OPERS answers member questions

Topics include working after retirement, beneficiary information

By Michael Pramik, Ohio Public Employees Retirement System

March 27, 2019 – We receive many questions through our social media sites, but we can’t always post responses to them.

So periodically we’ll use our PERSpective blog to answer some of those questions that we believe will have widespread interest.

Q: I’m planning to retire this year, and I want to find another job after I do. Do I have to wait a specific period of time before I can begin another job?

A: The immediate period of time after your retirement eligibility date can mean something if you’re an OPERS re-employed retiree. First, let’s define what OPERS considers to be a re-employed retiree.

Re-employed retirees are those who retire then become employed in an OPERS-covered position, whether it’s a full-time, part-time or seasonal job. Retiring and then working in the private sector or in a public job that’s not covered by OPERS does not classify the person as an OPERS re-employed retiree.

The “waiting period” we believe you’re asking about is the two-month re-employment forfeiture. This rule stipulates that an OPERS re-employed retiree who has received a retirement allowance for fewer than two months when re-employment begins must forfeit his or her retirement pay and health care coverage for any month of re-employment during that two-month period.

We’re not saying you have to wait two months after you retire to begin work as an OPERS re-employed retiree. You just won’t receive your pension or health care coverage until two months have passed after you retired.

For more information, read our Returning to Work After Retirement leaflet.

Q: Are OPERS retirees able to change the percentage of our pension we’ve said we’ll leave to dependents?

A: First, let’s be clear on what we’re talking about. OPERS members can designate a beneficiary for survivor benefits in case of death before retirement. You can change those beneficiaries at any time through your online account.

But it looks like you’re asking about changing your pension benefit after you retire. There are three benefit payment plans you can choose – Single Life Plan, Joint Life Plan and Multiple Life Plan. The latter two include payments to beneficiaries after the member’s death in exchange for a lower monthly pension benefit.

  • The only scenarios that allow for changing the terms of a plan once the plan has been chosen are the death of a beneficiary, marriage or remarriage, or divorce, dissolution or annulment of marriage.
  • There’s more information in our Retiring From Public Employment The lesson here is to choose the terms of your payment plan carefully when you retire. You can always contact us at 800-222-7377 for more information, or schedule an in-person session with one of our counselors.

Q: My retirement date was set as March 1. When can I expect my first check? I was told it might take a month or two. Also, when can I receive an award letter which Social Security needs?

A: The first benefit payment can take 30 business days from the effective date or from the date in which OPERS receives all required documents, whichever comes later. In your case, if we’ve received all your documentation, that would be March 1. It’s possible, if all required documentation is received in advance, that retirees can receive the first check on their effective date, but we don’t guarantee that.

What can delay the initial benefit check? Processing, for one. We typically advise members to apply for retirement a few months in advance to give OPERS a head start on processing benefits. If we didn’t receive the application and all required documents in advance, it delays when we can begin processing the retirement. Some of this documentation comes from your employer, so it might be beyond your control.

Changing your retirement options also can cause processing delays. Some accounts, including a Money Purchase or a defined contribution annuity, require the final contributions to be posted before the account is paid, which can often times take one or two months beyond the effective date.

We recommend that you contact us at 800-222-7377 to make sure all required documents have been received. To determine your retirement income vs. your retirement expenses, consider watching our Bridging the Gap to Financial Wellness webinar.

Regarding your question about Social Security, you need to provide Social Security proof of how much you receive from OPERS – the final benefit amount, not an interim amount you might receive at first. Social Security calls that an award letter, and we call it an Income Verification Letter. We report this information to you, and you need to report it to Social Security. That’s because Social Security has the Windfall Elimination Provision and Government Pension Offset, which can impact your Social Security benefit.

You can request and print this letter from your online account by clicking on “Requestable Documents” and selecting “Income Verification Letter.” You also can call us to request one, at 800-222-7377.

We recommend that you prepare well in advance for your retirement. Make an appointment with one of our counselors. And take advantage of the educational opportunities through OPERS, such as the “Bridging the Gap to Financial Wellness” webinar. We also have an online tool that can help you determine your retirement income vs. your retirement expenses.

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

    • When you terminate service and are eligible for retirement, you have the option to retire and receive an annuity, or you can refund your account as one lump sum. If you refund your account as one lump sum, you will forfeit any future benefits from OPERS including health care eligibility. Also, if you were eligible for a benefit and chose to refund your account, you still may be subject to a reduction of your Social Security benefits because you were eligible for a retirement benefit.

      There’s another option available if you need part of your account as a lump sum when you retire. A Partial Lump Sum Option Payment, or PLOP, allows a member to receive a lump sum benefit payment along with a reduce monthly retirement allowance. Eligibility for access to health insurance has no bearing on the size of your PLOP. For more information, please go to our Ready to Retire page on the OPERS website at https://www.opers.org/members/retiring.shtml (scroll down to the Partial Lump Sum Option Payment section). If you still have questions, please call us at 1-800-222-7377.

      Julie, OPERS

    • Mike,

      That is up to your new employer, not OPERS. If you have started with a new employer that considers previous public employment for seniority or leave accrual, you can print a service credit history from your online account that would show your previous public service if documentation is needed. You’ll still need to direct those questions to your new employer. Also, you should know that vacation and sick leave payouts generally do not count toward your final average salary when determining your pension amount.

      Julie, OPERS

  • I have over 21 years of service but am wanting to move to another state. Can I leave my funds in tact and collect a monthly retirement in the future or will I forfeit the amount my employer has paid in?

