Q: I served in the military during peacetime and was told that I can't claim that time toward my New York State Teachers' Retirement System pension credit. Is this still true?
A: We have some good news for you: Thanks to a change in law, eligible members can now claim up to three years of service credit for military duty regardless of when the service occurred. Previously, military service had to occur during specific periods of war, or certain hostilities, to qualify.
To claim this credit, you must have been honorably discharged from the military, have at least five years of credited service, be an active NYSTRS member on or after May 31, 2016, when the law took effect, and you must claim your military credit before your effective date of retirement.
For Tier 1–5 members, the service credit cost is 3 percent of the salary you earned in the 12 months immediately preceding the year you claimed your military service credit. For Tier 6 members, the service credit cost is 6 percent of the salary you earned in the 12 months immediately preceding the year you claimed your military service credit.
You'll need to send a letter and a copy of your Certificate of Release or Discharge from Activity duty form (DD-214) to NYSTRS to submit your military service claim. We recommend reaching out to NYSTRS at 800-348-7298, ext. 6060, for details.
Q: Do you know if a Cost-of-Living Adjustment is planned for this year?
A: Yes, we're happy to report that a COLA is slated for this year. Eligible NYSTRS members, and their beneficiaries, who receive a monthly benefit from NYSTRS will see a 1 percent COLA increase starting with their Sept. 30, 2016 payment.
To be eligible, you must meet one of four requirements: be at least 62 and retired five or more years; be at least 55 and retired 10 or more years; be a retiree receiving a NYSTRS disability benefit for at least five years, regardless of age; or be a surviving spouse of an eligible retiree receiving a lifetime benefit. Note that, by law, surviving spouses are eligible for only half the COLA the retiree would have received.
Eligible retired members with an annual benefit of at least $18,000 will receive a maximum increase of $15 per month. Retirees who become eligible for the COLA after September will receive their adjustment when they first become eligible.
Still have questions? Visit www.nystrs.org/retirees or call 800-356- 3128, ext. 2980.
Did you know
Two types of service credit are available for active military duty: service preceding New York State Teachers' Retirement System membership and service interrupting NYSTRS membership. In all cases, honorable discharge documentation is required to verify military service.