STATE EMPLOYEES
RETIREMENT COMMISSION

MEDICAL EXAMINING BOARD
For DISABILITY RETIREMENT
COMPTROLLER'S SEAL STATE OF CONNECTICUT 55 ELM STREET
HARTFORD, CONNECTICUT
06106-1775
Telephone (860) 702-3480
Facsimile (860) 702-3489
STATE OF CONNECTICUT
RETIREMENT SERVICES DIVISION
OFFICE OF THE STATE COMPTROLLER

RETIREMENT SERVICES DIVISION MEMORANDUM 2014-04

October 21, 2014

TO THE HEADS OF ALL STATE AGENCIES

ATTENTION:   All Human Resources and Payroll Officers
SUBJECT:   STATE EMPLOYEES RETIREMENT SYSTEM INFORMATION PROCEDURES FOR PROCESSING EMPLOYEE RETIREMENT APPLICATIONS

I. INTRODUCTION

The purpose of this memorandum is to provide agency human resources' staff with direction concerning the processing of State Employees Retirement System (SERS) retirement applications.

SERS member's retirement applications will fall into one of the following two general categories: eligible for direct transition from active employment to immediate retirement or vested for future retirement benefits.

II. SERS MEMBERS ELIGIBLE FOR IMMEDIATE RETIREMENT

Please refer to the attached SERS Tier I, Tier II, Tier IIA, Tier III and the Hybrid Plan Eligibility Requirements chart (Attachment I) to determine the eligibility of an employee for immediate retirement. If an employee is eligible for an immediate retirement, the following resources are available to help them transition into retirement.

A. Retirement Information and Counseling Sessions

1. Workshops on the Web
 
There are informative "self-help" retirement counseling workshops (by Tier and Hazardous Duty) available on the Office of the State Comptroller (OSC) website. The goal is to provide the same information in this setting as provided in one of our traditional counseling sessions. These workshops are not meant to cover every retirement provision or detail, but rather are a general explanation of the most important retirement issues and considerations. Links are provided to relevant forms and outside vendors or entities as necessary. The workshops can be found on the OSC website under "Employee Resources" at http://www.osc.ct.gov/empret/index.html.
 
2. Benefit Estimators
 
Agencies are reminded that we have on-line benefit estimators to help an employee determine his or her retirement benefit. The employee will be responsible for entering the relevant data (age, length of service, salary, etc.) and the calculator will produce an estimated benefit by option factor. In a few cases, the employee may need help from the agency to determine "average" salary or service credit information. Lastly, the benefit estimators will not work for employees retiring under the provisions of CGS Sec. 5-163(c). If you need help with regard to a CGS Sec. 5-163(c) retirement, please contact the Counseling Unit at (860) 702-3490.

The benefit estimators can also be found on the OSC website under "Employee Resources" at http://www.osc.ct.gov/empret/index.html.
 
3. Group Retirement Counseling Sessions
 
The Counseling Unit provides group retirement counseling presentations and a question/answer period for employees. These sessions are specifically geared to the employees who are currently eligible for immediate retirement as space is limited. Appointments must be scheduled in advance by calling 860-702-3490.

B. Retirement Application Process

Agencies must process retirement applications (CO-898) for employees who are eligible and ready to retire and must submit original paperwork to the Retirement Services Division prior to the effective date of retirement.

The calculation of the average salary used to compute the retirement benefit includes the determination of the three highest paid years of state service. Accordingly, Part III of the retirement application should be completed reflecting actual wages earned except for members whose earnings will be subject to the federal limitation under IRC, Section 401(a)(17) which limits the compensation upon which retirement benefits calculated.

Up to date CORE-CT records identifying vacation accrual balances must be submitted with the retirement application if a member's accrued vacation days are being used to fulfill the member's minimum requirements for early or normal retirement.

For easy reference, refer to the Check List for Retirement Applications (Attachment II) and Additional Information with Retirement Application (Attachment III) attached to this memorandum.

