Bill Would Help Retired Federal Firefighters

The Federal Employees' Benefits Equity Act of 2001 (H.R. 2523), introduced in the House of Representatives on July 17, 2001, by Elijah E. Cummings (D-Md.) (the bill has 13 co-sponsors), would eliminate inequities in the Civil Service Retirement System for federal firefighters and certain other employees (law enforcement officers, air traffic controllers, nuclear materials couriers, members of the Supreme Court and Capitol police, and their survivors). It would specifically help 17 state of Ohio-certified federal firefighters whose jobs were abolished when the NASA Lewis Research Center in Cleveland, Ohio, was closed in 1996.

This situation has been brought to attention by Gary Schuld, a retired career federal firefighter who had served for 25 years. He explains that his job and the jobs of 16 other career firefighters and EMT-As were eliminated when the NASA Lewis Research Center was closed. Schuld and the others were members of the facility's fire department, which had been in existence for more than 50 years. The jobs were cut as a result of cuts in the NASA budget.

Schuld and a small minority of fellow firefighters with at least 20 years of federal firefighting service were given an involuntary federal firefighters retirement in January and February 1997, according to Schuld. The firefighters, in their mid-40s, were about six years short of qualifying for a full federal firefighter retirement pension (age 50 with at least 20 years of firefighter service). They had paid into the pension system at a higher rate to qualify for retirement as a federal firefighter. The elimination of their jobs negatively affects their pensions.

No action was taken on the bill in last year's congressional session. It is now before the Subcommittee on Civil Service and Agency Organization subcommittee of the House committee on government Reform.

Members of Congress have told the firefighters that they need more public support for the bill.

Schuld is asking members of the fire service to ask their representatives to support H.R. 2523. Support can also be indicated by signing on to "The Retired Firefighters Need Help" petition to the 107th U.S. Congress and U.S. Senate. Schuld's Open Letter to the Members of Congress and the petition are available at www.petitiononline.com; Click on Search Petitions (left), search "Firefighters Need Help."

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