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Applying for a Disability Benefit

You should apply for a disability benefit before you exhaust other benefits available to you. If approved, your disability benefit will go into effect on whichever of the following dates occurs later:

  • The first day of the month in which we receive your application.
  • The day after your last day of compensation, including sick leave and subdifferential pay.

We encourage you to apply while you are working or receiving sick leave or differential pay from your employer so that you have income while your application is pending. If you are no longer working, contact us for information on filing timelines.

Don’t delay submitting your application while waiting for your medical documents. You may submit medical documents after we receive your application.

Steps in the Disability Application Process

Schedule a disability benefits planning session to talk with a CalSTRS benefits specialist. Sessions are typically scheduled six weeks out. However, even if you cannot schedule a session right away, or if you prefer not to meet with a benefits specialist, do not delay in submitting your application.

The date we receive your application can affect your eligibility, the effective date of your benefit, or both. You may talk to a benefits specialist any time during the process and withdraw your application later, if you choose to do so.

Steps in the application process include:

  1. Request the Your Disability Benefits Guide booklet, which includes the Disability Benefits Application.
  2. Submit your completed application and any pertinent documents to CalSTRS in person, by fax or by mail. The date CalSTRS receives your application may establish your benefit effective date. If approved, your disability benefit will go into effect on whichever date occurs later:
    1. The first day of the month CalSTRS receives your completed application.
    2. The day after your last day of compensation, including sick leave and subdifferential pay.
  3. CalSTRS receives and acknowledges receiving your disability application.
  4. CalSTRS reviews your application and eligibility and mails you requests for medical and other required documents.
  5. CalSTRS receives your information and sends follow-up requests for missing or additional documents.
  6. CalSTRS verifies the employment information you provided in your completed application.
  7. CalSTRS notifies you if an independent medical examination or an independent vocational evaluation must be scheduled.
  8. CalSTRS reviews all the information submitted and determines if you qualify for a disability benefit.
  9. CalSTRS sends you written notification when we reach a decision on your application.

Reasonable Accommodation

A reasonable accommodation may allow you to continue to perform in your usual duties. We may require you to request a reasonable accommodation from your employer before or while you are applying for a disability benefit.

Examples of reasonable accommodation include:

  • Employing a teacher’s aide.
  • Changing your grade level or subject assignment.
  • Improving your classroom or parking assignment.
  • Relieving you from yard duty.
  • Assigning you to other positions you are qualified for.

If you have questions about reasonable accommodation, contact your school district.

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