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Serving New York Educators Since 1921

Death Benefits

NYSTRS offers several types of death benefits:  In-Service (which includes post-retirement coverage for Tiers 2-6); 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.

You may change your beneficiary designation(s) prior to retirement by filing a Designation of Beneficiary (NET-11.4) form.

In-Service Death Benefit
(with post-retirement coverage for Tiers 2-6)

Eligibility

You are covered by an in-service death benefit if you have been credited with at least three months (Tier 1) or one year (Tiers 2-6) of service since last becoming a member, and at the time of death:

  • You were in service being paid for employment reportable to NYSTRS, or
  • If you are a Tier 1 member, 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
  • If you are a Tier 2-6 member, 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 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 (Tier 1) or died while on an approved medical leave (Tiers 2-6).

Calculations

Tier 1
The in-service death benefit is generally equal to one-twelfth 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 2-6 (Paragraph 2)
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. After age 60 the benefit is reduced by 4% per year, up to a maximum reduction of 40% at age 70.

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. Employment, other than teaching with a NYSTRS participating employer, between the date you ceased teaching and the date of your 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.

*The law limits the amount of salary that can be used in the calculation of the Paragraph 2 Death Benefit.

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Tiers 3-6 Accidental Death Benefit

If you die as the result of an accident sustained in the performance of your duties, certain surviving family members may be entitled to receive an accidental death benefit in lieu of an in-service death benefit. The annual payment to your beneficiary would be 50% of the regular salary earned during your last year of service.

Vested Death Benefit

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.  The benefit would equal half 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.

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