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.