Building Trust by Caring for your Troops: Help Firefighters Bridge the Gap to Medicare Eligibility
Published: 10/25/2021
Author: Chief Brent VanKeulen, Deputy Director, Western Fire Chiefs Association

In my early years of leading, building trust was a very personal one-on-one interaction. However, as my leadership career advanced, developing those personal relationships became more difficult. I realized that I needed to look for organizational changes that showed I cared on a larger scale. That’s when I began to focus on solving systemic problems that caused the workforce stress, such as completing reports after each incident, or implementing a new user-friendly records management system. I also explored solving ‘future’ challenges that firefighters may not think of until they retire. One example is the continuation of health care coverage after retirement, but before the individual is eligible for Medicare. What could be more caring as a leader than to ensure an individual who spent their career supporting the organization has continuity of health care? A practical vehicle that supports this goal is implementing a health reimbursement account like the Gallagher Health Invest HRA. The HRA gives employees a method for growing tax-free savings that can be used for medical expenses, including post-retirement health care premiums. There are many more benefits to an HRA that shows you care as a leader. I encourage you to find a solution for your retirees that will give them peace of mind after they leave active duty. 

As I reflect on my career, I am proud of my accomplishments, but also that I focused on being competent in my position, and open-minded so that I could grow and improve as a company officer. Importantly, I appreciate the relationships I developed with my crew. I did it by investing in the individual, which showed that I cared. And that caring came in many forms, including listening first, being consistent in my behavior, and proactively looking for opportunities to meet their needs. When the individual believed that they could count on me, I knew that I could count on them to be there for me. It’s a mutually-beneficial relationship that’s worth cultivating.  

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