We can all agree that our first responder communities deserve better. They literally put their lives on the line every time they go to work. We must do a better job taking care of them.

A new bill introduced in Congress aims to do exactly that. If signed into law, it would allow retired first responders to buy into Medicare starting at age 50.

Here is the press release from Malinowski’s Congressional website. The bill was introduced Friday.

Representative Tom Malinowski (NJ-7) introduced the Expanding Health Care Options for Early Retirees Act, a bill to allow retired first responders—including police officers, firefighters, and EMTs—to buy into Medicare beginning at age 50. 

He was joined by lead original cosponsor Representative Harley Rouda (CA-48). Senator Sherrod Brown of Ohio introduced the companion measure in the Senate.

First responders often retire earlier than other workers and can experience gaps in coverage until they become eligible for Medicare at 65. This legislation ensures that retired first responders who are 50 and older will have access to affordable, comprehensive health insurance—regardless of whether their pension plan provides for coverage upon retirement. 

Coverage provided under this bill would be identical to the coverage provided under the existing Medicare program. And retirees would be eligible for tax credits, subsidies, and tax-advantaged contributions from their former employer or pension plan. Further, this bill specifically requires that it be implemented in such a way that it will not negatively impact the existing Medicare program, beneficiaries, or trust fund.

The bill has been endorsed by the International Association of Firefighters (IAFF), the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP), the National Association of Police Organizations (NAPO), the National Conference on Public Employee Retirement Systems (NCPERS), the New Jersey Firefighters Mutual Benevolent Association, and the Professional Firefighters Association of New Jersey, among other organizations. Representative Malinowski is a member of the Congressional Fire Services Caucus and the Congressional Law Enforcement Caucus.

“First responders always come when we need them,” said Representative Malinowski.“This bill would ensure that when they retire, they have access to quality and reliable health coverage they have earned and deserve.”

“Our nation’s failure to provide first responders with affordable health insurance is unacceptable. I’ve spoken with firefighters, police officers, and EMTs across Orange County who are paying sky-high premiums with limited retirement benefits. I’m proud to introduce this common-sense and long overdue solution, along with Senator Brown and Rep. Malinowski, which will directly impact the lives of our nation’s bravest,” said Representative Rouda.

“The International Association of Firefighters supports the Expanding Health Care Options for Early Retirees Act. Firefighters and other public safety workers put their health and safety at risk protecting their communities. This act will allow firefighters the ability to buy into Medicare at age 50 so they can get the reliable, quality healthcare they need as a result of service to their communities,” said Harold Schaitberger, General President of the International Association of Firefighters.

“We believe this legislation addresses a very real and critical need for the men and women who served their communities as public safety officers by providing them with a bridge of coverage following their retirement until they reach the age of 65,”said Pat Yoes, National President of the Fraternal Order of Police.

“Firefighters in New Jersey and throughout the country put their lives on the line every day,” said Dominick Marino, President of the Professional Firefighters Association of New Jersey.

“This line of work is physically demanding, and it can take a serious toll on workers’ health. The Expanding Health Care Options for Early Retirees Act will help to ease the transition between work and retirement for firefighters and other first responders and will offer the security that comes with having access to quality coverage upon retirement.”

“Firefighters and other first responders serve selflessly to protect our communities. They are our neighbors and our friends who, every day, go beyond the call of duty to keep us safe. The Expanding Health Care Options for Early Retirees Act will ensure that these men and women who put themselves in harm’s way will have access to quality and affordable health insurance coverage upon retiring,” said Eddie Donnelly, President of the New Jersey Firefighters Mutual Benevolent Association.

The bill has drawn mixed responses from the emergency responder community. Two commenters on the website EMS1.com came from different angles.

The first user, whose screenname is bobw9886, said: “Define first responder? Why do retirees that have health insurance through their employer need Medicare? This looks like an attempt to give municipalities a way to cut insurance for retirees.”

