New Law Expands Disability Retirement Eligibility for CalSTRS Teachers
Under most public employee retirement systems, generally an employee has to have met the eligibility requirements for regular retirement before they can qualify for disability retirement benefits.
However, the State of California, known to often be at the forefront of progressive union benefit laws has changed the game. A new law – Senate Bill 327 (SB 327) – was signed into law by Governor Gavin Newsom on September 29, 2023, that will take effect on July 1, 2024.
This law allows California state teachers to apply for disability retirement benefits even if they are not yet eligible for regular retirement benefits is. In this article the disability retirement attorneys at Cantrell Green in Orange County, CA explore the implications of this new law for California’s teachers.
Effect of SB 327 on CalSTRS Teacher’s Disability Retirement
Full-time California public school prekindergarten through grade 12 teachers and community college instructors are required to belong to the CalSTRS Defined Benefit Program.
Under the existing CalSTRS law currently in effect, California state teachers must be at least 55 years old and have at least 30 years of credited service in order to be eligible for regular retirement benefits. However, SB 327 creates an exception to this rule for teachers who are disabled.
Requirements for CalSTRS Teacher Disability Retirement Under New Law
Under the new SB 327, teachers who are disabled may apply for disability retirement benefits regardless of their age or years of service.
To be eligible for disability retirement benefits under new California Senate Bill 327, a teacher must:
Be a member of the State Teachers’ Retirement System (STRS);
Be unable to perform the duties of their teaching position due to a disability; and
Have a medical opinion from a licensed physician stating that their disability is permanent and will prevent them from returning to work as a teacher.
If a teacher meets all of these requirements, they may apply for disability retirement benefits by submitting a completed application to CalSTRS. After which CalSTRS will review the teacher’s application and medical records to determine whether they are eligible for benefits.
CalSTRS Teacher Disability Retirement Benefits
If a CalSTRS teacher is approved for disability retirement benefits, they will receive a monthly benefit payment that is based on their final salary and years of service. The amount of the benefit payment will be reduced if the teacher receives other income, such as Social Security disability benefits or workers’ compensation benefits.
SB 327 is an important new law that will help California state teachers who are disabled. The law will allow these teachers to retire early and receive the benefits they need to support themselves and their families.
Additional Details About SB 327 CalSTRS Teacher Disability Retirement Benefits
The new law applies to all California state teachers, including K-12 teachers, community college teachers, and university professors. Here are some additional details about SB 327.
The new law does not define the term “disability.” However, CalSTRS will likely use the same definition of disability that it uses for other, existing disability retirement programs.
In good news for disabled teachers, Senate Bill 327 does not require teachers to exhaust all other forms of leave, such as sick leave or vacation leave, before applying for disability retirement benefits.
The biggest change is that the new law does not require teachers to have a certain number of years of service in order to be eligible for disability retirement benefits. However, teachers with at least five years of service will receive a higher benefit payment than teachers with less than five years of service.
SB 327 will also allow teachers to return to work after retiring on disability. However, if a teacher returns to work, their disability retirement benefits will be suspended. Additionally, the law does not require teachers to pay back their disability retirement benefits if they return to work. However, teachers who return to work may be required to pay back their Social Security disability benefits.
CalSTRS Teacher Disability Retirement Attorneys
If you are a California teacher who has been disabled, the experienced disability retirement attorneys at Cantrell Green are here to ensure you receive the maximum benefits for which you qualify.
If you have any questions about your CalSTRS disability retirement benefits, or how the new law will affect your eligibility or compensation, call our experienced CalSTRS attorneys for a consultation today.
This article applies to members of California State Teachers’ Retirement System (CalSTRS); and does not reflect the rules, laws or regulations governing how other public retirement systems are administered. If you have question about another public employee retirement system, find your system, below – or call our attorneys at: 562-622-4800
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