FAQs

These questions and answers are provided as an outline of the pension benefits provided for participants in the New York State Nurses Association Pension Plan. The details provided here are informational in nature and are not intended to imply coverage for a specific individual under the provisions of the Plan. Pension Plan participants should call the Plan toll-free at (877) RN BENEFITS [762-3633] with any questions. You also may e-mail the Plan at pensions@rnbenefits.org. For more detailed information, view the Summary Plan Description.

NYSNA Pension Plan Features

When am I vested

Answer:
To be vested (eligible to receive a benefit) in the Plan, you must have five years of credited service, including at least one year of future service after your employer joins the Plan.

  • You'll obtain a full year of credited service if you work 851 hours or more within a calendar year,
  • From 651 to 850 hours, you'll receive two-thirds of a year of credited service,
  • From 500 to 650 hours, you'll receive one-third of a year of credited service,
  • Less than 500 hours, you'll receive no credited service.

How is my pension benefit calculated?

Answer:
The Pension Plan uses the same mathematical formula to calculate your pension benefit, regardless of whether you choose early or normal retirement.

The Plan generally bases the calculation on the highest final average earnings for any five calendar years during the last 10 years immediately before your termination date while in covered employment. Please refer to the Summary Plan Description for complete details.

Earnings for the last year you work in covered employment are included in your final average earnings calculation only if your term date is December 31 of that year. The Plan's formula uses your base salary plus experience differential to calculate average earnings. It does not include overtime or other differentials, such as shift, specialty, or education.  

Is my pension guaranteed?

Answer:
Yes. The NYSNA Pension Plan is a defined benefit plan that provides guaranteed lifetime benefits to vested RNs when they retire. Benefits under the Plan are also insured to a limited degree by the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation, a federal insurance agency. For further information about the PBGC and the benefits it guarantees, visit its Web site at www.pbgc.gov or call them at (202) 326-4000.

Who pays for my pension?

Answer:
Your employer makes all contributions to the Plan on your behalf in accordance with the terms of the collective bargaining agreement negotiated by your employer and NYSNA. You make no direct contributions of your own. The contributions made by your employer ensure that vested participants will receive a defined benefit pension when they retire. Upon retirement, vested participants are guaranteed to receive a specific, monthly pension benefit for the rest of their lives.

Can I withdraw money from the Pension Plan?

Answer:
No, you can't take a withdrawal or loan from your Pension Plan, because it is a defined benefit plan to which only your employer makes specific dollar contributions. This type of plan guarantees a set benefit when you retire. Defined benefit plans don't allow additions or withdrawals because they must provide a predetermined benefit at retirement.

Can I roll over money from a previous employer's 401(k) plan into my pension plan?

Answer:
No. 401(k)s, 403(b)s, thrift plans, etc. are defined contribution plans, to which an employee and/or employer makes specific dollar contributions.

Your Pension Plan is a defined benefit plan, to which only your employer makes contributions so that you are guaranteed a defined (or set) benefit when you retire.  

What does "break in service" mean?

Answer:
A break in service occurs when you work less than 500 hours in covered employment in any year. If your break in service occurs after you're vested, you are still eligible to receive a benefit at retirement age. If your break in service occurs before you're vested, you won't earn credit for that year.

You then have five years to return to work in a covered position that allows you to work at least 500 hours in a Plan year. Otherwise, you'll lose credit for all previous years of service. Whether or not you're vested, you'll retain credit for all previous years of service if your break in service is an allowed break (taken for military, maternity or paternity leave; or an approved leave of absence due to disability, strike or lockout, layoff, or furlough).

How do I become a Plan participant?

Answer:
Once you begin working in covered employment for one of more than 30 facilities that participate in the NYSNA Pension Plan, you'll be covered by the Plan from your date of hire or the date your employer becomes obligated to make contributions to the Plan on your behalf, whichever is later. There is no waiting or eligibility period. Full-time and part-time employees are automatically enrolled in the Pension Plan.

When should I call the Pension Plan office?

Answer:
Contact the Plan office whenever you:

  • Change your name, address, or phone number. Active (working) participants can call our toll-free (877) RN BENEFITS [762-3633] number to report changes. Participants who already are retired must send any changes of address to the Plan office in writing.
  • Get married, divorced, separated, or become widowed. Your martial status determines your benefit payment form options at retirement. It also affects what happens to your pension benefit if you're vested and die before you retire, so be sure to notify the Plan of any changes. It's best to send certified or notarized documents to the Plan office whenever your circumstances change.

