Website Handbook Benefit Information
Final Compensation / Compensation Earnable Defined: All benefits are described in terms of final compensation. Final compensation for members of the First Tier Miscellaneous Category and the First Tier Safety Category is defined as the highest average monthly compensation earnable by a member during any one year elected by a member at the time (s)he files an application for retirement. For all other retirement tier categories, members use three years instead of one year.
“Compensation earnable” includes all regularly and routinely occurring remuneration paid in cash through the payroll warrant including: regular earnings, workers compensation temporary disability, shift differential, special pay allowances, incentive pay allowances, miscellaneous allowances, management differential, retirement offset, sick leave, disability pay, 4850 time pay, bonus pay, holiday-in-lieu paid after maximum accrual, standby pay, food allowance, vacation cash-in and payoff beyond maximum accrual, mental health retention, clothing allowance, insurance subsidy cash back, insurance subsidy offset, auto allowance, equipment allowance, and 7/12 work schedule hours. All other elements of compensation not expressly included in “compensation earnable” are excluded.
For a summary of compensation elements included or excluded as compensation earnable, see Exhibit 1.
SCERS provides a “defined benefit” type of retirement benefit to its members. Under this type, contributions are required from both you and your employer, which, upon retirement, purchase an annuity and a pension based upon a formula which takes into consideration your final compensation, age and years of credited service. You may receive a lifetime monthly allowance for: (1) a service retirement, (2) a nonservice-connected disability retirement, or (3) a service-connected disability retirement.
- Miscellaneous members with ten or more years of creditable service (except military leave and public service credit) who have attained the age of fifty are eligible to retire.
- Safety members with ten or more years of creditable service (except military leave and public service credit) who have attained age fifty are eligible to retire.
- Miscellaneous members who have completed thirty years of creditable service (except military leave and public service credit) may retire regardless of age.
- Safety members who have completed twenty years of creditable service (except military leave and public service credit) may retire regardless of age.
- A member who attains the age of 70 is eligible to retire regardless of years of service.
How to Apply
If you are qualified for service retirement, you may apply with the SCERS Board on an application form provided by SCERS to be effective on the date you specify. A copy of your birth certificate and, if applicable, your marriage certificate and spouse’s birth certificate should accompany the application.
The effective date will be the day after the last day on payroll, or the date the application for retirement is filed, whichever is later.
Effect of Service Retirement
Upon retirement, you cease to be an employee or an active member of SCERS; you become a retiree entitled to receive a retirement allowance. After retirement, you may engage in any occupation or employment you may desire, except reemployment by the County or a member district (in other than the conditions described below), without cessation, reduction or recalculation of her/his retirement allowance.
County Work After Service Retirement
After retirement, as a retiree, you may not be paid for service to the County or a member district except as follows:
- Service as a juror or precinct officer.
- Service as a deputy registrar of voters.
- Service in a temporary capacity not to exceed one hundred and twenty working days or nine hundred and sixty hours, whichever is greater, in a calendar year.
- Service as a member of the SCERS Board.
- Service as a contract employee.
How To Calculate A Service Retirement Benefit
Estimate Worksheet - See the “Service Retirement Estimate Worksheet,” and accompanying tables, pages and/or access the Retirement website to do your estimate.
Temporary Annuity (Optional)
If you retire for service before reaching age 62 and you are fully insured under Social Security, you may, at retirement, with the approval of the Retirement Board, elect to have your SCERS retirement allowance increased prior to age 62 and decreased after age 62 by amounts which have equivalent actuarial values.
The amount of increase in your SCERS retirement allowance prior to age 62 is a percentage of the estimated amount you are to receive in Social Security payments when you reach age 62. After you reach age 62, the total SCERS retirement allowance will be decreased by the full amount of the estimated Social Security payments. When cost-of-living increases have been added to a temporary annuity allowance, the cost-of-living portion will also undergo a pro-rated reduction at 62.
The temporary annuity is optional. [In all places above, "65" may be substituted for "62" at the option of the member.]
The SCERS staff will assist an employee in obtaining the necessary estimate of the amount payable under Social Security.
