tireless advocate for the nation’s law enforcement and first responders and recently secured a pay increase for federal wildland firefighters through his bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. His Putting America’s First Responders First Act, which clarifies the current tax code and ensures injured first responders do not have to pay taxes on injury-related compensation, was also signed into law late last year.