OPERS to recognize same-sex marriages
The Ohio Public Employees Retirement System will recognize same-sex marriages in accordance with the recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling stating that all couples have a constitutional right to marry.
On June 26, the court decision in Obergefell v. Hodges held that the 14th Amendment requires the state “to recognize a marriage between two people of the same sex when their marriage was lawfully licensed and performed out-of-state.” The decision will impact several features of OPERS’ pension benefits and health care coverage. Here is a look at some of the highlights:
Retirees may add an existing spouse to a single-life annuity, switching to a joint-life annuity with the spouse as beneficiary, in a specified amount from 10 percent to 100 percent. This change can be made for one calendar year following the marriage. Retirees may add an existing spouse to a multiple-life annuity if there are not already four designated beneficiaries.
The retiree may add an impacted spouse to the retirement annuity any time during the year following the Obergefell decision. Those who legally terminate a same-sex marriage may remove the former spouse from the joint- or multiple-life annuity with spousal consent or court order. A retiree receiving a single-life annuity may designate one or more beneficiaries to receive the remainder of the account (not a survivor benefit) at any time.
Same-sex spouses who survive the death of a member or a disability benefit recipient are now eligible for survivor benefits under the same eligibility requirements as other spouses. A deceased member’s impacted spouse is not eligible for a survivor benefit if the account has been refunded to a designated or other beneficiary. If OPERS is currently paying a monthly survivor benefit to other qualified beneficiaries, such as minor children, an eligible surviving spouse may now also receive monthly survivor benefits.
Beneficiary designation of members and disability benefit recipients
OPERS members can choose their account beneficiaries either by designation or by automatic succession. (Under automatic succession, a member’s beneficiary is determined in the following order upon death: surviving spouse, children, dependent parents, parents and the member’s estate.)
Certain life events, such as marriage and divorce, void specific beneficiary designations that had been made in the past. This will hold true of same-sex marriages in the future. If a new designation is not submitted to us after a marriage, divorce, dissolution, legal separation or the birth or adoption of a child, the beneficiary will be determined by automatic succession.
This instance of voiding specified beneficiaries not only is true for any future marriages, but also for previous same-sex marriages that occurred prior to the Supreme Court ruling and after the member specifically designated a beneficiary.
Retirees and disability benefit recipients enrolled in our health care coverage may now enroll a same-sex spouse. To do so, fill out this form and submit to OPERS a copy of the marriage certificate.
This health care coverage change must be made by Sept. 25, or during open enrollment for coverage effective Jan. 1, 2016.
Impacted surviving spouses receiving an annuity from OPERS may enroll in health care coverage if the retiree was eligible to enroll. This change also can be made outside of open enrollment for 60 days from June 26, or during open enrollment in the fall for next year.
OPERS is currently updating its systems to accommodate the Supreme Court ruling. Members who encounter difficulties when trying to make changes through their online accounts should call us at 800-222-7377. You also can use this number to inquire about the cost of adding a spousal dependent or to receive retirement benefit estimates.
Michael Pramik is communication strategist for the Ohio Public Employees Retirement System and editor of the PERSpective blog. As an experienced business journalist, he clarifies complex pension policies and helps members make smart choices to secure their retirement.
8 thoughts on “OPERS to recognize same-sex marriages”
That’s just wonderful Michael. You’ve found another way to waste the funds of the members that have or soon will have actually paid in their fair share for 30 years. I lost faith in all of you doing what is right by God, and truly fair, a long time ago when you cut future retiree benefits so that our REAL spouses will never see a dime of all of the health care funds we’ve paid in for them under the same “promise” of a benefit. Truly shameful! God help us all.
I just tried to update my beneficiary information. My partner has been listed as “friend.” I tried to add her as a “spouse,” and the system said that I could not have a spouse with the same gender. How do I update this?
We’re aware of this situation with our system. Please give us a call and we can help you at 800-222-7377.
This is just great. Your doing this but law officers can’t get health care if they retire at age 52 with 25 years. They have to wait until age 60 or work 30 years. This is just not right,these officer pay more into the pension system. Prior to this when you retired with proper amount of years you received your pension and health care God help us all,this is just the beginning I’m glad I’m retired.
Does a retiree requesting the addition of a same sex ‘partner’ have to submit a legal marriage license before adding that person to their OPERS account?
Yes, a legal marriage certificate is required.
Talked with an Opers agent yesterday about the spouse health benefits expiring and phasing out over the next 3 years, starting in Jan. 2016. If this is true, why would Opers be allowing spouses to sign on, regardless if they are same sex or not?
Spouses who are eligible for the Connector will continue to receive partial allowances in 2016 and 2017. They can sign up for coverage in 2018 without an allowance, which might be an option.