If you have five years of SCERS service or five years of combined service with SCERS and a reciprocal retirement system, regardless of age, you are eligible for a nonservice-connected disability retirement allowance provided you are proven to be permanently incapacitated for the performance of the substantial portion of your duties.
If you are proven, to the satisfaction of the SCERS Board, to be permanently incapacitated for the performance of the substantial portion of your duties and can prove that such incapacity is a result of injury or disease arising out of, and in the course of, your employment, and that such employment contributes substantially to such incapacity, you are eligible for a service-connected disability retirement allowance regardless of age or length of service.
If you are engaged in active law enforcement or fire suppression or safety category members, heart or cancer presumptions may apply.
How to Apply for Disability Retirement
You may file an application for disability retirement, or, an application may be filed by the head of your department, or by any other person on your behalf, on a form provided by SCERS.
If you believe you are permanently incapacitated for your duties or if you are filing on another person’s behalf, you should request a disability retirement information and forms packet from SCERS.
As required by the SCERS Board’s Bylaws and as explained in the packet, an application for a disability retirement shall not be considered “filed,” and no action will be taken, until the following documents have been received by SCERS:
- A properly completed Application For Disability Retirement form.
- A completed Medical Evaluation form; and, a statement submitted by the applicant’s attending physician, substantiating the claim for disability.
The Bylaws place specific time limits on the submission of medical reports that may be submitted into evidence to substantiate the disability claim. Any medical reports that are in the applicant’s possession at the time of filing must be submitted simultaneously with the general application form and statement from the attending physician. Any other medical reports that are to be submitted as evidence but are not in the applicant’s possession on the date the application is filed must be submitted to the SCERS Board no later than sixty days after the date of filing. If the applicant anticipates any delays in the submission of medical reports, (s)he should contact SCERS’ Chief Benefits Officer within the first thirty days after the application is filed and request an extension of time.
How To Calculate A Disability Retirement Benefit
Upon retirement for disability, you generally shall receive a monthly retirement allowance based on a disability formula or a service retirement formula, whichever is greater. Because the amount of allowance payable may vary according to retirement membership category, date of entry into membership, service credits, representation unit and collective bargaining agreement, SCERS will assist you in determining the estimated amount of allowance. However, a Quick Reference Guide is provided.
Burden of Proof
The burden of proof of disability and service-connection is placed, by law, upon the applicant. The amount and nature of the medical evidence that the applicant submits to the SCERS Board to substantiate the claim of disability is at the applicant’s discretion.
In instances where the existence of a permanent incapacity or a service-connection is unclear, or inadequately substantiated, the County Counsel may oppose approval of the claim before a hearing officer or before the SCERS Board. Applicants and prospective applicants are urged to consult with and seek representation by an attorney.
Because of the sixty-day time period allowed for an applicant’s submission of evidence, the inherent delays in obtaining medical reports, records, and scheduling of medical examinations, and scheduling conflicts of the applicant and her/his attorney, County Counsel, and the SCERS Board, some applicants whose cases are contested should expect a waiting period of at least seven months from date of application to the date of her/his SCERS Board hearing.
The disability retirement will be effective as of the date the application is filed with SCERS, but not earlier than the day following the last day for which the applicant received regular compensation. This requirement notwithstanding, the retirement of an applicant who has been granted, or is entitled to, sick leave will not become effective until the expiration of such sick leave, unless the applicant consents to retirement at an earlier date, thereby waiving such sick leave.
Periodic Medical Examination
If you are a disability retiree under the age of fifty-five, you may be re-examined to determine if you are still unable to perform the duties of your former position. If found to be no longer disabled, your retirement allowance may be discontinued if your employer offers reinstatement in County or member district service.
Interim Service Retirement
If you meet the eligibility requirements for a service retirement, you may apply for payment of an interim service retirement allowance pending the outcome of your disability claim.
Receipt of an interim service retirement allowance makes you ineligible to return to permanent employment in the event of denial of your disability retirement application. If an interim service retirement is desired you may complete and submit an Interim Service Retirement Application form concurrent with the Disability Retirement Application, or at any time during the disability application process.
