House Passes First Responder Retirement Fix, and More
A weekly roundup of pay and benefits news.
The House on Tuesday voted unanimously to pass a bill aimed at reforming the retirement system for federal first responders who are injured during their service and forced to pursue other jobs in the federal government.
Federal employees in first responder professions like law enforcement and firefighting are part of an accelerated version of the federal government’s retirement benefits program, paying more toward their defined benefit pensions each pay check in exchange for being able to receive a full annuity once they have served 20 years and reached age 50. They also are required to retire at age 57.
Currently, if a federal first responder is injured on the job and unable to continue their service, they lose access to that accelerated retirement program and are not refunded for the greater payments they made along the way.
The First Responder Fair RETIRE Act (H.R. 521), introduced by Reps. Gerry Connolly, D-Va., Brian Fitzpatrick, R-Pa., and Jim Langevin, D-R.I., would allow federal first responders who, due to a workplace injury, are forced to pursue employment elsewhere in the federal government to continue paying into the accelerated retirement system and retire after they have served 20 years and reached age 50.
The bill also grants those employees the ability to receive a refund of their previous accelerated contributions if they leave federal service before qualifying for their annuity.
“We want to incentivize our first responders to continue their service to this nation,” Connolly said on the House floor Tuesday. “We should not punish them for injuries they sustained protecting communities. And we should reward their actions with continued inclusion in the retirement system they signed up for at the start of their service.”
The bill now heads to the Senate for consideration.
Lawmaker Calls for GAO Investigation of TSP Transition
Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, D-D.C., announced last week that she will request an independent investigation into the struggles surrounding the federal government’s 401(k)-style retirement savings program’s transition to a new recordkeeper.
Since the Thrift Savings Plan moved to a new recordkeeper and launched a number of new services like a mobile app, the ability to sign documents electronically and access to mutual funds in June, participants have reported struggles accessing their accounts through a new login system, correcting beneficiary information and the disappearance of historical account data, among other issues.
Officials with the TSP said last month that while they anticipated the transition would be “bumpy” and that some participants would need to call their customer service “Thrift Line” to fix issues with beneficiaries or to request old documents associated with their account, their call center vendor severely underestimated the volume of calls they would receive, and were unable to meet demand, leading to hours-long wait times.
Norton has been pushing for information about what went wrong with the transition since mid-June. On June 30, she met with TSP Executive Director Ravindra Deo, who promised to provide weekly briefings on efforts to resolve participants’ struggles.
Last week, Norton announced that she would request an investigation by the Government Accountability Office into the transition. She also said she would introduce legislation to establish an inspector general for the Federal Retirement Thrift Investment Board, which administers the TSP.
“I am deeply concerned about the widespread problems with the new TSP online system,” she said in a statement. “I hear daily from constituents about the many problems with the new system. I will continue to demand immediate fixes to the problems, but we need to understand how this debacle occurred and to create new accountability mechanisms at the FRTIB, which is why I am requesting a GAO report and introducing legislation to create an inspector general at the FRTIB.”