September 2012 Issue
September 06, 2012

TRS: Protecting your retirement benefits if you are laid off

Source: NYSUT United
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If you stop teaching for any reason prior to retirement, it's important to know the rules about how employment changes can affect your benefits at retirement and how you can keep your TRS membership active. Here are some questions and answers of general interest.

Q: How can I retain my membership in the New York State Teachers' Retirement System during the time I am laid off?

A: Your system membership will remain active if you are vested (five years of service for Tier 1-4 members, 10 years for Tier 5 and 6 members). You may also work the equivalent of 20 or more full-time days in a school year at least once every seven years in a position reportable to TRS. If you do not meet either of these requirements your membership will automatically cease.

Q: How can I accrue vested rights if I am laid off?

A: If you have less than five years of service, you can continue to work toward vested rights if you work as a part-time employee or teach occasionally (such 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 NYSTRS.

To receive credit for part-time, partial-year or substitute teaching, you must have worked the equivalent of at least 20 full days in the school year, between July 1 and June 30.

Q: What happens if I have worked for different school districts?

A: All service would be counted, but only in the respective retirement systems that cover the position. For example, a teacher could substitute-teach, which would be reported to NYSTRS, but if he or she filled in as a principal's secretary or a custodian, that service could only be reported to the Employees' Retirement System.

The end result would mean it would take longer for the person to accrue service credit toward vesting. All of your service in New York state public schools counts, regardless of how many different employers you have had, provided the appropriate transfer guidelines are followed. If an employer mishandles your records or does not submit them to the retirement system, you will not receive credit. If you have concerns, contact your retirement system immediately.

You may have to contact the employer as well. Make sure to keep records documenting all your employment.

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