December 2010 Issue
November 22, 2010

TRS: Remember: You need official records to get service credit

Source: NYSUT United

Q: I did some coaching for my school district back in the 1980s. I have no records of the time devoted to the coaching, but my district sent in an affidavit to the TRS outlining what services I had performed. The retirement system sent me a letter denying the prior service because the school district could not back up the time listed with actual records. How can they do that?

A: The answer to the disappointing news is that the TRS is obligated by law to ascertain the exact amount of service from official records. It's unfortunate that members must lose out on additional service credit due to inefficient record-keeping on the part of some districts.

Q: I'll have reached 25 years of service toward retirement as a middle school teacher in the NY State Teachers Retirement System (Tier 4) at the age of 52. Am I right in thinking that I would not be able to collect a pension until 55, but at 55 I would then be able to collect my pension? Or would the penalties of leaving at age 52 change the amount that I would collect at 55? I'd be fine waiting the three years to collect as long as the penalties for retiring at 52 were not that severe.

A: It would not be leaving at 52 and waiting until 55 that would reduce your pension amount, but the fact that you did not achieve 30 years of credited service. (Please note that you would spend three years with no retirement income.) Staying in service for three more years would only bring your total service to 28 years — you would still have a penalty.

You will have to remain in teaching for five more years to reach 30 years of member service, and would then be able to retire with a full retirement allowance — 60 percent of your final average salary.

We suggest you contact the NYSTRS at 800-348-7298, ext. 6100, and schedule a video consultation in your geographic area.

Q: I recently read in NYSUT United about disability protection I could purchase through NYSUT Member Benefits. Someone in the faculty room told me that the Teachers Retirement System has disability insurance for members. Is that true?

A: The disability protection that a NYSUT member could purchase would be an insurance plan for temporary disability — the inability to work for a period of time.

For New York State Teachers' Retirement System members with a minimum of 10 years of credited service, there is permanent disability (permanently and completely disabled for all employment).

If approved by the NYS Teachers' Retirement System Disability Review Committee, the member would then receive a disability pension for life.

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.

OOPS: In a Q&A last month, TRS Board candidate Sheila Salenger discussed how long it takes to achieve vesting status, which makes a member eligible for a retirement benefit at age 55. Tier 5 members need 10 years of state service credit for vesting. For all other tiers, it's five years.