Deferred retirement is available to you if you leave membership service with five or more years of retirement credit. To be placed on deferred retirement, you must apply in writing within one hundred and eighty days from termination of employment.
As a deferred member, you may receive a retirement allowance at any time you could have received a service retirement allowance had you remained in service instead of separating. As a deferred member, you should request a service retirement application form from SCERS well in advance of your intended effective date of retirement, since retirement cannot be made effective prior to the filing date. Your application will be considered filed when it is received by SCERS.
Death After Retirement
Upon the death of a retired member, the designated beneficiary(ies) may receive a $4,000 lump-sum burial allowance. Please call SCERS’ office at (916) 874-9119 for more information.
Optional Retirement Allowances
Until the first payment of any retirement allowance is made, you may elect to have your retirement allowance payable throughout life in accordance with one of the optional settlements specified below, and providing for the beneficiary’s/survivor’s benefits indicated. The nomination of a beneficiary, other than nominations under option settlements 2, 3 and 4, may be revoked at your pleasure and a different beneficiary nominated by written designation duly executed and filed with the SCERS Board. In addition to the “optional” survivor’s benefits, the designated beneficiary will receive a prorated month of death payment and a $4,000 lump-sum burial allowance.
Upon your death after service retirement or nonservice-connected disability retirement, sixty percent of the retirement allowance shall be continued throughout life to a surviving spouse to whom you have been married for at least one year prior to the effective date of retirement. If there is no surviving spouse who is eligible for this continuance, a lump-sum payment may be available to the surviving non-eligible spouse or to the designated beneficiary. If there is no eligible surviving spouse but there are surviving minor children, then the allowance which the surviving spouse would have received had (s)he lived, shall be paid to the child or children collectively until every such child dies, marries or attains the age of eighteen (thus making such child or children ineligible) or through the age of twenty-one if enrolled as a full-time student in an accredited school approved by the SCERS Board.
Upon your death after service-connected disability retirement, one hundred percent of the retirement allowance shall be continued throughout life to a surviving spouse to whom you have been married prior to the effective date of retirement. If there is no eligible surviving spouse but there are surviving minor children, then the allowance which the surviving spouse would have received had (s)he lived, shall be paid to the child or children until every such child dies, marries or attains the age of eighteen (thus making such child or children ineligible) or through the age of twenty-one if enrolled as a full-time student in an accredited school approved by the SCERS Board.
You may elect to receive a slightly reduced retirement allowance monthly, payable throughout your life, with the provisions that the accumulated contributions, less the sum of the actual monthly current service annuity payment received by you, will be paid upon your death to the designated beneficiary.
You may elect to receive a considerably reduced allowance than that received with an unmodified option, but with the provision that it continues to be paid after your death to the designated beneficiary having an insurable interest in your life. All continuing payments stop at the death of both annuitants.
You may elect to receive a reduced allowance with fifty percent of the allowance continuing to the designated beneficiary having an insurable interest in your life, after your death. All continuing payments stop at the death of both annuitants.
You may elect to receive a reduced monthly retirement allowance payable throughout your life and such other benefits that are approved by the Board paid to such persons, having an insurable interest in your life, as you nominate by written designation. All continuing benefits stop at the death of both annuitants.
Death Before Retirement
Upon your death before retirement, the basic death benefit consists of:
Your accumulated contributions plus interest, and an amount equal to an average month’s salary (based on the last twelve months) for each year of service under the system, subject to a maximum of six years. (This feature is known as the six-month’s salary death benefit.)
Upon your death, if you have completed at least five years of service in the retirement system, a surviving spouse may, in lieu of the basic death benefit mentioned above, elect to receive either a monthly benefit equal to sixty percent of the nonservice-connected disability retirement allowance which you would have been entitled to receive at the date of your death or, a six month salary benefit plus a sixty percent monthly allowance reduced by the actuarial equivalent of the six month’s salary benefit. If there is no surviving spouse, surviving children who remain unmarried may receive their share of the monthly benefit (equal to sixty percent of the nonservice-connected disability retirement allowance to which you would have been entitled at the date of your death). Such benefit will be payable to the child(ren) until eighteen years of age (through the age of twenty-one if enrolled as a full-time student in an accredited school). The rights and privileges conferred upon a qualified surviving spouse or minor children shall not be dependent upon their being nominated as beneficiaries.
