We work to keep SERS’ members informed of issues that directly affect them. The latest on what is affecting you through your retirement system will always be posted on our website’s homepage. After news items have been publicized, they will be housed on the “Important Retirement News” sections of the Members homepage and the Retirees homepage. You also can refer to this section when you are looking for older news items.
Important Retirement News
Benefit Recipients with Benefit Effective Date Prior to April 1, 2018, to Receive 0.5% COLA
At its September meeting, the Board unanimously voted to approve a 0.5% cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) increase for eligible retirees and beneficiaries in 2021. Previously, COLAs were suspended from 2018 through 2020.
As a result of HB 49, passed in 2017, the COLA is now based on the year-to-year change in the Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners (CPI-W), with a range of 0% to 2.5%, unless the Board chooses to adjust the COLA above or below the CPI-W. However, any adjustment can only be enacted if the System’s actuary determines it will not materially impair the fiscal integrity of the system or is necessary to preserve the fiscal integrity of the system.
Benefit recipients whose benefit effective date is on or after April 1, 2018, must wait until the fourth anniversary of their allowance or benefit before receiving a COLA.
Does the Stock Market Decline Affect My SERS Pension?
The good news for SERS benefit recipients is that stock market declines do not affect benefit amounts. All benefit payments are being processed as usual and will be delivered on time.
Under current Ohio law, once you retire your pension is guaranteed for life and cannot be reduced. This is the big advantage that defined benefit (DB) pension plans like SERS have over defined contribution (DC) plans such as 401(k)s, IRAs, and 403(b) retirement plans.
The reason DB plans like SERS can offer this guarantee is because our investment strategy takes a long-term approach to investing. SERS does not have to reduce exposure to certain types of investments as a member gets closer to retirement age like DC plans do. In addition, SERS’ assets are diversified among many different types of investments, so a shock to one type won’t affect the others.
SERS was able to withstand the 2008-09 Great Financial Crisis and we will be able to recover from the current market decline as the economy improves after the COVID-19 disruption.
Medicare Enrollment During COVID-19
Social Security offices have temporarily suspended in-person assistance. Until offices reopen to visitors, here are other ways to complete your Medicare enrollment.
Auto Enrollment in Medicare
If you are receiving a Social Security check prior to your 65th birthday, Medicare Part A and Part B enrollment is automatic. Look for your Medicare ID card to arrive in the mail prior to your birthday.
Sign up Online or Make a Telephone Appointment
If you are not receiving a Social Security check or you are not eligible for one, you must apply for your Medicare benefits.
- The easiest way to apply is by going to www.ssa.gov/medicare
- You also can call Social Security to schedule an appointment to enroll over the telephone. Depending on the call volume, you may have a wait to speak to someone.
We suggest that you call your local Social Security office directly rather than calling the national toll-free number. You can find your local office’s phone number on www.ssa.gov/locator. Scroll down the webpage to the “Locate an Office by Zip” button.
If You Were Hired by the Schools Before April 1, 1986
Call your local Social Security office to schedule a telephone appointment rather than applying online. School employees hired before April 1986 were not required to pay Medicare taxes while working.
If you were married for at least 10 years and a current spouse, former spouse or late spouse paid Medicare taxes, you will qualify for premium-free Part A based on his or her work record.
If Social Security tells you that you are not eligible for premium-free Part A through your own work record or a spouse’s work record AND you are enrolling in a SERS Medicare Plan – do not sign up for Medicare Part A. Tell the Social Security representative that you want to sign up for Medicare B only. Your SERS coverage will cover any hospital services normally covered under Part A.
Have You Recently Moved? Be Sure to Let Us Know.
Make sure you advise SERS of any change in address. You may be missing out on valuable membership information, or even benefits.
Even if SERS deposits your check directly into your bank account, we still need your current home address.
If you move and do not notify SERS, your benefits can be suspended. You can update your address by calling us at 800-878-5853, or by using the My Profile section of the Account Login on our website.
If you prefer, you can mail us your change of address by sending a completed Personal Information Change Form to School Employees Retirement System of Ohio, 300 E. Broad St., Suite 100, Columbus, Ohio, 43215.
IMPORTANT: Report Your SERS Income to Social Security, Even If the Amount is the Same as Last Year
(September 9, 2018) – If you are retired and receive a Social Security benefit based on your own private sector work record, or based on a spouse, ex-spouse, or deceased spouse’s work record, you must report your monthly SERS gross pension amount to Social Security annually.
The Social Security Administration will send you a letter asking for this information, and you still need to respond even though cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) increases have been suspended until 2021.
Receiving Medicare Part B?
Failure to report your monthly pension amount will result in your Social Security check being suspended for overpayment. Any deduction for Medicare Part B premiums from your Social Security check also will end, which could result in your Medicare Part B coverage being terminated.
If you are unsure about the amount of your monthly SERS gross pension income, you can find it on your quarterly SERS check stub. If you receive a monthly Medicare B reimbursement of $45.50, do not include that as part of your monthly pension income.
Receive a PLOP?
Also, if you received a partial lump-sum option payment (PLOP) when you retired, you must contact SERS because you need to provide Social Security with your unreduced pension amount.
If you are unsure about what amount to report to Social Security, please call our Member Support Team to get a Social Security verification letter from SERS that includes your monthly gross pension amount for the last three years. You can request this letter by contacting SERS toll-free at 800-878-5853.
You are one of more than 237,000 active and retired members. Don’t have an online account with
SERS yet? It’s easy. Visit Account Login to register today. It’s a secure and convenient way to view your account and stay connected with SERS.
Account Login provides the ability to:
- Review your account balance and service credit
- Update your personal information, such as address and beneficiary
- Create estimates
- Apply for retirement or a refund
Because the functionality and capabilities of the computer system have been increased, the system’s security features have been upgraded. This means that even if you previously registered for an online account, you will need to create a new account to access your SERS account information.
Cost-of-Living Adjustment (COLA)
In October 2017, SERS’ Board of Trustees approved a three-year cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) suspension for retirees and benefit recipients in 2018, 2019, and 2020.
House Bill 49 (HB 49) indexed the COLA to the percentage increase in the CPI-W (the measure of inflation used by Social Security), not greater than 2.5%, with a floor of 0%. Both changes became effective January 1, 2018.
The Board also approved a change to an administrative rule that required new benefit recipients to wait until the fourth anniversary of their benefit for COLA eligibility. The new standard applied to benefits commencing on and after April 1, 2018. Additionally, the rule provided that multiple benefits originating from the same member account not have more than a four-year waiting period in total.
The changes did not affect the COLA increases retirees received before January 1, 2018.
Advocacy Group Sues
On January 31, 2018, the School Employees Retirement System of Ohio (SERS) was named as a defendant in a lawsuit brought by the Ohio Association of Public School Employees (OAPSE).
The SERS’ legal team is reviewing the details of the lawsuit, but we believe that all actions taken by SERS regarding the changes to the cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) were legal and prudent.
We are confident that the actions taken by the Board and the Legislature are in the best interest of SERS and its members and retirees and we will prevail in this action.
For nearly two years, SERS held several open meetings with representatives from all advocacy groups, including OAPSE, to discuss possible benefit changes and their effects on SERS and its membership. We modeled the effects of numerous combinations of changes before deciding on the COLA changes that were implemented.
We are disappointed that OAPSE’s opposition to these changes was not registered during the open process when they could have been addressed with input from all interested parties.