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IAFF Wins Passage of HELPS

More than 18 months of hard work and effective lobbying has paid off in an unprecedented congressional victory in the passage the HELPS retiree health care proposal and elimination of early withdrawal penalties from Deferred Retirement Option Program (DROP) accounts. Both proposals have been top IAFF legislative priorities this year.

The joint passage of HELPS and the DROP language represent the most significant financial benefits ever provided by Congress exclusively to the nation's fire fighters and other public safety employees. It is an enormous achievement, and a real and measurable benefit for IAFF members in the United States.

The bill, the Pension Protection Act of 2006, was passed overwhelmingly August 3 in the U.S. Senate. The House had passed the identical bill the previous week, and the legislation has now been signed by President Bush.

Beginning in 2007, all current and future public safety retirees will receive a $3,000 tax credit towards the cost of health insurance or long-term care insurance premiums. Depending on the retiree's tax bracket, this equals tax savings of between $540 and $870 per year. The average retiree will see a lifetime in-pocket tax savings in the tens of thousands of dollars. The total cost of HELPS is in excess of $3.4 billion over the next 10 years.

Also included is language eliminating the 10 percent penalty for withdrawals from DROP accounts prior to age 59 1/2. Beginning January 1, 2007, retirees can access DROP money at age 50.

This victory is the result of our bipartisan approach to politics and lobbying. Once again, our union has delivered real results for our membership and highlighted the value and importance of political action.                                                             

- Harold A. Schaitberger, General Presid

 

Art Lipscomb
Legislative Director
Virginia Professional Fire Fighters
18 North 8th St
Richmond, Va. 23219
www.vpff.org
Phone 804 643-8672
Cell: 434 941-4086
Fax: 804 643-4064