Tennessee Consolidated Retirement System
A few years ago the State of Tennessee General Assembly passed legislation allowing an early retirement benefit for Police Officers and Firefighters. EMS was originally included in this legislation but was taken out as it was found to be in violation of the Federal Age Discrimination Act. In order to introduce legislation in Tennessee to include EMS
in this Public Safety Officer benefit a change to the Federal statute has to happen, basically, it will take an act of Congress just to allow EMS providers the opportunity to ask for this change. Is this impossible? No, itâ€™s just going to take a united effort across the State of Tennessee to get this done. Below we have outlined a plan with information and links. We encourage EVERY person that is covered by TCRS to participate in this. Send the information out to your staff; ten, fifteen, twenty voices from your service will get more attention than one.
The Federal Age Discrimination Act was established in 1967. Around 1996 Congress recognized the physical demands that were being placed on Firefighters and Police Officers and changed the Federal law to exclude them from the Age Discrimination Act. This opened the door for state and local governments to enact rules and legislation to allow the early retirement of these individuals.
Emergency Medical Service Systems were developed throughout the 60â€™s and 70â€™s so when Congress changed the Age Discrimination Act for Police and Fire there wasnâ€™t a lot of concern for EMS as it was still in its infancy. Now, some 50+ years later we, as providers, see the toil this career is taking on our bodies and minds.
In 2013 Tennessee Representative Watson and Tennessee Senator Bell introduced House Joint Resolution 69 (HJR 69) encouraging Congress to modify 29 U.S.C. 630 to include emergency medical services personnel for purposes of retirement benefits. This resolution passed both the House and Senate and was signed by Governor Haslam on March 27, 2013. Currently the request is in Washington DC.
Senate and Congressional action on this request would have a direct impact on every EMT and Paramedic in the State of Tennessee that is covered under TCRS. Nationally the impact would depend on how each state is set up with retirement benefits and options. For that reason everyone that is covered by TCRS should contact their United States Congressman and Senator and encourage this amendment. To find their Congressman and Senator they can go to www.tennesseeambulance.com, look for ENGAGE (on the menu bar). Click that and type in their zip code. We would suggest an email, fax or phone call instead of mail as it takes so long for mail to be processed at the Capitol.
We have included a sample of the idea that should be communicated to your Congressman and Senator. Feel free to add to the information or change it around as you see fit.
In the last Legislative Session of the Tennessee General Assembly the Tennessee Senate and House passed HJR 69 urging Congress to modify the definition of firefighter to include those persons that are Emergency Medical Technicians and Paramedics. When 29 U.S.C. 630 (j) was written Emergency Medical Services was in it’s infancy so it is understandable how EMT’s and Paramedics were not included in this definition. Over the span of time what has happened is EMT’s and Paramedics have become excluded from various realms of the public safety sector. Police Officers, Firefighters, EMT’s and Paramedics are all vital components of a public safety system yet EMT’s and Paramedics are oftentimes excluded from benefits that are extended to their counterparts in the Fire and Law Enforcement sectors.
Modifying 29 U.S.C. 630 to include EMT’s and Paramedics would be a step in the right direction to making all of the public safety sectors equal in legislation, not just in responsibilities. I have attached a copy of HJR 69 that was passed and signed by Governor Haslam on March 27, 2013.
Once Congress Amends 29 U.S.C. 630 then TASA can go back to the Tennessee Legislative body and work towards amending the TCA to include EMS in the Public Safety Retirement Benefit. If passed on the state level it would become an option for agencies to adopt it or not adopt it.
We encourage everyone to contact their United States Congressman and United States Senator in regards to this issue. In March we can make this a Tennessee Legislative priority during the National EMS Day on the Hill in D.C. If you are going to attend that event we would be available to go with you to talk to your Congressman in a group, again strength in numbers.
Individual benefits to retirement age reduction:
Currently under TCRS an employee can retire with full benefits at 30 years of service regardless of age. An employee can take retirement at 25 years but their benefit would be drastically reduced. By changing the Federal and State law local entities would have the option to mandate retirement after 25 years of service.
Fact: We as a society are getting larger. According to the CDC, 30% of the adult population are considered to be obese. No state in the United States has an obesity rate of less than 20%. 31% of the people in Tennessee are considered to be obese. With obesity comes health related issues, thatâ€™s where we as EMS providers come in. The constant lifting, tugging, carrying and pulling patients (not just obese patients but all patients) up stairs, down stairs, from the back bedroom on the third floor of their home, all of this unnatural wear and tear on the body will, over time, have negative effects.
â€¢ Share this information with your employees and encourage their participation
â€¢ Locate and email your United States Congressman and United States Senator
â€¢ Make plans to attend the National EMS Day on the Hill in D.C. on March 26 where we can discuss this with your Representatives.