Social Security and Medicare Coverage for Police Officer and Fire Fighter Positions in Washington

  • Before 1959—if a police officer or fire fighter position was enrolled in a retirement system it was mandatorily excluded from social security coverage.
  • January 1, 1959—social security coverage could be acquired for police officer or fire fighter positions covered by a retirement system through a majority vote referendum election process.
  • April 1, 1986—most employees, including police officers and fire fighters, hired on or after this date are mandatorily covered for Medicare.
  • March 1, 1970—Law Enforcement Officers’ and Fire Fighters’ (LEOFF) retirement system established. Many police officer and fire fighter positions were mandated into LEOFF.
  • July 2, 1991—most state and local government employees became subject to mandatory social security and Medicare coverage, unless they were members of a qualified retirement system.
  • Before LEOFF, a fire fighter was mandated into the Fireman’s Relief and Pension Fund if the entity had two or more paid fire fighter positions.
  • If a police officer or fire fighter position was not enrolled in a retirement system at the time coverage was acquired for the regular employees of the organization, the coverage of the regular employees extended to police officer or fire fighter positions also (for example, if all non-retirement system positions obtained social security coverage, then so did the police officer or fire fighter positions).
  • If a police officer or fire fighter position did not exist at the time coverage was acquired for the other employees, coverage for the police officer or fire fighter position depended upon the situation that existed at the time the position was created.
  • If, at the time of creation, a police officer or fire fighter position was enrolled in a retirement system, coverage of other employees did not automatically extend to the police officer or fire fighter position. Coverage could only be acquired through a referendum election process.
  • In each case, the exact circumstances that existed at the time the police officer or fire fighter position was created must be determined.
  • Police officer or fire fighter positions are considered enrolled in a retirement system if enrollment had been actually required or if enrollment was mandated by law. If mandated, it does not matter that the organization might not have taken the necessary actions to enroll the police officer or fire fighter positions in the system, the police officer or fire fighter positions are considered in a retirement system.
  • 2008—HB 2510 passed. Medicare-only coverage can be acquired via a divided vote referendum for employees who were hired before April 1, 1986 and have been in continuous employment through the date of the referendum.

For more information about Social Security and Medicare coverage for public employees, contact the State Social Security Administrator at DRS:

Email: OASI@drs.wa.gov
Phone: DRS OASI Program line at 360-664-7316