Mikebuzz followed by saying:

“Great start! However, does this include VOLUNTEER First Responders? What’s wrong with offering First Responders the same or similar federal medical benefits that Military receives? And D.C. needs to do more with the benefits such as offering First Responders educational benefits (similar to the G.I. bill), housing benefits, employment, employment preferences by law, and many other federal benefits offered to military but not first responders. It’s a great start, but still many questions!!”

Did you know that Law Enforcement Today has a private new home for those who support emergency responders and veterans?  It’s called LET Unity, and it’s where we share the untold stories of those patriotic Americans.  Every penny gets reinvested into giving these heroes a voice.  Check it out today.

In June, wounded officers got a big win thanks to a woman who was told to give up… who was told it wouldn’t happen.

Now the woman who stood by her injured husband’s side has a big win to her name that can help thousands of people in the future.

Debbie Roselle is the wife of Phil, an officer who still has a long recovery ahead of him.

In September of 2017, the 30-year-veteran of the Norwalk Police Department was accidentally shot. It happened while at his precinct’s shooting range.

“It went through my arm and into my chest, where the bullet still remains,” Roselle said.

Officer Roselle is a diabetic, and his injuries were so severe he was forced to retire. Eventually his kidneys failed, and since then he’s been on dialysis until he gets a transplant.

“I saw him losing some hope and I needed to fight and I was trying to figure out what I could do,” Debbie Roselle said.

While he fought for his health, she took on a battle of her own – she fought for his compensation. She spent countless hours lobbying and testifying in front of politicians in an attempt to change Connecticut law.

“I was told from the very beginning, ‘What you’re doing is impossible. Just stop while you’re ahead,’” Debbie said.

Debbie’s goal?  She wanted public safety state employees to receive their entire pension until they’re 65 if they’re forced into retirement by an injury, not the up to 75 percent that existed.

She pushed for the bill for more than a year, and it was passed on Wednesday.

“These first responders put their lives on the line every day to protect and serve us, so that we can be safe and God forbid something happens, they need to be protected,” Debbie said.

The governor still has to sign the bill into law, which is expected to happen.

Last week, Debbie shared a letter with America about the battle her family has faced.  We want to share that with you again today.

Always stay on the offense.  Our officers need and deserve it.

He was shot in the line of duty and became permanently disabled.  Now his family feels as though they’ve been forgotten. It’s time for that to change. 

To Whom It May Concern:

My name is Debbie Roselle and I am married to Officer Phil Roselle, a dedicated Norwalk Police officer who dedicated over 30 years of public service to our community.

On September 5, 2017, Phil was accidentally shot by his sergeant during an on-duty firearms training. Ever since this preventable incident occurred, Phil’s physical & mental health has been on a steady decline. Several independent doctors have concluded that because of this shooting incident, Phil has permanent damage to his dominant arm/hand and that his diabetes has been severely impacted due to the bullet still lodged in his rib cage. This is causing his kidneys to fail, creating the need for a kidney transplant.  The combination of these injuries has resulted in Phil being unable to return to work and perform the duties required of a police officer.

journey

(Courtesy Roselle family)

 

We have two young children at home that we are trying to raise and provide the best life possible for. My children have witnessed a steady decline in their father’s health and are terrified that their father may die due to the complications from the shooting incident that in my opinion could have been prevented.

 I cannot put into words what this tragic and avoidable incident has done not only to Phil, but also to my entire family. Our children have not been the same since Phil was shot. Our youngest son Ryan is 10-years-old and his brother Michael is 15. Both of our boys sleep with their father on a nightly basis in fear that they may lose their dad. Seeing my young boys cry themselves to sleep each night tears me up inside. I have reached out to many people looking for advice and help. 

Through my research, I have learned that when a police officer is tragically killed in the line of duty, their surviving family members/beneficiary are entitled to statutory benefits, both Federal & State.

