If police officers or firefighters are covered for Social Security, it is usually because the State covered their positions for Social Security under the State's Section 218 Agreement.

What is a police officer or firefighter position?

A police officer or firefighter position for Section 218 coverage purposes is any position classified as such in State statutes and court decisions. Generally, these positions exist in the regularly organized police and fire departments of incorporated municipalities, towns, and cities. In most States, an employee in a police officer position is a member of a police force that is an organized civil force for maintaining order, preventing and detecting crimes, and enforcing laws. A preponderance of a police officer position’s duties must fall within one or more of the three aforementioned characteristics. A preponderance of a firefighter position’s duties should be involved in preparation for and actual participation in the fighting of fires. The terms police officer and firefighter do not include services in positions which, although connected with police officer and firefighter functions, are not police officer or firefighter positions.

NOTE

Police officers and firefighters are not considered emergency workers under the Social Security and Medicare exception for emergency workers defined in Internal Revenue Code section 3121(b)(7)(F)(iii). The emergency exclusion applies only to services of an employee who was hired because of an unforeseen emergency to do work in connection with that emergency on a temporary basis (e.g., an individual hired to battle a major forest fire or to provide emergency assistance in other similar disasters such as volcano eruption, severe ice storm, earthquake, flood).

How Social Security and Medicare Coverage Is Extended to Police Officers and Firefighters?

Social Security and Medicare coverage may be extended to police officers and firefighters whose positions are not covered by a retirement system and to police officers and firefighters whose positions are covered by a retirement system. If the police officer and firefighter positions are covered by a retirement system, there must first be authority to provide Social Security and Medicare coverage to those positions under State law and the Federal-State Section 218 Agreement. Once the authority exists, the State must then comply with the referendum requirements under Section 218 of the Act.

Political entity obtains Section 218 coverage for all positions not covered by a retirement system

If police and firefighter positions were not covered by a retirement system at the time an entity obtained Social Security coverage under the State's Section 218 Agreement for all positions not covered by a retirement system, the police and firefighter positions are covered for Social Security. Social Security coverage obtained under a Section 218 Agreement continues even if the positions later come under a retirement system.

Example: In 1965, a City obtained Social Security coverage under the State's Section 218 Agreement for all city employees not covered by a retirement system. The City's police and firefighter positions were not covered under a retirement system at that time. Therefore, the police and firefighters were covered for Social Security under the State's Section 218 Agreement. In 1972, the City created the Police and Firefighters' Pension Fund. Social Security coverage continues for the police officers and firefighters.

Caveat:  Social Security regulations 20 CFR 404.1206 states, "If State law requires a State or political entity to have a retirement system, it is considered established even though no action has been taken to establish the system." Therefore, regardless of whether an entity actually established a retirement system in accordance with State law, the police and firefighter positions are considered covered by a retirement system.

Entity obtains Section 218 coverage for police officer and firefighter positions covered by a retirement system

Prior to August 16, 1994, only 23 States were authorized to extend Social Security coverage to police and firefighter positions covered under a retirement system:

Alabama, California, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Kansas, Maine, Maryland, Mississippi, Montana, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oregon, Puerto Rico, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, Virginia and Washington.

Beginning August 16, 1994

With passage of Public Law 103-296 by Congress, all States beginning August 16, 1994, had the authority through their Section 218 Agreements to provide Social Security and Medicare coverage or Medicare-only coverage for police officer and firefighter positions already covered under a retirement system.  However, Congressional authorization alone was not sufficient to provide Social Security coverage to police officer and firefighter positions already covered by a retirement system.  As with other types of retirement system covered positions, there must also be authority to provide such coverage under State law and the Federal-State Section 218 agreement. To accomplish this, the State must first review state statutes and the enabling act to determine if existing language prohibits the extension of Social Security coverage under the State’s Section 218 Agreement to police officer and/or firefighter positions already covered under a retirement system.  If there is such language, then it must be removed, which usually requires action by the state legislature.  Once the corrective legislation has passed, or in those cases where there is no prohibitive language in state statutes or the enabling act, the State must then change the language in its Section 218 Agreement by executing a modification to permit coverage of police officer and firefighter positions already covered by a retirement system.  After that, the State can begin holding referendums and extending coverage to those positions. 

For information about Section 218 coverage for police and firefighters in your State, contact your State Social Security Administrator.

Mandatory Social Security and Medicare Coverage

Beginning July 2, 1991, Social Security and Medicare coverage is mandatory for police officers and firefighters not covered by a qualifying (Social Security equivalent) public retirement system. Mandatory Social Security coverage ceases if the police officer or firefighter later becomes a member of a qualifying (Social Security equivalent) public retirement system that is not covered by a Section 218 Agreement. Mandatory Medicare also ceases if the police officer or firefighter has been in continuous employment with the same employer since March 31, 1986. However, mandatory Medicare coverage continues for police officers and firefighters hired after March 31, 1986.

Public employers can obtain Medicare-only coverage through a Section 218 Agreement for police officers and firefighters who are members of a retirement system and were hired prior to April 1, 1986. For further information, contact your State Social Security Administrator.

Volunteer Firefighters

Like police officers and firefighters, volunteer firefighters who are on call and work regularly but intermittently do not qualify for the Social Security and Medicare exception for emergency workers defined in Internal Revenue Code section 3121(b)(7)(F)(iii). This exception is only for temporary workers who respond to unforeseen emergencies, e.g. floods. For further information, contact your IRS Federal, State and Local Governments Specialist.

References

policemen and firemen