New York State Teacher Benefits

NYS Teachers Retirement System Death Benefits

NYSTRS offers several types of death benefits:  In-Service (which includes post-retirement coverage for Tiers 2, 3, and 4); Accidental; Vested; and Accelerated.  Your eligibility depends on your membership status and, in certain cases, the cause or timing of your death.  The rules governing each benefit are described below.

In-Service Death Benefit -- Eligibility
(with post-retirement coverage for Tiers 2, 3, and 4)

Tier 1

You are covered by an in-service death benefit if you have at least three months of service since last becoming a member, and at the time of death:

You are in service being paid for employment reportable to NYSTRS, or You had been in service within the previous year and had not otherwise been gainfully employed (other than in service reportable to NYSTRS) since leaving teaching, or You had left the payroll because of a disability and had remained disabled until death.

Tiers 2, 3 and 4

You are covered by an in-service death benefit if you have at least one year of service since last becoming a member, and at the time of death:

You are in service being paid for employment reportable to NYSTRS, or You had been in service within the previous year, and had at least one year of continuous employment since last entering your employer's service, and had not otherwise been gainfully employed (other than in service reportable to NYSTRS) since leaving teaching, or You had left the payroll because of a disability and had died while on an approved medical leave.

In-Service Death Benefit  -- Calculations
(with post-retirement coverage for Tiers 2, 3, and 4)

Tier 1

The in-service death benefit is generally equal to 1/12 of your last 12 months of regular compensation for each year of service, to a maximum of three times your earnings. (The amount may be larger if you are eligible to retire without a pension reduction. This is sometimes referred to as the Death Gamble.)

Tiers 2, 3, and 4 (In-Service)

The in-service death benefit is generally equal to one year's salary after a year of service, and it increases to a maximum of three years' salary after three or more years of service. The benefit is reduced after age 60.

Tiers 2, 3, and 4 (Post-Retirement)

If the in-service death benefit is in effect at retirement, coverage would generally continue after retirement if you retire no later than one year after you leave the payroll. Gainful employment (other than in service reportable to NYSTRS) between the date you ceased teaching and your date of retirement will jeopardize your eligibility for this benefit.

The post-retirement benefit amount depends on how soon after retirement your death occurs, as follows:

1st Year...50% of the death benefit in effect at retirement

2nd Year...25% of the benefit at retirement

3rd & Ensuing Years...10% of the benefit at age 60 or at retirement if earlier.

Tier 3 and 4 Accidental Death Benefit

Eligibility
You must be a Tier 3 or 4 member who dies as the result of an accident sustained in the performance of your duties.

Calculation
The benefit would be an annual payment equaling 50% of the regular salary earned during your last year of service. This benefit would be paid in lieu of an in-service death benefit.

Vested Death Benefit

Eligibility
You are covered by this benefit if you: a) have at least 10 years of service credit, and b) are not covered by the in-service death benefit, and c) die before retirement.
 
Calculation
The benefit would equal 1/2 of the in-service death benefit that would have been paid if you had died on the last day of creditable service.

Accelerated Death Benefit
Unlike the other death benefits, which would be paid to a beneficiary after your death, this benefit would be paid to you while you are still alive. It is designed for terminally ill members and members requiring extraordinary care. You might consider this benefit if you don't have the need to provide for a beneficiary, or if you have less than 10 years of service credit and would not otherwise be eligible for a disability retirement.

Eligibility 
You may elect to receive a death benefit while living if: a) you qualify for a disability retirement benefit (not including the service credit requirement, which would be waived), and b) have either a terminal illness resulting in a life expectancy of no more than 12 months or a medical condition requiring extraordinary care or treatment.
 
Calculation
The benefit would be a one-time only payment equal to the death benefit that would have been paid if you had died on the last day of reportable service. It is paid in lieu of a monthly retirement benefit, and no death benefit would be payable to a beneficiary.