New Volunteer Emergency Medical Personnel Provision

On January 1, 2019, a new law went into effect that allows volunteer emergency medical personnel who are members of a fire department to become members of the affiliated relief association and to be eligible for service pensions from the relief association on the same basis as volunteer firefighters. In order for this membership expansion to take place a relief association must amend its bylaws to authorize the change and the municipality must approve the change.

Historically, there has been a gap in pension coverage for individuals who are solely providing emergency medical services on a volunteer basis. The change in law is seen by some communities as an important tool to help recruit and retain individuals who are solely providing medical services for volunteer fire departments. If the local community decides to expand its relief association membership to include volunteer emergency medical personnel, a relief association’s liabilities and contribution requirements may increase, which is why municipal approval of the change is required. A relief association receives no additional state aid to help offset the increase in liabilities.

For city and town fire departments, the addition of volunteer emergency medical personnel to a relief association’s membership must be approved by the city council or town board. If the fire department is a joint powers entity, the membership expansion must be approved by the joint powers board. If the fire department is an independent nonprofit firefighting corporation, the municipality or municipalities that contract with the fire department must approve the membership expansion.

The statutes were also updated to authorize volunteer emergency medical personnel who receive a relief association service pension or benefit to be eligible for the supplemental benefit distribution. Relief associations are able to seek reimbursement of these supplemental benefit payments, using the same reimbursement form and process as used for firefighter supplemental benefit payments.

The OSA’s Sample Bylaw Guides have been updated to include optional language that a relief association may use to authorize the inclusion of volunteer emergency medical personnel. The Sample Bylaw Guides are posted in Word and PDF formats.

Published last in the February 2019 Pension Newsletter