NFFE Advocacy Results in House Passing the First Responder Fair Retire Act 417 to 0!
July 15, 2022
Late Tuesday evening, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the First Responder Fair Retire Act (H.R. 521) 417 to 0 in a bipartisan display of support for injured federal first responders. The bill requires agencies to place injured first responders who return to work with injuries into “equivalent positions” as they held before, thereby protecting their employment and accelerated retirement status. In addition, the act prevents first responders from losing thousands of dollars from forfeited retirement contributions that were paid by the employee at a higher than standard rate under their “6(c)” retirement system.
“NFFE has been advocating for this fix to 6(c) retirement for years now,” said NFFE National President Randy Erwin. “We are exceedingly pleased that Congress acted to preserve the employment and retirement classifications for injured first responders. I appreciate the leadership from Representative Connolly and Chairwoman Maloney for their leadership on the bill and for calling it to the House Floor under a suspension of the rules for quick passage. I urge the Senate to pass the accompanying bill and put it on President Biden’s desk as soon as possible.”
Bob Beckley, a member of the NFFE Executive Committee and former Forest Service smokejumper, has been the driving force behind the bill so that future first responders don’t have to endure what he did after getting injured on duty. Beckley was assigned to fires in the Selway Bitterroot Wilderness area on the Idaho-Montana border. After he jumped, the wind suddenly changed, and he was taken into the top of a 120-feet tall Grand Fir tree. As trained, Bob started to rappel down the tree, but the top of the tree broke off. Bob fell 80 feet to the ground, with the broken top landing on him. It took five hours to get him to emergency medical care. His back was broken in five places, his heart stopped twice during evacuation, and he was told later that he might never walk again.
Because of the extent of Bob’s injuries, he could have easily stayed on workers compensation or collect disability retirement for the rest of his life. Instead, Bob chose to return to work when he was able. Upon doing so, he was reassigned to a different position where he lost thousands of dollars in retirement contributions and was forced to work injured for an additional 10 years to retirement.
“Even though this bill has passed the House, there’s still work to do,” said Beckley. “The bill now goes to the Senate (S. 129). I urge our members, friends, and supporters to reach out to their Senators and ask them to pass the bill to help protect injured first responders. Call your Senators today!”