Louis Brandeis


I had someone actually say ‘thank you for your service’ the other day when they found out that I am a retired firefighter/EMT. It was nice and not something I expect. I am retired with a disability because of my work with the fire service. My health has been compromised ever since. I came in on the tail end of the ‘Leather Lung’ era where your toughness was measured ‘unofficially’ by how much smoke you could take.

Even though the effects of the smoke were well known by this time and the rules tried to have you protect yourself. Some times the old timers that were in charge were a bit hazy on the rules. Especially when we did not have enough air packs and spare bottles for major events. As result my lungs were shot.

When I started working with the fire department there was a new state run retirement system for firefighters and police officers. The first thing we learned is that the State of Kansas came up with this great retirement but did not see how it wold be underfunded in just a few years. It was their mistake. Their remedy was to come back and say that all of the members who had been paying in had to go back and make up the difference because of their mistake. If you did not pay off in a lump sum then they would take a percentage out of the retirement when you started drawing. Except that even after paying back the cost after you retired they would not stop deducting so you could conceivably pay 200, 300% or more. And your survivors would be deducted until they died.

I am sure you can see that this was wrong. And after several years a judge agreed. So did we all live happily ever after? No! Government does not do the right thing even when the courts say they should. Bureaucrats and the Legislature have been happy to do everything possible to offset the loss to mere employees ever since.

While the bigger organization, KPERS has been underfunded at last there was some refunding in this session. The Gov. says she will sign it. Wonderful. But what about the employees who have not had a Cost of Living Raise since 1998? Crickets.

The solution is to wait for all of the (Brazelton Class) employees to die and solve the thorn in their side. Is respect due the law if that law is not respectful of those it is supposed to protect?

Respect is earned (at least in this state). When taking care of those who protected the citizens and the lawmakers and retired, if not respected, who respects the State?

Today the ones who are on the line know better how to protect themselves. They also have fought long and hard to make the State respect their retirement system for the future. What prospect will they have after the example of how they have taken care of the ones who came before?

In Houston the Mayor is threatening the prospect of laying off over 200 firefighters because the voters forced him to raise the wages in parity from the PD to the FD. So there will be major fires in Houston where the response times will go to 20 -30 minutes.

How does that relate to our retired FD & PD? It shows the callous attitude that an elected official will go to if he thinks he can get away with it. An attitude that the Kansas State Government is seriously close to.

You earn respect of your employees by how you treat the retired employees. Kind of dismal how the ones who gave their working lives to protect the ones who turn around and bite them.

If we had only known?

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