Q: I just returned to the classroom from active duty in Afghanistan. Is it like a leave of absence where I lose pension credit?
A: First of all, thank you for serving our country. As we observe Veterans' Day, it's a perfect time to remind members that New York state law provides the opportunity to receive military credit for two kinds of active military duty: service preceding New York State Teacher's Retirement Service membership and service interrupting TRS membership.
There are limits to how much credit can be claimed, as well as costs involved. In general, military service credit can be claimed by sending TRS a copy of the honorable military discharge (DD214) form. If you do not have this form, you may obtain a copy by visiting the National Military Personnel Records website at www.archives.gov/st-louis/military-personnel.
We encourage you to submit your DD214 before retirement because it generally takes six to nine months to process requests for military service.
There are several sections of laws pertaining to military credit and varying eligibility requirements, depending on your tier and military service. TRS has recently published a helpful new brochure on how to claim military service credit. You can download it at www.nystrs.org. If you have additional questions after reading the brochure, call TRS at 800-348-7298, ext. 6060.
Q: How do I find out whether TRS has given me credit for my work for another school district?
A: All information regarding your membership can be found in your personal NYSTRS Benefit Profile, which is mailed out in November. Don't just toss that statement in a drawer. It's as important as your tax return information — containing essential information about your earnings, service credit history and beneficiary designations.
Take a look at it to verify your salary and service credit information. If you notice an error, ask your employer to correct the records and submit the revision to TRS. Correcting any misinformation now will expedite the processing of your benefits in the future. You can also view your personal information online, including your Benefit Profile, with a MyNYSTRS account.
Q: I heard that when you retire, you can get health insurance coverage through TRS. How does this work?
A: TRS does not provide health insurance. Until you become eligible for Medicare, which in most cases is age 65, your health insurance coverage will depend on the choices your former employer offers you. Contact your local union president or building representative to find out more. The cost and extent of coverage will depend on your local's collective bargaining agreement. Keep in mind details sometimes vary even among different groups within the same district.