Disability Retirement Eligibility
Although no one wants to face this personal situation, some APERS members have suffered total and permanent disabilities that force them to retire. APERS members with a disability may retire if they meet certain eligibility requirements:
- They must have at least 5 years credited service.
- They must have credited service for 18 of the 24 months immediately preceding the disability occurrence.
- They must be ruled eligible for federal Social Security disability benefits due to a total and permanent disability.
Applying for Disability Retirement
While the Social Security Administration (SSA) often has at least a five-month waiting period, you should file immediately for disability with APERS. If you are approved for disability benefits by SSA, you will receive an annuity (a series of regular payments) which is paid to you each month for as long as you are disabled. With normal approval, your disability benefit will be effective the first of the month following APERS’ approval of your disability application. The amount of your disability annuity is based on your final average compensation and your total credited service. Your benefit is not reduced for early retirement and is the same amount you would receive for normal retirement.
If your disability claim is initially denied by Social Security, you must appeal the ruling through the Administrative Law Judge of the Social Security Administration before a separate appeal to the APERS Board of Trustees will be accepted. You should contact APERS for specific instructions after appealing through the Administrative Law Judge of the Social Security Administration.
Any former member who was or is approved for disability by the Social Security Administration but whose onset date does not meet the provision that requires credited service for 18 of the 24 months immediately before the disability may be retired by the APERS Board of Trustees upon written application to the Board if the onset date determined by the SSA is within 24 months of the date the member terminated from covered employment.
If you are within 10 years of your normal retirement age (for most that is at least 55 years of age) you may receive reduced benefits pending approval of your disability.
Returning to Work for an APERS-Covered Employer
While you receive a disability retirement benefit, you may not return to work in an APERS covered position. If you return to work for an APERS-participating employer while you receive a disability benefit, you are no longer eligible for disability retirement and we will stop your benefit payments. If you have any questions regarding an employer’s participation in APERS, you should contact APERS before you begin working for that employer.
Returning to Work for a Non-APERS Employer
While you receive a disability retirement benefit, under certain circumstances you may return to work for an employer that does not participate in APERS. You may return to work for a non-APERS participating employer if your income does not exceed the level which Social Security considers “substantial.” The substantial earnings amount usually increases each year. For the current amount that Social Security considers substantial, visit their website at www.socialsecurity.gov.
(This material is derived from our brochure on early retirement and disability, 8/10/15)