FAQ Index

    Questings

    If I retire and receive pension payments amounting to more than my contributions, will my spouse still be entitled to survivor benefits if I die?

    Regardless of the pension payments made to you, your spouse will be entitled to a survivor benefit, assuming he/she is otherwise qualified.

    What is the Retirement Systems' Reciprocal Act?

    The Retirement Systems' Reciprocal Act provides that if an employee has at least one year of pension credits established in more than one Retirement System covered under the Reciprocal Act will be considered together at the time of retirement or death of an employee. The purpose of the Act is to ensure full and continuous pension credit for service in public employment in the State of Illinois, and the transfer of employment from one governmental unit to another.

    I contributed to SERS and Social Security. When I retire, will my SERS benefit be reduced because of Social Security?

    No, there is no SERS offset. However, if your pension is calculated using service not covered by Social Security, this service may affect your Social Security benefit. Contact the Social Security Administration for more information.

    What is the Level Income option?

    This option allows members who have paid into SERS and Social Security to receive their benefits at a level amount throughout their retirement years by combining their Social Security and SERS benefit. The Level Income option can be helpful when a member retires before the age when they qualify for a Social Security benefit.

    Under Level Income, SERS pays an amount (based on your estimated Social Security benefit) in addition to your regular retirement benefit until you qualify for Social Security benefits. At this time, your pension is reduced regardless of when you actually begin receiving Social Security and regardless of how much this benefit actually is. This reduced amount will be paid for your lifetime.

    Will my pension benefit cease after I receive payments equal to the contributions I made to SERS as an active employee?

    No. Pension benefits are payable to a retired member for life, regardless of contributions.

    How soon should I request an application for a SERS pension?

    Approximately 90 days prior to your retirement, you should contact your agency's Retirement Coordinator or SERS and request a pension application.

    When is my first pension check paid?

    Benefits are paid as soon as we receive your final payroll information and forms from you and your agency. In general, it takes up to 12 weeks after your removal from the payroll to receive your first check.

    When will I receive my future pension checks?

    Continuing pension payments are mailed on the 19th of each month, unless the 19th is on a weekend or holiday. In this case, payments are mailed on the last business day before the 19th.

    What is the best time of the month to retire?

    We recommend resigning from your agency in the second pay period of the month (from the 16th through the end of the month), preferably the last day of the month. The reason for this is your pension and group insurance begin with SERS on the first of the month following your resignation. If you resign too soon in the first pay period of a month, your insurance would be terminated, you would have a lapse in coverage (unless you pay a COBRA premium), and insurance benefits would not start until the first of the next month. If you resign in the second pay period of the month, you will not have a lapse in insurance coverage.

    Can my pension benefit be divided because of a divorce?

    Yes, if a Qualified Illinois Domestic Relations Order has been issued by an Illinois Court. A QILDRO does not establish a new benefit, nor does it create a new member or beneficiary. Generally, the QILDRO orders the payment of a benefit to the ex-spouse as the alternate payee. It may also be payable to a child or other dependent as the alternate payee. The QILDRO does not apply to survivor annuities, or disability benefits. (QILDRO information and forms.)

    Death Benefits

    How can I determine who I have listed as my beneficiaries?

    We can't give you this information over the phone because of confidentiality reasons. A verification letter can be sent to your address with a list of your beneficiaries from our database.

    Can I call our office and request that a portion of my contributions designated to a deceased beneficiary go to the children of the deceased beneficiary?

    No. This can only be done by submitting a new beneficiary form to our office.

    At the time of my death, how long will my eligible survivor receive monthly benefits?

    A survivor remains eligible to receive benefits until death. A child remains eligible until age 18 (22 if attending school full-time), or the child marries. Disabled adults may continue to receive benefits as long as their disability continues and they aren't gainfully employed.

    If my spouse is working at the time of my death and is qualified to receive a survivor benefit, could he/she receive the monthly benefit and continue working regardless of where the employment is?

    Yes, your spouse may work and qualify for survivor benefits.

    At the time of my death, if my spouse qualifies for a survivor's benefit, who should he/she contact to apply?

    In the event of your death, your spouse should contact SERS to begin the process of receiving death benefits.

    If my wife and I both receive a state pension from SERS and one of us dies, will the surviving spouse continue to receive their pension and also be entitled to receive survivor benefits?

    If the surviving spouse qualifies for survivor benefits, they would be entitled to receive their pension and survivor benefits.

    Is there a way for me to eliminate the survivor benefit offset so my spouse can receive my full survivor benefit?

    At retirement, you may elect to reduce your retirement benefit by 3.825% to remove the Social Security offset from your spouse's survivor benefit. You may also make an irrevocable election to eliminate your pension reduction if there is a change in your marital status due to death or divorce

    Optional Service

    I want to purchase my military service time. How much of this time can I purchase and what forms do I need to start the process?

    You can buy up to 48 months of active duty time. We must have a legible copy of your DD-214, or the appropriate separation or discharge papers verifying active duty. For more information, refer to pages 10 & 11 of your SERS handbook.

    What other service credit can I purchase?

    You may purchase qualifying periods, short periods, leaves of absence of less than one year that began on or after 1-1-82, emergency and temporary employment, and repayment of a refund(s).

    What if I retire before I finish buying back service credit?

    Optional service credit must be paid in full before retirement. You should contact the Service & Refund Division prior to retirement to have your payment recalculated.

    I disagree with the amount of service credit listed on my annual Benefit Statement. Can I get a record of my service on a month-by month basis?

    You can request a service credit report by calling the Accounting Division at (217) 785-7191. You should receive your service credit breakdown within 5-7 working days.

    I am applying for a loan and my bank wants a current copy of my contributions with SERS. Can I get a letter from SERS showing this amount?

    You can order a Statement of Account with SERS by calling the Accounting Division at (217) 785-7191. You should receive your Statement of Account within 5-7 working days.

    Can I use my Deferred Compensation money to purchase optional service credit?

    Yes, as long as you have enough money in your Deferred Compensation account to cover the full amount owed to SERS.

    Can I purchase the time when I worked under a public reciprocal system?

    Not with SERS. Instead, contact the respective reciprocal system. You must have at least one full year of service credit to make use of the Reciprocal Act.

    Can I purchase the time when I was laid off from state employment?

    Under current law, you cannot purchase the time when you were laid off.

    I came into some money. Can I pay off an irrevocable payroll agreement before the end date?

    You may not pay off a payroll agreement early unless you leave the state payroll.

    Can I purchase contractual employment?

    Under current law, you cannot purchase contractual time.

    If I purchase optional service credit that requires the payment of contributions and interest, what happens if I request a lump sum refund at a later date?

    Your would receive the employee contributions only.