First Responder Retirement Fix Passes the House and More

This article was originally published here

A measure to change the retirement system for first responders who sustain injuries while on duty and must seek out new employment within the federal government was unanimously approved by the House on Tuesday.

First responder federal employees, such as law enforcement and firefighters, participate in an accelerated retirement benefits program, offering to pay more toward their defined benefit pensions with each paycheck in exchange for receiving a full annuity after 20 years of service and turning 50. They must also retire at the age of 57.

Suppose a federal first responder sustains an injury on the job that prevents them from working any longer. In that case, they are not reimbursed for the higher payments they made along the way and thus lose access to that accelerated retirement program.

The First Responder Fair RETIRE Act was proposed by Rep. Jim Langevin, D-R.I., Brian Fitzpatrick, R.-Pa., and Gerry Connolly, D-Va. This act would enable federal first responders who are compelled to seek employment elsewhere in the federal government due to a workplace injury to continue contributing to the accelerated retirement system and retire after 20 years of service and the age of 50.

The measure also allows those workers to get a refund for their prior expedited payments if they leave their federal employment before becoming eligible for an annuity.

Connolly stated on the House floor that we want to motivate our first responders to continue their commitment to this nation. He also stated that we shouldn’t hold them accountable for the harm they caused while protecting communities. And as a reward for their efforts, we ought to keep them enrolled in the retirement plan they chose when they first began their employment.

The bill was moved in July to be considered by the Senate. On August 3, 2022, the Senate Committee advanced the First Responder Fair RETIRE Act. In a letter to the committee on August 2, NARFE stated its support for the legislation.

If passed, the First Responder Fair RETIRE Act will allow federal first responders to continue their service outside their present system while still being a part of the public safety retirement system they contribute to. 

TSP Transition: Lawmaker Requests GAO Probe

The difficulties associated with transitioning the federal government’s 401(k)-style retirement savings program to a new recordkeeper will be the focus of an independent study, Eleanor Holmes Norton, D-D.C., stated last week.

Thrift Savings Plan (TSP) participants have reported difficulties accessing their accounts via the new login system, losing historical account data, and correcting beneficiary information, among other issues. This started when TSP switched to a new recordkeeper and introduced several new services like a mobile app, the capacity to access mutual funds, and sign documents electronically in June.

According to TSP officials, even though they had anticipated that the transition is expected to be “bumpy” and some participants may need to call the customer service “Thrift Line” to resolve problems with beneficiaries or request old documents related to their account, their call center vendor drastically underestimated the number of calls they would receive and was unable to meet demand, resulting in hours-long wait times.

Norton has pushed for details about what went wrong with the changeover since mid-June. She met with the TSP Executive Director Ravindra Deo on June 30, and he pledged to provide her with weekly updates on initiatives to help participants who were having difficulty.

Norton revealed last week that she would request that the Government Accountability Office (GAO) look into the changeover. The Federal Retirement Thrift Investment Board (FRTIB), which oversees the TSP, will have an inspector general, adding that she would draft legislation to that effect.

Norton said she was “profoundly concerned” about the widespread issues with the new TSP online system. She heard from constituents daily regarding the new system’s numerous problems. She said although they need to learn how this fiasco came about and establish new accountability measures at the FRTIB, she will continue to demand prompt repairs to the issues. For this reason, she would ask for a GAO study and drafting legislation to establish an inspector general at the FRTIB.

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