April 2011 Issue
March 30, 2011

ERS: Ensure your service credit is correct

Author: State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli
Source: NYSUT United

One of the factors used to determine your pension is service credit (the others are your tier, final average salary, retirement plan and age at retirement). You earn service credit with the retirement system for your paid employment with a participating employer.

Since service credit plays a key role in your eligibility for your retirement benefit and its calculation, you want to make certain it is accurate. Tier 2, 3, 4 & 5 members can find their recorded estimated service credit in their Member Annual Statements.

If there are any discrepancies in your service credit, please contact us as soon as possible. We cannot stress this enough. You should strive to resolve any service credit issues well before you retire. Failure to do so could cause delays in finalizing your pension, and may even result in a reduced benefit.

Q: Why is it so important to make sure my service credit is correct well in advance of my retirement?

A: The earlier you can bring any service credit discrepancies to our attention, the more time we have to make sure your records are correct and, if there is a cost for that service, the more time you have to make payment.

Q: How will you verify the service I am claiming?

A: We will need to request payroll records from your employer to verify your service. This is often a time-consuming process, especially since it's not unusual for some records to be lost or destroyed over time. So, be sure to plan ahead. If you wait until you file for retirement to tell us about additional service or a discrepancy, you may already be retired by the time we receive records to verify your service. If it turns out that your service credit is less than you expected, your pension will also be lower and it will be too late to withdraw your retirement application.

Q: Can I pay for any outstanding service credit once I am retired?

A: No. Once you are retired, you can no longer pay any service credit costs. You will not receive credit for unpaid optional service (e.g., service before your date of membership or military service). If you have mandatory service (i.e., service after you joined the retirement system), unpaid costs will result in a permanent reduction in your pension.

Q: How can I get help if I need it?

A: The salary and service data we have on file for you is critical to a correct benefit calculation. If you have questions about your service credit, please e-mail us through our website (www.osc.state.ny.us/retire/contact_us) or contact our Call Center toll-free at 866-805-0990 or 518-474-7736 in the Capital District.