Legislature passes bill to assist OPERS members

The Ohio General Assembly has passed legislation that includes improving survivor benefits and facilitating contribution refunds for members of the Ohio Public Employees Retirement System.

Ohio House Bill 520 includes provisions that will affect all five state retirement systems. It contains several adjustments to the latest pension law changes that are intended to streamline business practices and improve administrative efficiency.

The bill will become effective 90 days after Gov. John Kasich signs it (or if he chooses to take no action within 10 days).

Here are the highlights of House Bill 520 that will impact OPERS members:

  • Children, under age 22, of a member who dies before retirement no longer must be attending an institution of learning or training in order to receive survivor benefits. We’ll also resume paying survivor benefits to qualifying children under age 22 whose benefits were terminated because they were not in school.
  • Members refunding their accounts will now be able to receive their money after a two-month waiting period instead of three months. Members can apply for refunds any time after they terminate employment, but we’ll now be able to issue the refund sooner providing the applicant doesn’t return to public employment.
  • In some cases, beneficiaries are eligible for a combined survivor benefit from OPERS, the State Teachers Retirement System of Ohio and/or the School Employees Retirement System of Ohio. The bill stipulates that we’ll honor the last beneficiary designation among the three systems if an OPERS member also is a member of one or both of the other two systems.
  • For a period of 90 days following the bill’s enactment, certain members with service both in OPERS and the Ohio Police & Fire Pension Fund will be able to combine service and retire under the system from which they’re eligible.
  • Five new classifications will be established for OPERS’ Law Enforcement division.
  • A new mitigating rate for the OPERS Alternative Retirement Plan will be set based upon an actuarial calculation. The ARP is a plan that public university and college employees may choose in lieu of one our three main retirement plans.

The bill also includes a number of other corrections that are technical in nature and that modify provisions of the most-recent pension law legislative changes.

OPERS worked at length with House Bill 520’s co-sponsors, Rep. Kirk Schuring, R-Canton, and Rep. Dan Ramos, D-Lorain, to pass common-sense improvements for our members. We appreciate their efforts, as well as the action of the entire Ohio legislature, to pass the bill.

Michael Pramik

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.

Michael Pramik

Communication Strategist

  • I don’t suppose they provided a fix for those who were on Disability RETIREMENT on the original effective date of the changes, who were told less than 30 days before the effective date that they had not actually been retired after all and who therefore lost their expected 3% COLAs, did they?

  • The biggest burden right now for my husband an myself is the Medicare part B cost. I was told at time of employment that Medicare Part B would be covered…..it is no longer covered at all.

    In 2016, I paid $365.40 each quarter with OPERS contributing $31 monthly toward the cost. This coming year Part B is raised, the contribution from OPERS ends and we are left wondering how we can come up with that much money every three months………….WE CAN’T!

  • On the above comment,OPERS was not out front with the change it made in regard to stopping reimbursement for Part B. I have still not received a response from OPERS when I posed a question about this. OPERS rather surreptitiously slipped this one in on us. I am asking OPERS to get on here and respond. Are there alternatives????

    • Lee,

      The elimination of the reimbursement for Medicare Part B premiums was just one part of a larger plan to allow us to preserve health care for the future. OPERS began communicating this change in late 2012 and has continually included it in communications on health care.

      Here is a relevant passage from the Comprehensive Guide to Pension & Health Care Changes, which we sent to all members in 2013:

      Retirees currently covered by Medicare will continue to receive their current Medicare Part B premium reimbursement through 2014. The reimbursement will be reduced by one-third in 2015 and again by one-third in 2016 resulting in $0 reimbursement for Medicare Part B premiums by 2017.

      –Ohio PERS

  • House Bill 550 is a disaster for surviving spouses with children. OPERS has split the payments into separate payments for spouses and surviving children. Now there are two 1099-R,s and I have to file a separate federal tax return for my MINOR son. I can no longer claim him as a dependent and I’m going to be out almost $900 in taxes that we won’t get back because he has NO EXEMPTIONS! I thought this was only supposed to be changed for surviving dependents from 18 to 22 ?!?!??

    • Sheila,

      Beginning in January 2017, OPERS began maintaining separate records for each surviving beneficiary in order to ensure accurate reporting of tax records to the Internal Revenue Service. A letter was sent to impacted surviving beneficiaries in November 2016 informing them of the impacts of this change.

      H.B. 520, which becomes law on April 6, did not contain any provisions that required OPERS to split benefit payments to surviving spouses and qualifying children under the spouse’s care.

      If you have additional questions, please contact us through your secure, online account or call the Member Services Center at 1-800-222-7377. OPERS cannot provide you with personal income tax advice. Please discuss those matters with your tax professional.

      Julie, Ohio PERS

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