CalSTRS Webinar — Your Questions Answered
CalSTRS presented a webinar, Perspectives: CalSTRS 2011, on October 26, 2010. The focus was on sorting fact from fiction surrounding retirement benefits and the long-term funding status of CalSTRS.
Members who joined the webinar heard a presentation from CalSTRS CEO Jack Ehnes and Deputy CEO Peggy Plett. Topics included:
- The ability of CalSTRS to pay benefits.
- The role of investment returns in funding CalSTRS benefits.
- The role of the Legislature in pension changes.
- What members can do to stay connected.
If you would like to view a recording of the webinar, visit the Multimedia page.
A question and answer period followed the presentation. Member questions that were not answered during the webinar are presented below.
How much is the state contribution right now? What kind of contribution increase will current members see?
The cost of CalSTRS benefits are shared among members, school employers, the State of California and CalSTRS investment earnings. Members currently contribute 8 percent of their creditable earnings. The state currently contributes 2.017 percent.
Based on current assumptions and projections, to be fully funded in 30 years, contributions will have to increase to fund the current benefit structure. The California Legislature and the Governor will determine when, how much and how quickly contributions will increase.
Why is it so difficult for teachers to access CalSTRS Disability when they have evidence of disability from their doctor?
When a member submits an application for disability benefits, their application is reviewed by CalSTRS. If the member meets eligibility requirements and applies within the applicable timelines, supporting documentation is requested from both the member and their employer. The Education Code requires a member to provide “competent medical documentation” in support of their application. If a member submits only an off-work note from their physician rather than their actual medical records, they will be directed to provide the actual records
Assuming that the member submits the appropriate medical records, those records would be reviewed by staff and potentially by a nurse consultant. Discrepancies between the records and other information provided could result in additional requests for documentation or a denial of disability benefits.
One common reason applications are denied has to do with reasonable accommodation. The Education Code requires that a member request reasonable accommodation from their employer if their medical condition warrants it. Quite often a member will terminate employment without addressing that issue with their employer.
I am considering retirement. Will going part-time affect my retirement benefit?
Unless you are on the Reduced Workload Program, yes. Working part-time will result in you earning less service credit than working full-time. It will not, however, affect your final compensation. Your Defined Benefit is determined by a formula that includes your service credit, final compensation and age factor.
Are educators who teach at charter schools part of CalSTRS? If not, how do they become members?
A charter school has the option of participating in CalSTRS or creating or adopting another qualified retirement benefit plan for charter school staff. If a charter school chooses to make the CalSTRS plan available, employees of the charter school who perform creditable service must have that service and associated compensation reported to CalSTRS.
Individual teachers and other educators do not have the option of choosing either to participate or not to participate in CalSTRS. Staff employed at charters schools that do not participate in CalSTRS must work with the charter school to make the CalSTRS plan available.