June 2012 Issue
May 18, 2012

TRS: Getting the credit you deserve

Source: NYSUT United

Q: One of my colleagues was talking about reinstating to an earlier tier with better benefits, while another only received prior service credit. What's the difference?

A: There is a lot of confusion and misinformation about tier reinstatement and prior service credit. Currently, the only way to reinstate to an earlier tier of membership is to prove you had a prior membership in a public retirement system in New York state.

Having rendered prior service as a part-time person and not joining (or being offered the opportunity) does NOT qualify you for reinstatement.

You may receive prior service credit for New York state public service completed before your current date of membership in the system. Receiving credit for prior service does NOT change your date of membership or tier, but it can affect when your benefits begin and how much you will receive.

Members in Tiers 3-6 must pay for their prior service credit. The cost is a percentage of the salary received during the period of service: 3 percent for Tier 3-4 members; 3.5 percent (compounded) for Tier 5 members; and 6 percent (compounded) for Tier 6 members. In addition, all members must pay 5 percent interest. You are eligible to apply for prior service after you have two years of New York State Teachers' Retirement System credit.

Q: How can I retain my membership in the state TRS during the time I am laid off?

A: If you joined NYSTRS before Jan. 1, 2010 and have five or more years of credited service, you are vested in the system. If you joined NYSTRS on or after Jan. 1, 2010, however, you must have 10 years of service before you are vested.

The membership of any non-vested person will automatically terminate if he/she does not receive the equivalent of 20 or more full-time days of credit in a single school year, within a seven-year period. If you are laid off, you can still accrue time toward vesting rights if you work as a part-time employee (for example, as a substitute teacher or part-time teaching assistant). The equivalent of 20 full-time days equals one month of credit, and nine months of credit equals a full year for state TRS. Only days worked in the same school year can be added together when calculating service credit; days worked may be in different school districts.