Sadly, though, if that same officer survives being shot, yet he/she is permanently injured, there are no benefits available. In fact, these permanently injured police officers often receive a decrease in their pay and are forced to retire and are unable to earn what they once did, to no fault of their own. Learning this information, I can’t help but to think that any officer who is lucky enough to survive a shooting incident is essentially punished for surviving.  Frankly, this is unacceptable and an injustice to all that serve and protect our communities so we can all live in peace and tranquility.

journey

(Courtesy Roselle family)

Through many hours of tedious research, I came upon an organization called Violently Injured Police Officers ( V.I.P.O.) from Massachusetts (www.vipo911.org). I took it upon myself to reach out to one of the co-founders of this organization, Mario Oliveira (retired detective/Somerville PD) who was violently & permanently injured in the line of duty and now retired. Through speaking with Detective Mario Oliveira, I learned about “Special Legislation” 100% disability benefits that are/have been available to public safety personnel in the State of Massachusetts.

Over the past year, I have worked very closely with V.I.P.O co-founder Mario Oliveira to create legislation that will provide our catastrophically & permanently injured first responders with 100% disability pay rather than our current disability rate (worker’s compensation) which amounts to 66 percent of their base salary.

Connecticut Senator Robert Duff drafted our legislation and filed it at our state capitol where my family and I, along with the co-founders of V.I.P.O., testified as to the importance of our bill (S#556). Since the bill has been filed, it has passed the Senate with an overwhelmingly amount of support. The bill (#556) currently sits in the House of Representatives awaiting approval.

If the bill is passed, our State of Connecticut first responders would be eligible to receive 100% disability pay if God forbid they are catastrophically & permanently injured in the line of duty.

Since meeting V.I.P.O. co-founder Mario Oliveira, I have assisted in providing peer support to several injured police officers and their wives about the retirement process in our state and our efforts in conjunction with V.I.P.O. to bring much needed change to our state.

It’s time to protect those who put their lives on the line each day to protect us. I feel this is my life mission. We owe it to our first responders who protect our communities every day.

Respectfully,

Debbie Roselle

Norwalk Connecticut

While we’re on the topic of taking care of our emergency responders… we need to ask a question we posed Friday night in an article:

We can’t afford to become numb to the deaths of police officers – but is it too late?

There were two unspoken rules when I worked in television:

  1. If it bleeds, it leads.
  2. The news cycle is short.  

I couldn’t help to think about that today as I read the headlines on Law Enforcement Today.  We lost two more incredible officers.  They are two stories that will be briefly covered by the mainstream news, because they’re juicy enough to pull in viewers for a few minutes.  And then as soon as the next tweet comes out about Trump, the story will move on.

But we can’t afford to forget.  We can’t afford to simply MOVE ON.  Because in doing so, we lose a piece of our soul as a country.

Today, Deputy Sandeep Dhaliwal was murdered in cold blood – shot during a traffic stop. 

His death came just hours after Florida Highway Patrol Trooper Tracy Vickers was killed in a violent car crash.

 

Chris Cosgriff, the founder of the Officer Down Memorial Page, put it best:

“When a police officer is killed, it’s not an agency that loses an officer, it’s an entire nation.”

Yet it’s so easy to forget.  To lose context.  To miss the brief media coverage – if it’s even there – and then get fired up about the next political story that hits our social media newsfeed.

Let me share some numbers with you.

91.  That’s how many officers have been killed in the line of duty so far this year.

164.  That’s how many officers were killed in the line of duty in 2018.

927.  That’s how many officers were killed in the line of duty over the past five years.

1,715.  That’s how many officers were killed in the line of duty over the past ten years.

23,854.  That’s how many officers have been killed in the line of duty for all time.

That’s a lot of hurting families.  Husbands, wives, sons, daughters, mothers, fathers, friends.  That’s an immeasurable amount of grief, pain and sorrow.  

We’ll never be able to put a number on how many lives those losses have destroyed.  How many loved ones have turned to opioids or other ways of dealing with their pain.

We’ll never know how many lives we lost to suicide from those who could no longer cope.

