Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Frequently Asked Pension Questions




Effective September 1,2018


The following Q&As have been prepared to provide summary answer to questions you might have about the California Teachers Association Employees’ Retirement Benefits Plan (“Plan”) and to guide you to sections of the Summary Plan Description ("SPD") that contain more information about your question.


These Q&As do not provide official answers to questions. The SPD summarizes the provisions of the Plan.  Like the SPD, if these Q&As differ from the official Plan document, the official Plan document will control.


Most questions do not have a simple answer; therefore, only questions directed to the Plan Administration Office, and answered by the Board of Trustees in writing, can result in binding answers, as outlined in the SPD.


All references in these Q&As to "employer" mean "Participating Employers of the Plan." A list of those employers (as of the date the SPD is published) is found in the SPD.


The SPD contains numerous references to the Plan Office (or Plan Administration Office) which is: BeneSys, Inc. and the phone numbers are (833) 265-2277 or (925) 208-2277.


You are encouraged to read the SPD to find the answers to any questions you may have. If you do not find the answer to your question in either these Q&As or the SPD, please send your question to the Plan Office or Joint Board of Trustees in writing.




Q: When do I become vested in the Plan?


A: Generally, you are credited with one Year of Vesting Service for each calendar year during which you earn at least 1,000 Hours of Service. If you are paid on a semi-monthly basis, you are credited with 95 Hours for each payroll period. If you are paid on a monthly basis, you are credited with 190 Hours for each month. Once you accumulate five (5) Years of Vesting Service, you are Vested.


Please see SPD page 2 ("Vesting and Breaks in Service") and SPD Section II on pages 9-10.



Q: If I am hired mid-year, do I lose credit for the time worked in the calendar year because I didn't earn 1000 Hours of Service in that year?


A:  You may earn partial credits, however, if you work less than 501 hours in a calendar year, you will incur a one-year break in service. You will lose your accrued years of vesting service and all other rights under the Plan (and the Prior Plan) if you have five (5) consecutive one-year breaks-in-service before you become vested. 


Please see SPD page 2 ("Vesting and Breaks in Service") and, for the rules regarding credited benefit service, please see SPD Section IV.A.2 on page 13.


Q: Does anything else affect whether I am vested?


A: Certain specific circumstances may also affect your vesting service credit, e.g., back pay awards, military duty, family or medical leave, illness and/or other paid and unpaid leaves. Contac the Plan’s Administration Office for details.



Q: Whom do I contact to obtain the date I'll be vested in the Plan?


A: Contact the Plan Administration Office:               BeneSys Administrators

                                                                                    7180 Koll Center Parkway, Suite 200

                                                                                    Pleasanton, CA 94566

                                                                                    Toll Free: 833-265-2277

                                                                        Phone: 925-208-2277

                                                                                    Fax: 925-395-4101





Q: How do I calculate my retirement benefit?


A: Generally, the basic amount of your monthly benefit at or after age 55 is determined by multiplying your “Years of Credited Benefit Service” times 3% of your “Monthly Compensation” as those terms are defined in the Plan.


Please see SPD, Section IV, on pages 11-15. Only the Plan Administration Office can give you an official calculation on your benefit. Contact the Plan Administration Office at the address listed above for more information.



Q: Are years of "credited benefit service" (used in calculating benefit amounts) the

same as years of "vesting service"?


A: No.


Please compare SPD Section II on pages 9-10 with SPD Section IV.A.2 on pages 13-14.



Q: How long must I work at a particular compensation level for it to qualify as my highest "Monthly Compensation"?


 A: It depends on whether you are a salaried or hourly employee.


Please see SPD page 3 ("Retirement Benefits") and SPD Section IV.A.1 on pages 12-13.



Q: Assume that, as a regular employee, I take a temporary position at a higher rate of pay and later return to my regular position. At retirement, if the pay rate for that temporary position turns out to be the highest I ever received during my CTA career, would the temporary position pay rate be my "highest Monthly Compensation" and used in calculating the amount of my retirement benefit?


A: If your employment status changed from part-time or temporary status to full-time status at any time during the 60-month period prior to your retirement, your Monthly Compensation will be adjusted to reflect your part-time or temporary status.  




Q: Does the employer contribute to my 401(k) plan count as compensation?