    • Yes — you are not obligated to refund your account when you leave your OPERS-covered position. You’ll be known as an inactive member. How to leave your account on deposit depends on which plan you are in, Tradtional, Combined or Member-Directed. More information can be found at http://www.opers.org/members/refunds.shtml. Scroll down to the middle of the page to the “Can I leave my money with OPERS?” section.

      Julie, OPERS

  • I’ve been retired for 4 years. I would to like to start work again, and was applying at the USPS (postal office). They contribute to FERS. Will that affect my OPERS?

    • If hired, your new position at USPS will not affect your OPERS pension because the Postal Service is not an OPERS-covered employer. However, the Social Security benefit you would receive from the USPS position will be impacted. For more information, contact your local Social Security office. For more information about re-employment, go to the OPERS website at https://www.opers.org/retirees/re-employment/index.shtml.

      Julie, OPERS

    • You don’t have to do anything. All service remains at the system where it was earned until the time of retirement.If you file for a joint retirement it would be determined which system has the most time and the service would be transferred to that system. If you have questions, please call us at 1-800-222-7377.

  • I am getting close to the time when I want to retire, in the next 2.5 years. The majority of my contributions have been to OPERS. I also contributed to SERS. My time with SERS is less but over 3 years. My pay with OPERS is considerably higher than with SERS and I am eligible to retire now, but reduced. How will the SERS contributions be calculated since I will be retiring under OPERS? Also, my SERS does not show up in OPERS even though they have proof of it. It seems to me, it used to show up in my benefits calculator, but now it doesn’t.

    • At retirement, OPERS members participating the Traditional Plan who also have accounts with STRS and/or SERS may choose to have their contributions and service credit combined for the purpose of determining eligibility and to calculate benefits. If this option is chosen, the system that has the most service credit will pay the benefit, while funds and service credit in the other system(s) are transferred to the paying system. Please call us at 1-800-222-7377 for more information.

  • I just read the April OPERS Report. If you assume a lot of past members retire in the early 50’s and collected 10-15 years of pre medicare health care coverage for them and their spouses along with 3% retirement increases each year and possible only paid 8.5% instead of the current 10%. So in 2022, your still most likely will pay this same group the Medicare allowance ($450). But you going to tell the employees that have paid 10% into the system that you can’t retire with pre medicare health care which means they can’t retire till age 65. I don’t understand why the board can’t see they drained the Pre-medicare health care coverage for the past retires and are telling the upcoming retires you have to shoulder more of the pain. At what point will the board work for the upcoming retires.

    • Bob,

      No decisions have yet been made about the future of OPERS health care. However, two of the guiding principles to our approach are to preserve access to quality health care for all those eligible, and to balance health care changes between current and future retirees.

      –Ohio PERS

  • Has there been any favorable action regarding the bill to change or eliminate the windfall elimination?

    • Penelope,

      OPERS believes the WEP and GPO negatively impact our retirees and should be addressed. We follow this process every year and stand ready to work with interested parties to develop a solution that works best for all of our members.

      Last year’s bill, which would have changed the way the WEP is calculated, did not advance before the last Congress ended. It has not been reintroduced. A full repeal bill has been introduced this session, but this type of proposal is introduced every session without success.

      –Ohio PERS

  • How many dollars do you have to earn in a month to qualify for one month of PERS credit? Also, is the amount before or after tax?

    • Erin,

      To qualify for a full month of service credit, OPERS members must earn $660 in gross salary. You can earn partial service credit for a lesser amount. To qualify for pension and health care, the monthly minimum earnable salary is $1,000.

      –Ohio PERS

  • I have been at an SERS job for 21 yrs, and an OPERS part-time job for 1.5 yrs, I am leaving the SERS job and going full-time to the OPERS, will my time at SERS job transfer over to OPERS ? Is there any thing I can do to combine the two ?

  • Does this appy to PERS?
    If your spouse has a retirement plan and dies without collecting on it, it may be possible for you to collect the benefits s/he would have been entitled to under a survivor benefit plan. This right stems from a regulation in place under ERISA, the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974. ERISA, which is a federal act, states that a pension plan must have something referred to as survivor’s benefits. These survivors’ benefits mean that, should the holder of the pension plan die, the person’s spouse is allowed to receive fully vested benefits from the plan.

    Read more: ///employment-law.freeadvice.com/employment-law/pensions_benefits/spouse_benefits.htm#ixzz5zPpxmW7q

  • I retired from the National Guard. I will receive my VA pension with the National Guard in 5.5 years. I will be under 60 years. Concurrently, I am working full time in public service with 22 years of service. It was my understanding that my OPERS will not be adjusted as I will be collecting a VA pension too. I met with an OPERS rep when I came back from deployment and they did not know for sure. Please advise. I did not see anything on your website or the internet for possible answers.

  • I am retiring with 30 years service in OPERS. I am moving to another state and plan on working with another medical entity hopefully or at least somewhere. Will this have any affect on my payout with OPERS. Of coarse I would take the insurance if offered by future employer but what about other payout from my retirement?

  • If I take a lump sum retirement from OPERS at age 58 with only 19 years in the pension fund, before I am eligible for retirement, how will it affect my earned social security benefit? Employees at the local Social Security office told me that they needed a number from the pension fund before they could give me an estimate.

  • I have worked for the state of Ohio for 6 years. I was recently deployed with the national guard. Do I have to buy back time from when I was deployed to have a good credit year?

    • Thank you for your service, Patrick. Please call us at 1-800-222-7377 so we can review your options.

      Julie, OPERS

  • If there is a change in life events such as death of beneficiary or a divorce, what will the increase be in the retiree’s allotment if the retiree goes back to single life plan?

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