Important Note: New retirees must complete and submit IRS Form W4P and CT-W4P for federal and state withholding tax.

All retirement forms are now available online at the following link: http://www.osc.ct.gov/agencies/forms/retire/index.html 

Any questions Human Resource staff have concerning the retirement application process should be referred to the Retirement Audit Unit at 860-702-3521.

C. Retirement Disability Application Process

If and employee becomes disabled as a Tier I member and has five (5) years of service, the employee may be eligible for disability retirement benefits. All other Tier members require ten (10) years of vesting to be eligible for a disability retirement benefit. If the employees disability is job related, the employee may be eligible to receive benefits regardless of his/her years of service.

The Retirement Application (CO-898) and Disability Retirement Application Medical Report (CO-649) must be completed. For individualized information, Human Resources staff may contact the Retirement Services Division Counseling Unit.

The determination of eligibility for state disability retirement benefits is made by the Medical Examining Board (MEB). If an employee qualifies for a disability retirement, the on-line benefit estimators should not be used to determine his or her retirement benefit.

III. VESTED SERS MEMBERS NOT ELIGIBLE FOR IMMEDIATE RETIREMENT

SERS members are generally vested after five (5) years of actual State service. Tier III and Hybrid Plan members hired after July 1, 2011 require ten (10) years of vesting. Again, please refer to the SERS Tier I, Tier II, Tier IIA, Tier III and the Hybrid Plan Eligibility Requirements chart to determine the eligibility of an employee for immediate or vested retirement (Attachment I).

A. Retirement Information and Counseling Sessions

Vested members are encouraged to view the Workshops on the Web and to utilize the Benefit Estimators to calculate their estimated future benefit based upon current plan provisions and benefit formulas. It is important to note that eligibility and formulas can change in the future. If such changes occur, the benefit estimators will be revised accordingly.

B. Retirement Application Process

Agencies should follow the same procedure for vested employees as they do for employees that transition directly into retirement. Except that the member should not complete an option form, spouse waiver form or marital status affidavit at this time. Instead, the application should be accompanied by a copy of the member's birth certificate and a completed Form CO-744V (health services after retirement) only.

The Audit Unit will send the option form, spouse waiver form and marital status affidavit to the member for completion several months before he or she reaches their minimum retirement age. It is important to note that a retirement benefit will not be automatic at the minimum retirement age: a vested rights retiree still must execute and return the forms sent to him or her. No retirement benefit will be paid until all required forms are received and properly executed.

It is even more important for the vested rights retiree to promptly notify the Division of all address changes. This is the vested rights retiree's responsibility and it is VERY important. A vested rights retiree cannot receive a retirement benefit if he or she cannot be located.
Vested members who complete and submit an application for vested rights retirement will receive an abbreviated annual statement of benefits each year.

Special Note: For SERS members that are either eligible for immediate retirement or will be eligible for a future vested rights retirement benefit and have a purchase request or an additional retirement credit request in progress, agencies should make an appropriate notation on the retirement application. Only bank checks will be accepted for service purchases at the time of retirement. This requirement is due to the fact that personal checks must clear through the bank before a retirement benefit can paid. Any questions regarding purchasing or the obtaining of additional retirement credit may be directed to the Retirement Purchasing Unit at 860-702-3511.

IV. CONCLUSION

Questions may be directed as follows:

Retirement Benefit Eligibility - Counseling Services Unit, 860-702-3490;

Retirement Application Process and Vested Rights - Audit Unit, 860-702-3521;

Refunds - Data Base Unit, 860-702-3515;

Purchases or Obtaining Additional Retirement Credit - Purchasing Unit, 860-702-3511.

Very truly yours,

STATE EMPLOYEES RETIREMENT COMMISSION
KEVIN LEMBO, SECRETARY EX OFFICIO

BY:

Brenda K. Halpin, Division Director
Retirement Services Division

BH/CN/BP/KS:eh
Attachments I, II, III

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