What is pension portability?

Answer:
Pension portability means your service credit can be transferred from one contributing employer to another without losing credited service. Portability offers you the opportunity to continue earning credit toward your pension benefit if you change employers but stay within the Plan. There are more than 30 employers that contribute to the NYSNA Pension Plan.

How is the Pension Plan administered?

Answer:
The NYSNA Pension Plan is administered by a 14-member Board of Trustees, which equally represents management and labor at more than 30 participating facilities of the Plan.

The Trustees meet quarterly to evaluate strategic concerns and resolve Plan issues. They have full authority to determine eligibility requirements for benefits, formulate rules and regulations, and interpret the terms and provisions of the Plan. The Trustees also are responsible for managing the assets held under the trust agreement, and assuring that the Plan is administered in accordance with the Employee Retirement Income Security Act.

You may contact the Board of Trustees by writing to them at the NYSNA Pension Plan, PO Box 12430, Albany, NY 12212-2430.  

What happens to my pension if I become disabled?

Answer:
A disability pension benefit is available for participants who:

  • Become totally and permanently disabled any time before their normal retirement date while they're in covered employment,
  • Are at least 50 years old,
  • Have completed at least 15 years of credited service,
  • Are continuously receiving Social Security disability benefits, and
  • Apply to the Plan office for a disability benefit within 30 months of the date they became disabled.

Contact the Plan office at (877) RN BENEFITS [762-3633] for more information.

If you don't qualify for a disability pension benefit, you still may be eligible for a deferred benefit if you are vested and leave the Plan before you're eligible to receive a retirement benefit.

What is future and past service credit?

Answer:
Those nurses who are working for an employer when the employer first entered the NYSNA Pension Plan may be entitled to past service credit. This past service is for the years worked in a covered position with an employer before the employer joined the Plan. You can earn past service credit if you were already employed when the employer joined the Plan, provided the employer made contributions to cover past service credit.

Any credited service earned after your employer joins the Plan is called future service credit. You need five years of credited service to be vested in the NYSNA Pension Plan, and at least one of those years must be future service.  

Retirement Planning

How can I receive my pension benefit at the same time each month?

Answer:
The best way to guarantee that your pension benefit is available to you about the same day every month is to have it deposited directly into your bank account through our Direct Deposit Program. Some 90 percent of our retirees participate in the program. Direct deposit offers you the convenience of having your money available on the first of every month without having to go to the bank, and peace of mind in knowing that your benefit is safely deposited in your account - not delayed in the mail, or sitting in your mailbox while you're away.

For a convenient, fast, and safe way to ensure that your benefit is available to you approximately the first of every month:

  • Call the Plan office at (877) RN-BENEFITS [762-3633] to request a direct deposit form, or
  • Print a direct deposit form here and mail the completed form to the Plan office.

What do I do when I'm ready to retire?

Answer:
When you're ready to retire:

  • Call the Plan office at least 180 days before your last day of work to request a retirement packet.
  • Fill out the Pension Application form and Retirement Option Election form in the packet.
  • Send the forms to the Plan office no less than 30 days and no more than 180 days before your retirement date, along with certified or notarized copies of required documents (birth, marriage, divorce, or death certificate).
  • Complete and return a Benefits Payment Authorization form, a W-4P, and the Direct Deposit Authorization form.

Your pension benefit will be paid monthly, effective the first day of the month following your retirement, provided all the paperwork is submitted properly.

Will I still be eligible for a pension if I'm vested and leave the Plan before I retire?

Answer:
Yes, you will be eligible for a deferred vested benefit when you retire. The benefit is payable at your normal retirement date (the first day of the month in which you turn 65) or between the ages of 55 and 64 (early retirement reductions will apply). You'll receive a pension evaluation from the Pension Plan within a year after you leave the Plan.

What benefit payment forms are available to me?

Answer:
As a vested participant in the Pension Plan, you're guaranteed a monthly pension benefit for the rest of your life.

If you are married, you automatically receive a Joint and Survivor pension, unless your spouse waives the option. The Joint and Survivor pension reduces your monthly pension benefit to ensure that if you die, your spouse will receive either 50 percent or 75 percent of your pension for the rest of his or her life.