A: No, only your employee contributions to your 401(k) plan are counted as compensation under this Plan.


Please see SPD Section IV.A.1(c) on page 12.



Q: Can I take a cash, lump sum payment in lieu of monthly payments?


A:  No, all benefits are paid in a monthly annuity payable for your lifetime, and, depending on the form of benefit you elect, your designated beneficiary’s lifetime.


Please see SPD Sections VI.A and VI.B on pages 16-17.



Q: When I decide to retire, is there any advantage to putting off receiving the benefit?


A: If you stop working and delay receiving Plan benefits, that could affect the calculation of your benefit amount.


Please see SPD pages 4-5 ("Important Information to Avoid Loss of Benefits" especially item 5), SPD Sections IV.A and IV.B on pages 11-15, and SPD Section VIII.A on pages 19-20.



Q: If I retire after age 50 but before age 55, how is my benefit calculated?


A: If you are employed by a participating employer at the time of retirement, your benefit would be  reduced based on the following percentages:


   Age      Percentage of your accrued benefit

50 –           66%

51 –           72%

52 –           78%

53 –           85%

54 –           92%

55 –           100%


If you are not employed by a participating employer at the time of your retirement, your benefit would be reduced based on the following percentages:


   Age      Percentage of your accrued benefit

50 –           64%

51 –           69%

52 –           74%

53 –           79%

54 –            84%

55 –            89%


Please see SPD Section IV.B on pages 14-15.



Q: After I retire, when can I expect my first check?


A: Your benefit payments will commence as soon as administratively feasible after the effective date of your retirement, and payments are always made the last day of the month for the current month.


Example: May benefit is paid on May 31.


The effective date of your retirement will be the latest of: (1) the day after your last day of employment; (2) the date your retirement application is filed; or (3) the later retirement date you specify on your retirement application.


Please see SPD Section III on pages 10-11.





Q: Is there any provision for disability retirement benefits?


A: Yes, if you are a vested member and qualify as a disabled member within the meaning of the Plan, you have two choices. You could delay taking your retirement benefits and (in most cases) continue to accrue additional Years of Credited Benefit Service until they start. However, before you choose to delay the start of your retirement benefit payments beyond 12 months, you should contact the CTA Employees' Health and Welfare Benefits Trust because delaying retirement benefit payments could adversely affect your eligibility for retiree health benefits from that trust. Or, you could take an immediate Disability Benefit even if you have not yet reached age 50.


Please see SPD Section III.B on page 11 and Section VIII on pages 19-20.







Q: If I am vested in my benefit under the  Plan, can I have a break-in-service

that would cause me to lose my vesting?


A: No, if you are a vested member, you cannot lose your vested benefits from a break in service.


Please see SPD Section II.B on pages 9-10,  SPD Section IX on page 20, and SPD Sections X.A-C on pages 20-21.





Q: Does the plan have provisions for Domestic Partners?


A: Yes, if you are not legally married but you have a domestic partner, he or she will be treated as if he or she were your legally married spouse to the extent described in the Plan and permitted by law, if you file a completed Domestic Partner Affidavit with the Plan’s Administration Office. Contac the Plan Administration Office to obtain a copy of the required Affidavit.


Please see SPD Sections VI.A-D on pages 16-17 and SPD Section VII on pages 18-19.



Q: I am not married - is there an option where I can designate my child to receive my benefits upon my death?


A: For an unmarried participant, there will only be a death benefit payable if the member made Member-Required Contributions as defined in the Plan. If you validly designated your child as your beneficiary when you retired and elected a joint and contingent annuity form of benefit, payments will be made to your child in accordance with your elected form of benefit upon your death.


Please see SPD pages 3-4 ("Death Benefits"), SPD Sections VI.B.1-3 on pages 16-17, and SPD Section VII on pages 18-19.









Q: Who do I contact with questions about my pension?


A: Contact the Plan Administrator:    BeneSys Administrators

                                                            7180 Koll Center Parkway, Suite 200

                                                            Pleasanton, CA 94566

                                                            Toll Free: 833-265-2277

                                                Phone: 925-208-2277

                                                            Fax: 925-395-4101


Mailing Address:                                PO Box 154

                                                            San Ramon, CA  94583