Planning for retirement or dealing with a disability that leaves you unable to continue working is always difficult. Those challenges can increase for participants in Ohio’s School Employees Retirement System (Ohio SERS).

SERS and Social Security

In many ways, Ohio SERS replaces Social Security, from the way payroll deductions get collected to which agency pays benefits and in what amounts. The overlaps and contradiction that most matter to you, no doubt, come down to how much income you can expect from which sources after you retire or go on disability. SERS lawyers at Agee Clymer Mitchell & Portman cannot answer every question you may have in this brief overview, but we can help prevent unwelcome surprises once you need to start counting on the benefits you have contributed to funding throughout your career.

What Is SERS and Who Is Eligible for SERS in Ohio?

Ohio public school employees who do not teach can enroll in SERS. This group includes office staff, administrators, cafeteria workers, custodians, bus drivers and educational aides. Participants pay into the system by having money deducted from their paychecks, with that amount taking the place of the money that non-SERS workers contribute to Social Security. SERS participants continue to contribute to Medicare and Medicare, and they remain entitled to health benefits from those national programs when they qualify. School Employees Retirement System of Ohio.

Faculty for kindergarten classes through the senior year of high school in Ohio have their own retirement plan called the State Teachers Retirement System, or STRS. The information presented here applies only to SERS

Are SERS Participants Eligible for Social Security in Ohio?

SERS functions as both a pension fund and a disability insurance program. Ohio residents can receive both SERS benefits and Social Security benefits if they qualify for both. That answer sounds confusing, but being dual eligible means you contributed to both the state-based program and the federal one. School Employees Retirement System of Ohio.

You will know if you have paid into SERS. If you made contributions to Social Security, you will also receive retirement or disability payments from the U.S. government. To know that, simply ask yourself if you worked and paid taxes at a job other than the one you did for the school system.

You can also receive both forms of benefits if your spouse qualified for Social Security.

Do Ohio SERS Benefits Reduce Social Security Payments?

They can, in one of two ways. While your SERS payments will not go down, you may receive less money from Social Security because you are subject to either the Government Pension Offset (GPO) or the Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP). You are subject to the GPO if you receive a deceased spouse’s Social Security benefits and if you could begin receiving SERS payments before July 1, 1983.

Many more SERS beneficiaries will be subject to WEP reductions in Social Security payments. The federal program lowers payouts if you

  1. Qualify for your own Social Security benefits
  2. Began participating in SERS after 1986
  3. Made contributions to Social Security through payroll deductions or by paying self-employment taxes

The amounts of GPO and WEP reductions depend on how much you receive from SERS and the number of years you paid into both SERS and Social Security.

Do Social Security and SERS Disability Differ?

The most important thing to know is that SERS require individuals to apply to Social Security first if they could have a Social Security Disability of Supplement Security Income application approved. In practical terms, this means that you should view the Social Security Administration as your government disability insurer unless you have only ever worked for Ohio schools.

Contact Us with Your SERS Questions

Denial of SERS and/or Social Security benefits can leave you feeling helpless. Since even suspecting that your claims or appeals will get shot down can discourage you from fighting for the payments you deserve from the programs you paid into, do not hesitate to request a free consultation with a Columbus SERS attorney. School Employees Retirement System of Ohio.

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