SB 629 (Karnette) – Eligibility for Disability Benefits

Senate Bill

The United Teachers of Los Angeles (UTLA) is proposing amendments to the Education Code to expand eligibility for disability benefits by eliminating the minimum service credit requirement for members applying for a Disability Allowance or Disability Retirement because they were the victim of an unlawful act of bodily injury while performing their official duties.

  • Location: Chapter 386, Statutes of 1997
  • CalSTRS Position: Support, if amended
  • Proponents: United Teachers of Los Angeles (Sponsor)
  • Opponents: Unknown
  • Analysis: As Amended 05/01/1997

BACKGROUND

Prior to October 16, 1992, the State Teachers’ Retirement System (STRS) had one Disability Allowance program, Coverage A, that provided disability benefits to members. In October of 1992, implementation of SB 1885 brought STRS into compliance with the Older Workers’ Benefit Protection Act. This bill allowed then current STRS members to remain under Coverage A or elect to change to Disability Retirement, Coverage B. Only Coverage B is available to new members hired on or after 10-16-92.

CURRENT PRACTICE

Currently, under both Coverage A (Section 24001) and Coverage B (Section 24101) a member may apply for a disability allowance or disability retirement if the member has five or more years of credited service and if certain other criteria are met. Current law also states that, “Nothing…. shall affect the right of a member to a disability…. if the reason that the member has performed less than four years of actual service is due to an on-the-job injury or disease while in employment subject to coverage by the plan.” Under both Sections 24001 (b) and 24101 (b), the member must still have five years of service credit in order to be eligible for disability benefits, although some service may be earned while State Teachers’Retirement System receiving Workers’ Compensation benefits or through the purchase of permissive service.

A member who receives a disability allowance under coverage A is not considered retired and continues to accrue service credit toward retirement. The disability allowance ordinarily will continue to be paid only as long as the member remains disabled or until he/she reaches age 60 (normal retirement age). At age 60, the member is eligible to apply for service retirement, and may only continue receiving a disability allowance beyond age 60 if the member has eligible children and remains disabled. To apply for a disability allowance, the member must not yet have reached age 60 and must have five or more years of credited service.

A member retired for disability under Coverage B will continue to receive a benefit as long as he/she remains disabled, regardless of age.

A member approved for a disability benefit receives 50 percent of final compensation, with limited exceptions.

A member who is physically injured on the job is covered by Workers’ Compensation. If a member is granted a disability benefit, our law provides that we offset for Workers’ Compensation benefits.

Under current law, members with less than five years of service credit are not eligible for disability benefits.

DISCUSSION

UTLA’s proposal, as amended, would amend existing law to allow a member to apply to receive a disability benefit if injured on the job if the member has 1.000 of service credit as long as the disability is due to an “unlawful act of bodily harm committed by another human being on the person of the member that occurred while the member was performing that member’s official duties in a position subject to coverage by the system.”

Absent a change in current law, a member with less than five years of service credit is not eligible to apply for a disability benefit. Nevertheless, that member may be eligible to receive Workers’ Compensation. Therefore, if this proposal is enacted, State Teachers’Retirement System members may not actually receive a disability benefit because of the Workers’ Compensation offset. Members who receive a Disability Allowance under Coverage A, however, will continue to accrue projected service and will be able to receive service retirement when they attain retirement age.

A monthly allowance is payable to the beneficiary of a member who dies while employed, whether as a result of workplace violence or not, with one year of service credit.

FISCAL IMPACT

Program Costs – The Consulting Actuary has determined that extending eligibility to members victimized through workplace violence who have less than 5 years of service credit could result in ten additional disabilities per year as a result of this bill. The program costs would include lifetime benefits for those approved, and as these affected members tend to be younger, the benefit costs will continue for a greater number of years. It should be noted, however, that Workers’ Compensation is available in most of these cases and is offset from the STRS disability payment.

Administrative Costs – The impact on the existing technology would be a one-time cost of approximately $50,000 and an unknown amount for the START Project.

POSITION

The Board has adopted a support position on the bill as amended. 

Senate Bill 629 posted: June 26, 1997

 


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