Washington, D.C. — U.S. Senators Susan Collins (R-ME), Jon Tester (D-MT), and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) introduced a bipartisan bill to help ensure that our country's first responders receive full retirement benefits if they are injured on the job.
The First Responders Fair Return for Employees on Their Initial Retirement Earned (RETIRE) Act would 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 are injured 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.
“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.”
“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,” Senator 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.”
“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 would 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) 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 text of the legislation is available HERE.