If you waive the Joint and Survivor pension, or if you are single, widowed, or divorced, you automatically receive the Five Year Certain benefit payment form, unless you choose otherwise. With Five Year Certain, you receive unreduced benefit payments. If you die after you retire but before you receive the first 60 guaranteed payments, your beneficiary(ies) will receive any remaining guaranteed payments.

If you waive the automatic Five Year Certain pension, you must select one of the following reduced payment forms:

  • Ten Year Certain provides a reduced pension benefit for the rest of your life. If you die after you retire but before you receive the first 120 guaranteed payments, your beneficiary(ies) will receive any remaining guaranteed payments. 
  • Contingent Annuitant also provides a reduced pension benefit for the rest of your life. If you die after you retire but before you receive the first 60 guaranteed payments, your beneficiary will receive any remaining guaranteed payments. After that, your beneficiary will receive the benefit you chose at retirement: 50 percent, 66 2/3 percent, or 100 percent of a reduced monthly pension for the rest of his or her life. Only one beneficiary can be named for this option.

How is my pension benefit paid?

Answer:
Your pension benefit is paid monthly, effective on the first day of the month following your retirement, provided the necessary paperwork is submitted and processed properly. There are no lump-sum distributions.  

Is my pension benefit taxable?

Answer:
Your pension benefit is taxable, because it is considered income for federal tax purposes. If requested, the Plan will deduct federal taxes from your pension check. Your pension also may be subject to state taxes. Special rules apply for retirees who are U.S. citizens and live out of the country.

Will my pension benefit reduce the amount of my Social Security check?

Answer:
No. Your pension benefit does not affect your Social Security benefit payment. Any pension disability benefits you may be receiving also are not affected by Social Security. In either case, your pension benefit is totally separate and will not be affected by your Social Security benefit.  

At what age can I retire and receive my pension benefits?

Answer:
There are three retirement options available to vested Plan participants.

Typically, early retirement can be taken on the first day of any month following your 55th birthday if you have at least five years of credited service, including one year of future service, and retire from covered employment. Since you'll be retired longer than if you took a normal retirement, your monthly benefit is reduced by one-half percent for each month that early retirement precedes your normal retirement date.

Unreduced early retirement can be taken between the ages of 60 and 64 if you have at least 20 years of credited service, including one year of future service, and retire from active covered employment. No reduction is taken to cover the five or fewer additional years you'll be retired.

Normal retirement can be taken starting on the first day of the month you turn 65, provided you have completed at least five years of credited service, including one year of future service, and retire from active covered employment.  

How can I find out what my pension benefit amount will be when I retire?

Answer:
Call or e-mail the Plan office and ask for a pension calculation. We'll send you a written estimate of your monthly pension benefit. Based on information available from your employer, pension statements provide:

  • Vested status and years of service,
  • Estimated annual benefit payable at age 65,
  • Estimated annual early retirement (unreduced) benefit (if applicable).

Preretirement Death Benefits

Can I name a beneficiary for my pension while I'm still working?

Answer:
Yes, if you are married you can name one Preretirement Survivor Beneficiary before you retire; unmarried participants may name up to two beneficiaries. You may also name a contingent beneficiary in the event your beneficiary(ies) predecease you. Once you're retired, you can select the beneficiary or beneficiaries of your choice depending on the form of payment you select.  

What happens to my pension benefit if I die before I retire?

Answer:
If you're married, vested, and die before you retire, your spouse will automatically receive your PRSB benefit. However, if you prefer, your spouse may waive the benefit and you may name any other individual as your beneficiary. Your spouse's consent to waive the preretirement benefit must be in writing and acknowledged by a notary public.

In either case, married participants may choose to designate an additional non-spouse contingent beneficiary to receive your preretirement survivor benefit if your spouse or other non-spouse beneficiary predeceases you prior to your retirement date.

Pension Plan participants who are unmarried effective August 1, 2013, may name up to two individuals as beneficiaries for your Preretirement Survivor Benefit. If you don’t designate a beneficiary, or if your beneficiary(ies) dies before you and you don’t name another beneficiary by filing a new beneficiary designation form with the Plan office, no death benefit will be paid.

If you're unmarried and designate two beneficiaries and one predeceases you, the entire Preretirement Survivor Benefit will be payable to the surviving beneficiary. You may also designate one contingent beneficiary who will receive the entire Preretirement Survivor Benefit if both of your designated beneficiaries predecease you.