But here are some numbers that ARE being tracked by Blue H.E.L.P.:

159. That’s how many officers have died by suicide so far in 2019.
167. That’s how many officers have died by suicide in 2018.
169.
That’s how many officers have died by suicide in 2017.
142. That’s how many officers have died by suicide in 2016.

Let’s talk about the media again for a second.  In their hunger for the “if it bleeds, it leads” search… they love buzzwords.  And one that they seem to frequently toss around is “epidemic”.

“We have a suicide epidemic.”

Or:

“We have a gun epidemic.”

Here’s what I’d position to you.  Perhaps what we really have is a “soulless” epidemic.

Perhaps we’ve become so desensitized to violence, death and destruction that we no longer value life the same way we once did.  Perhaps we’re so caught up in our battles with our friends, family, neighbors and co-workers on social media that we’ve forgotten out to treat people.  How to take care of people.  How to LOVE people.

We’ve forgotten how to grieve.  How to mourn.  How to heal.

We’ve been blessed to work side by side with Concerns of Police Survivors (C.O.P.S.) as they rebuild the shattered lives of families who’ve lost officers in the line of duty.  

We’ve partnered with organizations such as Blue H.E.L.P. to try and raise awareness about the unacceptable number of officers we are losing to the demons of post traumatic stress.

But we need to address the root of the problem.  We’ve kicked God out of society.  We’ve replaced personal relationships with social media.  We’ve put our faith in the media instead of humanity.  And we’ve put a value on the lives of our protectors – and that value is about 45 seconds on the news… or however long it takes for the next story to pop up into our newsfeed.

So we’ve made it our mission at Law Enforcement Today to help change that… through stories.  Over the coming weeks, you’ll notice a renewed focus on sharing the stories of wounded officers.  Fallen heroes.  Patriotic Americans.  Those who serve and protect our communities and our country.

You’ll see us talk a lot about LET Unity.  It’s a new home focused on bridging the gap between civilians and civil servants.  We’ve merged with The Whiskey Patriots to massively expand content, rolling out hundreds of videos to members.  The revenue from memberships goes entirely back into telling the stories of our emergency responders that the media has silenced.

 Many of those in our focus groups dubbed it the “Netflix of the law enforcement community”.  But the truth is, it’s so much more.

The first officer in the door at the Pulse nightclub shooting. 

Emergency responders from the Parkland shooting. 

The bomb squad that responded to the Aurora movie theater massacre. 

Survivors of the Dallas five killings.

The first Marine Guard hostage in the Iran crisis. 

The CIA agent who started a counter human trafficking company. 

SWAT teams. 

Sniper schools. 

World War II veterans.

And so, so much more.

The membership is less than the cost of two coffees a month, and those who sign up for an annual membership will get some surprise bonuses in the mail.  We decided to charge a nominal fee so we could take all of the proceeds and reinvest them into capturing more of these stories.

On top of that, we’re opening up the platform to some well-known podcasters who are going to be joining the team with some incredible content soon.

We have a problem in society.  Censorship has created an existential threat to democracy.  But even worse is the risk we run that some of these incredible stories of patriotism, hope, faith and our Sheepdogs would be lost.

We’ll soon be launching a series of content with Concerns of Police Survivors (C.O.P.S.) to share the stories of survivors.  We will also be dropping a weekly law enforcement focused newscast that addresses some of the most important topics in the country… and helps bridge the gap between those who serve and those whom they serve.

On top of that, we’ll soon be rolling out a series of private discounts and special promotions to members only as a “thank you” for being a part of the family.

The beta platform is live and the apps for Apple, Android, Apple TV and Roku will be launching soon. 

We hope you’ll join us in this journey, knowing that your membership is going to give a voice to those who have been silenced for so long.

Click here to sign up. 

If you are one of the many companies out there that’s being censored – or you’re worried about what’s to come – don’t hesitate to reach out today at [email protected]

We will not be silenced.  You shouldn’t be either.

God bless you all, and God bless America.

———

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