Planning for the Unexpected
It should be comforting to know that if the road to retirement takes an unexpected turn, disability benefits are available to help those who need them.
If you become disabled while employed, you may be eligible for benefits under one of two disability plans.
If you became a SERS member on or after July 29, 1992, you are covered under the new disability plan.
If you were a member before July 29, 1992, you are covered by the old disability plan, unless you exercised a one-time election to switch to the new plan. You also must apply before you are 60 years old.
Under both plans, you are eligible for disability benefits if you:
- Have at least five years of total service credit.
- File an application no later than two years from the date that your contributing service stopped.
- Are permanently disabled, either physically or mentally, for work in your SERS-covered position as determined by a physician appointed by SERS.
- Became disabled after becoming a SERS member.
- Did not receive a refund of your contributions.
- Do not receive a service retirement benefit.
You are not eligible to apply for a SERS disability benefit if you are receiving a disability benefit from another Ohio retirement system. You cannot apply for a SERS disability benefit if a condition resulted from the commission of a felony or occurred after SERS-covered employment ended.
Payment of Benefits
Under the new disability plan, the amount of your annual benefit is the greater of: 45% of your FAS; or, your total service credit at the time of your application multiplied by 2.2% of your FAS. For a chart showing the applicable percentage amounts under this plan, see the Member Disability Guide.
Under the old disability plan, your annual benefit is calculated using the value of a year of service credit is determined by multiplying your Final Average Salary (FAS) by 2.2%. If the result is less than $86.00, then $86.00 is the value of each year; and, the number of years of service credit is then multiplied by this value of each year. Your service credit includes all service credit you have at the time of your application plus the number of years between your current age and age 60. The benefit cannot be less than 30% of your FAS or more than 75%.
For more information on payment of benefits, see the Member Disability Guide.
The Application Process
You, your employer, or someone acting on your behalf with your power of attorney, may file a Disability Benefit Application provided by SERS for disability benefits.
Your personal physician also must provide a report stating the basis of your disability.
Once SERS receives your completed Disability Benefit Application, Job Duty Form, and Authorization for Release of Protected Health Information Form, SERS will request information from your doctor. These documents can be accessed and submitted through your Account Login.
In addition, SERS will contact your school employer to obtain information on your current job duties and other payroll information.
You will be examined by an SERS-appointed physician. A medical determination will be made on whether you are permanently disabled for work in your SERS-covered job. The SERS Retirement Board’s medical advisory committee and/or the chair of the committee, will review the examiner’s report and all records submitted with your application, and will make a recommendation to the Board. The Board will review all recommendations from its medical advisory committee for approval or denial of disability benefits, and will make the final determination.
If you are granted disability benefits, you may be required to seek, obtain, or continue medical treatment and/or vocational rehabilitation for the disabling condition as recommended by the Board physician or other consultants in order to receive benefits. Benefits may be terminated or suspended if you do not obtain recommended medical treatment and/or vocational rehabilitation.
The time to complete the process varies, but generally takes between three and five months.
If the application is denied, information is sent to you describing your appeal rights.
Disability recipients who are covered by SERS’ health care must apply for Social Security Disability Insurance early Medicare due to disability.
After three or five years on SERS’ disability, disability recipients who are capable of performing a job other than their previous job could be terminated from disability. Such termination can occur if they are capable of performing the duties of a job that can be reasonably found with pay at or above 75% of the annual compensation of their previous school job, and for which they are qualified.
Termination of Disability Benefits
A disability benefit under either plan stops:
- If you return to a SERS-covered job.
- If a subsequent SERS medical re-examination finds that you are no longer disabled.
- Upon your death.
- If you request that benefits end.
- Automatically, under the new disability plan, benefits will end after a specified age or number of months, at the end of which period you can apply for a conversion retirement benefit. For a table with the specified number of months, see the Member Disability Guide.
Service Credit for Disability Period
After termination of disability benefits, in order to receive service credit for time while receiving disability, you must return to employment covered by SERS, STRS, or OPERS, and contribute for two years. You may receive up to two years of disability credit for the time you received disability benefits, and purchase any time over two years.