If you should die as a result of an injury or disease arising out of and in the course of your employment, your surviving spouse may elect, in lieu of the basic death benefit, to receive a monthly benefit of one-half of the your final compensation. Additionally, if you are killed in the performance of duty or if you die as a result of an accident or injury caused by external violence or physical force, incurred in the performance of your duty, your surviving spouse may receive an additional monthly allowance for each of your minor children.
If you are a safety member who is killed in the performance of duty or who dies as a result of an accident or injury caused by external violence or physical force, incurred in the performance of your duty, your surviving spouse may be paid, in addition to all other benefits, a one-time lump sum benefit equal to the annual compensation earnable by you at your monthly rate of compensation at the time of your death.
If you die while in a deferred retirement status, your designated beneficiary will receive the total of your accumulated contributions plus interest.
The name and relationship of your beneficiary is designated by you upon entry into SCERS. [A married member normally names the spouse as beneficiary because of the community property laws of California and the survivorship benefits available to a spouse in the event of a member's death.] The person named as beneficiary may be changed at any time that changes occur in your personal circumstances.
As an active member, you may change beneficiaries by filling out a new Member’s Enrollment Affidavit form which is available from SCERS or at each departmental personnel/payroll office (see ). For retired members, the nominations of a beneficiary other than nominations under option settlements 2, 3, and 4, may be revoked at your pleasure and a different beneficiary nominated by written designation, duly executed and filed with SCERS. [See also "Spousal Sign-Off"]
Death benefits are paid upon your death. It is very important that your designated beneficiary be the intended beneficiary you have on file with SCERS.
You should advise your designated beneficiary to contact SCERS immediately upon your death. The beneficiary must provide a copy of the Certificate of Death to SCERS before benefit processing can begin. In addition, the beneficiary should provide a copy of the beneficiary’s birth certificate and proof of marriage, if a surviving spouse.
Cost of Living Allowance
All First Tier Miscellaneous, Third Tier Miscellaneous and First and Second Tier Safety Category retirement allowances (and beneficiary continuing allowances of same) paid on March 31st of each year are adjusted upward or downward effective April 1st in accordance with changes in the cost of living (to the nearest one-half of one percent) as determined by the published Consumers Price Index for the San Francisco bay area. To be eligible for this increase, you must be retired on or before March 31st. The maximum change in any year cannot exceed four percent for members of the First Tier Miscellaneous and First Tier Safety categories, and two percent for members of the Third Tier Miscellaneous and Second Tier Safety categories. A change in any year in excess of the allowed percentage is accumulated to be applied to the allowance in a future year when the annual change is less than allowed percentage. No allowance can be decreased below the amount received at the time of retirement, or the date of the Cost of Living Program (began July 1, 1965), whichever is later.
There is no post retirement cost of living increase for Second Tier Miscellaneous Category members.
You may at your expense continue, in retirement, health insurance coverage by your County sponsored active employee medical insurance plan. However, because of the unavoidable time lag between a date of retirement and the date of receiving the first retirement warrant, it may be necessary for you to prepay a medical insurance premium for the first month’s coverage. At retirement, the SCERS staff will refer you to the County Human Resources Agency, Employee Benefits Office, Room 6750, sixth floor, of the County Administration Building at 700 H Street, for assistance regarding this matter.
Effective July 1, 2004, the Employee Benefits Office is responsible for administering and maintaining information about eligibility for County-sponsored annuitant medical and dental plan coverage. For more information about subsidization for retiree medical or dental plans, or eligibility for coverage under these plans, please contact the County’s Employee Benefit Offices at the following numbers:
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Inquire about the availability of documents in alternate formats.