Warner, Rubio, Colleagues Reintroduce Bill to Ensure Air America Employees Receive Earned Federal Retirement Benefits
Feb 24 2021
WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Mark Warner (D-VA) and Marco Rubio (R-FL) reintroduced the Air America Act of 2021, bipartisan and bicameral legislation that would provide Air America employees federal retirement credit they earned. The legislation, first introduced by Warner and Rubio in July 2020, is identical to an amendment that Sen. Rubio filed to the Fiscal Year 2020 National Defense Authorization Act, and continues the Senator’s support for these Americans.
“I am proud to cosponsor this bill with Senator Rubio that will provide long-overdue recognition and retirement benefits to the brave men and women who flew for Air America,” Warner said. “Air Americans were instrumental to the U.S. war effort in Vietnam and Southeast Asia, courageously supporting troops, rescuing downed American pilots and sustaining casualties in the service of their country. Air America was on call until the very end of the war, including flying the last helicopters out of Saigon where they evacuated Vietnamese civilians and the U.S. Embassy. It is time they be honored with the recognition they deserve, and the grateful thanks of a nation.”
“The brave men and women employed by Air America who conducted operations during the Cold War, Korean War, and Vietnam War were critical to U.S. efforts,” Rubio said. “I’m proud to partner with Senator Warner, and our colleagues, to ensure that these Americans receive the long-overdue honor and recognition they deserve.”
Joining Warner and Rubio as cosponsors of the legislation are Senators Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Patty Murray (D-WA), John Cornyn (R-TX), Jacky Rosen (D-NV), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Mike Braun (R-IN), Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Mike Rounds (R-SD), Bob Casey (D-PA), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Tina Smith (D-NM), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Bill Cassidy (R-LA), Josh Hawley (R-MO), Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), Joe Manchin (D-WV), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Jon Tester (D-MT), Tom Cotton (R-AR), and Alex Padilla (D-CA).
Representative Glenn Grothman (R-WI), and Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) introduced similar legislation in the House of Representatives.
Background: Air America was a wholly government-owned and operated corporation that conducted operations during the Cold War, Korean War, and Vietnam War. Their employees worked under the direct policy guidance of the White House, Department of Defense, and the Department of State while under the management of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).
Air America employed several hundred U.S. citizens, mainly flight crew members, and approximately 286 were killed in the line of duty while conducting covert operations in designated war zones. The last helicopter mission that rescued personnel from the rooftops in Saigon in 1975 was planned and executed by Air America and the United States Marine Corps.
Since 2009, the declassification of CIA Agency documents confirmed that Air Americans were employees of the U.S. Government at the time of their service and entitled to federal retirement credit based on the circumstances of their employment. Congress has maintained its interest in resolving the retirement situation of Air American employees for more than 15 years. During this process, the Office of Personnel Management, the Merit Systems Protection Board, the CIA and the Director of National Intelligence have all concluded that congressional action is required.