March Issue
March 05, 2014

ERS: Is your beneficiary info current?

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

State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoliSince you are a member of the Employees' Retirement System, your beneficiaries may be entitled to receive an ordinary death benefit if:

  • You have at least one year of credited service;
  • You die while you are still in service (before you retire); and
  • Your death is not due to an on-the-job accident.

For members of Tiers 2 through 6, the ordinary death benefit is your salary times your years of service up to a maximum of three times your salary. The amount of your salary that can be used in this calculation is limited by Civil Service law.

The first $50,000 of this benefit is paid as group term life insurance, which is currently exempt from federal income tax. Your accumulated contributions may also be payable to your beneficiaries.

If you die as the result of an on-the-job accident, not due to your own negligence, your beneficiaries may be entitled to receive an accidental death benefit. No minimum service credit is required for this benefit.

Q: Do I have to designate my spouse or other family member as the beneficiary of my ordinary death benefit?

A: No. You may designate any person or organization — your beneficiary does not have to be a family member. Since payment is made to the last beneficiaries you designate, you should periodically review your designations to ensure they reflect your current wishes.

Q: Can I change my beneficiaries?

A: You can change the beneficiaries for your ordinary death benefit by completing a Designation of Beneficiary Form (RS5127) and submitting it to us. (You can obtain this form online at Remember, a new designation of beneficiary form supersedes any previous designations.

You cannot designate beneficiaries for an accidental death benefit. The beneficiaries for an accidental death benefit are established by law. Please refer to your plan booklet for additional information on the accidental death benefit.

Q: Is there a death benefit payable if I leave public service?

A: If you leave public employment (but do not retire or withdraw your membership) and have at least 10 years of service credit, 50 percent of the ordinary death benefit may still be payable to your beneficiaries.

Q: How can I get more information about my ordinary death benefit?

A: Start by reading your plan booklet. You can also refer to our publication, Life Changes: Why Should I Designate a Beneficiary? available on our website at or contact our Call Center toll-free at 866-805-0990 or 518-474-7736 in the Albany area.

Every month state Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli, sole trustee of the New York State and Local Employees' Retirement System, provides information on the system, which delivers retirement benefits to many NYSUT School-Related Professionals and other support staff. If you are an ERS member with a question of general interest, email

For immediate assistance, contact the ERS Call Center toll-free at 866-805-0990, or 518-474-7736 in the Capital District area.