**DOWNLOADABLE VIDEO: On U.S. House Floor, the Congresswoman Recognizes Retired Virginia Police Officer, Advocates for Legislation to Secure Well-Deserved Benefit for Officers**
WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Representative Abigail Spanberger today spoke on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives to recognize retired Virginia police officer Wally Bunker and urge her colleagues to support her bipartisan legislation to make sure that all retired officers can access a key tax benefit to pay for the health coverage they have earned.
Wally Bunker is a 74-year-old retired police officer now living in Culpeper, Virginia. Mr. Bunker was a Police Lieutenant for the Suffolk Police Department in Suffolk, Virginia for nearly 22 years, where he served in patrol, investigations, internal affairs, communications, and undercover cases. In his retirement, he has been blocked from accessing a tax benefit to help pay for his health and long-term insurance.
Many public safety officers retire early because of the intense physical and psychological demands they face on the job. Unfortunately, when they retire early, many lose access to their employer-sponsored health coverage but are still years away from being eligible for Medicare. To help address this major issue, Congress enacted the HELPS Retirees Act in 2006 to allow retired officers to use tax-free payments from their pensions to cover insurance costs. However, many retirees with smaller pension plans were excluded from this benefit.
To ensure all retired police officers, firefighters, and other public safety officers in Virginia and across the country who are eligible for this benefit are able to access it, Spanberger introduced the bipartisan Wally Bunker Healthcare Enhancement for Local Public Safety (HELPS) Retirees Improvement Act earlier this year.
Click here to watch her remarks, and a full transcript of her remarks is below.
I stand here today to recognize retired Virginia police officer Wally Bunker.
For nearly 22 years, Wally served as a Police Lieutenant for the Suffolk Police Department, where he served in several different roles.
Now retired from the force and living in Culpeper, he cannot access a key tax benefit to help pay for his health coverage — an issue that is shared by thousands of retired officers across the country.
Many officers retire early due to the high-pressure demands of the job — meaning many lose their employer-sponsored coverage while they are still years away from Medicare eligibility.
When Congress enacted the HELPS Retirees Act in 2006 to allow retired officers to use tax-free payments from their pensions to cover insurance costs, many retirees with smaller pension plans were excluded from this benefit.
When Wally approached our office to explain the issue he was facing — like so many other retired officers, we responded by introducing the bipartisan Wally Bunker HELPS Retirees Improvement Act to take steps to fix this issue.
Thank you to my Republican colleague, Congressman Chabot, for joining me to make sure that all retired officers receive the full benefits they have earned by putting on the badge, and I urge my colleagues to join us in this push.
The Wally Bunker HELPS Retirees Improvement Act is endorsed by the National Fraternal Order of Police and National Association of Police Organizations.
To alleviate the burden of paying out-of-pocket for health insurance, Congress enacted the Healthcare Enhancement for Local Public Safety (HELPS) Retirees Act in 2006. This law included a provision that allows retired public safety officers to withdraw $3,000 tax-free from their pension plan annually to pay health or long-term care insurance premiums.
However, the HELPS Retirees Act required that pension plans pay the $3,000 directly to the insurer — but many smaller pension plans use a third-party system for disbursing payments, therefore preventing many retirees from accessing the benefit.
Spanberger’s Wally Bunker Healthcare Enhancement for Local Public Safety (HELPS) Retirees Improvement Act takes concrete steps to address this major issue. Specifically, the legislation removes the requirement that pension fund distributions must go directly to the insurer to be eligible for tax-free status.