March 2012 Issue
February 21, 2012

TRS: What if I become disabled and can't continue to work?

Source: NYSUT United

There are many things to consider when your career is sidelined by a disability. For a comprehensive look at disability retirement, including eligibility, the filing process and benefits, check out the TRS publication If You Are No Longer Able to Work, available online or by calling 800-348-7298, ext. 6010. If you are critically ill, you should file for disability retirement immediately.

The disability retirement benefit is generally one-third of your final average salary. However, the benefit may be more or less depending on your age and service credit. For an estimate of your disability retirement benefit, check your Benefit Profile.

For Tiers 3, 4 and 5, it's important to note you cannot qualify for a disability pension if you are off payroll for more than a year. You must file a disability application with TRS within 12 months of the last date you were on payroll.

If you are placed on leave of absence without pay for medical reasons, you may file a disability application no later than 12 months after the date you receive notice that your employment status has been terminated.

Q: I just started teaching and want to claim prior service credit. How does that work?

A: After you have earned two years of New York State Teachers' Retirement System credit, you are eligible to purchase credit for public employment that was or could have been credited in another New York state public retirement system. For a Tier 5 member, the cost is 3.5 percent of the salary received during the period of service, plus 5 percent interest per year.

Keep in mind receiving credit for prior service does not change your date of membership or your tier. Additional service credit can affect your eligibility and the calculation for your benefits. You cannot receive credit for federal government employment or non-public school teaching.

Q: Can I receive credit for working at a charter school?

A: You may receive service credit for teaching at a charter school only if the charter school is a participating NYSTRS employer. To become a participating employer, a charter school must apply and be accepted by NYSTRS.

Once it has become a participating NYSTRS employer, the school may not terminate its affiliation with the system. Not every charter school elects to be a NYSTRS-participating employer. If you are unsure about a particular school, check the TRS participating charter schools list online. If a charter school becomes a participating NYSTRS employer after it has opened, employees of the school (as opposed to employees of the management company that runs the school) may receive credit for work performed prior to it becoming a participating NYSTRS member, provided the system receives all applicable employer and employee contributions.