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Connolly Applauds Senate Passage of First Responder Fair RETIRE Act

The legislation, which now heads to President Biden's desk, guarantees fair retirement for federal first responders injured on the job

The U.S. Senate passed the First Responder Fair RETIRE Act, bipartisan legislation to ensure federal firefighters, law enforcement officers, and other federal first responders qualify for full retirement benefits if they are injured on the job and return to the federal workforce. The House passed the legislation unanimously in July, 2022. The legislation was introduced in the House by Congressman Gerry Connolly (D-VA), the Chairman of the House Subcommittee on Government Operations, Congressman Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA), and Congressman Jim Langevin (D-RI). Companion legislation in the Senate was introduced by Senator Jon Tester (D-MT). The bill now heads to President Biden’s desk for signature.


Given the hazardous nature the job required of Federal first responders, Congress created an accelerated retirement system for these positions and established a mandatory retirement age of 57. Referred to as “6c” for the section of the law in which this retirement system was established, federal first responders are entitled to an annuity after serving for 20 years and reaching age 50. They pay a greater percentage of their salary into their retirement system, and their annuity amount is calculated at a higher rate than other federal employees who make their payments over the course of 30 years.

The First Responder Fair RETIRE Act addresses inequities facing federal first responders who may become injured on the job and are then unable to continue their service before full retirement. The Fair RETIRE Act allows federal first responders to stay in the 6c retirement system if they are placed in another civil service position outside of the 6c system after returning to work from a duty related injury. The bill also allows these employees to receive a refund of their accelerated contributions should they be separated from service before they are entitled to an annuity.


“Our federal firefighters, Capitol Police officers, Secret Service agents, Customs and Border Protections Officers, and other federal law enforcement officials put their lives on the line every day for our fellow Americans,” said Connolly. “We have a responsibility to uphold our promise to those that are injured on the job and ensure their first responders’ benefits are fully protected. They shouldn’t be penalized, especially when they are still committed to public service.”


“I thank Senator Tester for his unwavering support in getting the  First Responder Fair Retire Act across the finish line,” Connolly continued. “Our bipartisan legislation will ensure federal firefighters, law enforcement officials, Border Patrol officers, and other federal first responders qualify for full retirement benefits if they are injured on the job.”


The First Responder Fair RETIRE Act is supported by the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association, the National Fraternal Order of Police, the National Federation of Federal Employees, the International Association of Firefighters, the National Association of Police Organizations, the National Treasury Employees Union, and the Senior Executives Association.


"Fire fighters deserve a dignified retirement,” said Edward A. Kelly, General President of the International Association of Fire Fighters. “It is why the International Association of Fire Fighters has supported the First Responders Fair RETIRE Act. Our job is dangerous, and the risk of injury is high. Providing federal fire fighters with access to their full retirement benefits if they're injured on duty is right and fair. The IAFF is grateful to Senator Jon Tester and Representative Gerald Connolly for advocating on behalf of our nation's fire fighters, who work tirelessly to keep all of us safe."

“For decades, when a federal firefighter, law enforcement officer, other any first responder got injured on the job, they could have their hard-earned pension unfairly stolen from them,” said National Federation of Federal Employees National President Randy Erwin. “Thanks to this legislation, their pension is now safe. I thank Chairman Connolly for his unrelenting leadership over many congresses to get this done. In the end, this bill passed the House 417-0 and then passed ‘under unanimous’ consent in the Senate. On behalf of our nation’s federal first responders, we thank Chairman Connolly for his support to protect those injured in the line of duty.”


Rep. Connolly outlined the importance of the legislation in an OpEd for the Hill in October of 2021.


Full text of the legislation is available here.

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