Who Is Eligible for OPERS?
Participation in the Ohio Public Employees Retirement System is open to the following people:
- Ohio state government workers, but not elected state or federal officials
- Employees of county, city and town governments, with some municipal officials being eligible
- Ohio State Highway Patrol personnel, including troopers and office staff
- Local and state law enforcement agency personnel
- Professional firefighters and first responders, such as full-time EMTs
- Some state college and university faculty and staff
Part-time and full-time employees can participate by signing up to have contributions deducted directly from their pay. Depending on their job classification, Ohio public school teachers and support personnel have access to the State Teachers Retirement System (STRS) or the School Employees Retirement System (SERS) instead of OPERS.
What OPERS Covers
OPERS, STRS, and SERS replace Social Security. State and local government, public safety, school system, and public health workers do not make contributions from their paychecks into the federal retirement and disability program.
The details vary for each Ohio-based retirement system, but all offer a combined pension/401(k)-style savings plan and short- and long-term disability benefits. Qualifying to receive money in retirement requires serving a fixed number of years or purchasing enough service credits by voluntarily making extra contributions.
Receiving disability benefits requires presenting a medical diagnosis, complying with a treatment and rehabilitation plan, and successfully navigating a tough review and approval process.
How an OPERS Disability Lawyer Can Help
The biggest obstacle to qualifying for disability benefits through OPERS, STRS, or SERS is that each program enforces rules that make Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) the primary option for individuals who become unable to work before they are eligible to retire. In practice, this means that people who have worked outside of local and state government at some point must first apply for SSDI before seeking assistance from the state retirement system in which they participate.
Consulting with an OPERS disability lawyer before submitting an application can save precious time and prevent the kind of frustration that leads some people to abandon efforts to secure badly needed disability benefits altogether. Sitting down with an attorney who understands OPERS and SSDI will provide initial answers to eligibility questions and get you started on the path most likely to lead to an approved disability benefits application.
Your OPERS disability lawyer can also help you complete and file paperwork while putting you in touch with health care providers that the Social Security Administration and the state retirement systems recognize as trusted professionals. Most importantly, starting to work with a legal advisor and representative early in the process ensures you have a ready ally should you need to appeal a denial of benefits. Denials are common, so appeals are often necessary.
You can speak with a retirement and disability attorney for free by calling the Columbus, Ohio, offices of Agee Clymer Mitchell & Portman at (800) 678-3318. Confidential and no-commitment appointments can also be scheduled online. If you are too sick or injured to visit us in person, we will visit you.