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Glossary of Benefit Terms for Police Officers and Firefighters

The following glossary of terms is applicable to members of the District of Columbia Police Officers and Firefighters' Retirement Plan. This glossary was last updated in 2017, and the following terms have also been defined in the Police Officers and Firefighters' Summary Plan Description (SPD) 2017.

Active Duty is when you are working for (not retired or separated from) the Police or Fire Department.

Active Military Service is military service you performed prior to your retirement date with the Police or Fire Department and includes honorable active service in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, or Coast Guard of the United States. It does not include service in the National Guard, except when Guard members are ordered to active duty in the service of the United States.

For your active military service to be included in your total creditable service, you may be required to complete a purchase of service deposit for that service to avoid a reduction in your retirement benefit when you reach Social Security Full Retirement Age. You do not need to complete a purchase of service deposit for active military service you performed prior to January 1, 1957. [See D.C. Code §§ 5-701(11), 5-704(h)]

Actuarial Cost means the dollar increase in the present value of future retirement benefits that results from switching optional retirement tiers or from crediting lateral transfer service. The calculation of the present value of future benefits is based on the Fund’s actuarial assumptions.

Additional Survivor Benefit is an elected increase to a regular post-retirement survivor benefit for your designated eligible surviving spouse or child. If you elect an additional survivor benefit when you retire, your retirement benefit is reduced by 10% and your designated survivor’s regular survivor benefit will be increased by an amount equal to your 10% reduction, minus any applicable age differential. [See D.C. Code § 5-716(f)]

Adjusted Average Base Pay is the average base pay increased by the percentage (adjusted to the nearest one tenth of one percent) in the Consumer Price Index for all Urban Consumers (CPI-U - 1967 wage base), published by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, between the month in which the Plan member retires and the month immediately prior to the month he/she dies. For Plan members hired on or after November 10, 1996 (Tier 3) and their survivors, the increase is capped at 3% per year. [See D.C. Code § 5-701(18)]

Annuity means your annual retirement or survivor benefit that is paid on a monthly basis. The recipient of an annuity is called an “annuitant.”

Average Base Pay for Plan members hired before February 15, 1980 (Tier 1), is the highest annual pay rate resulting from averaging your base pay over any 12 consecutive months as a police officer or firefighter. For Plan members hired on or after February 15, 1980 (Tiers 2 and 3), average base pay is the highest annual pay rate resulting from averaging your base pay over any 36 consecutive months as a police officer or firefighter. If you were earning pay at different rates during any of the 12 or 36 consecutive months, each pay rate will be calculated based on the length of time it was in effect. [See D.C. Code § 5-701(17)]

Base Pay is your annual pay rate. It includes your regular pay plus any differential pay for a special occupational assignment. For firefighters, base pay also includes longevity pay. For police officers who have at least 25 years of total creditable service at retirement, base pay also includes longevity pay. Base pay does not include other pay categories such as overtime, holiday pay, or military pay. [See D.C. Code §§ 5- 701(6), 5-723.02, 5-544.01]  

    *Note: If you retired prior to August 29, 1972, longevity pay was not used in calculating annual retirement benefits. The Police Recruiting and Retention Enhancement Amendment Act of 1999, D.C. Law 13-101. [See D.C. Code § 5-544.01(a)(3)]

Beneficiary is the person(s) (or trust) you designate in writing in a signed and witnessed beneficiary form to receive:

  • a lump-sum payment of the retirement contributions you made to the Plan, if you die without leaving a  survivor eligible for a survivor annuity. The payment for your retirement contributions is equal to:
           -- the amount of your total retirement contributions, if you die before you retire; or
           -- any remaining retirement contributions, if you die after you retire.
  • a lump-sum payment of your life insurance proceeds.

If you do not designate a beneficiary(ies), the default beneficiary will be determined by the applicable order of precedence. [For retirement contributions, see D.C. Code § 5-706(c), (d); for District life insurance proceeds, see D.C. Code § 1-622.08(a); and for federal life insurance proceeds, see 5 U.S.C. § 8705(a)]

Benefits Administrator means the District of Columbia Retirement Board (DCRB). The Benefits Administrator is responsible for calculating and administering the benefits payable under the terms of the Plan for the District Government and the Treasury Department. [See D.C. Code §§ 1-204.24d(21), 1- 711(a), (e), and 1-903.04(a)]

Board Order means a formal decision issued by the District of Columbia Police and Firefighters Retirement and Relief Board (PFRRB) approving or denying an application for an optional or disability retirement or a survivor annuity or other action. [See D.C. Code § 5-721]

Calendar Year is a year that begins on January 1 and ends on December 31.

Civilian Service is honorable active service in the District Government, or in the executive, judicial, or legislative branches of the Federal Government, including work in government-owned or controlled corporations and Gallaudet University covered under the federal Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS).

For your prior civilian service to be included in your total creditable service, you must have:

  • had  CSRS retirement deductions (with no Social Security deductions) taken from your pay during such service;
  • received a refund, including any interest you earned, of all of your retirement contributions you made during your prior service; and
  • completed a purchase of service deposit to the Plan while you were an active Plan member. [See D.C. Code §§ 5-701(15), 5-704(e)]

Cost-of-Living Adjustments (COLAs) are adjustments in your benefit based on increases, if any, in the cost of living. During January of each year, the Mayor determines the percentage change in the Consumer Price Index-All Urban Consumers (CPI-U) for the previous calendar year. For police officers and firefighters hired on or after November 1, 1996, the annual increase may not exceed 3%. If there is no change in the CPI-U, or if the change is negative, no COLA is paid. [See D.C. Code § 5-718]

Creditable District Service for District health care purposes means all of your employment with the District of Columbia Government. [See D.C. Code § 1-621.03(2A)]

  • A Tier 2 member must retire with at least 5 years of creditable District service and a Tier 3 member must retire with at least 10 years of creditable District service to be eligible for District retiree health care. These requirements do not apply if you retire on a service-related disability or die in the line of duty. [See D.C. Code § 1-621.09(j), (k)]

Deferred Retirement Benefit is earned when a police officer or firefighter is vested with at least five years of police officer or firefighter service and separates from service before becoming eligible for optional or disability retirement. Such police officer or firefighter is a terminated vested Plan member and may elect to receive a lump-sum refund of retirement contributions and service deposits he/she made to the Plan or an annuity beginning on the first day of the month he/she reaches age 55. [See D.C. Code § 5-717]

Eligible Surviving Child(ren) is a surviving child(ren) who is unmarried and:

  • who is under age 18, or between the ages of 18 and 22, and a full-time student; or
  • a child(ren) of any age incapable of self-support because of a physical or mental disability incurred prior to reaching age 18. [See D.C. Code § 5-701(5)(B)]

Eligible Surviving Spouse is the surviving husband or wife of a Plan member who:

  • if your death occurs before you retire, was married to you at the time of your death;
  • if your death occurs after you retire, was married to you for at least one year immediately before your death; or
  • is the parent of your child(ren) by such marriage. [See D.C. Code § 5-701(3)(B), (4)(B)]

*Note: A survivor benefit for an eligible surviving spouse will be paid until death or remarriage prior to  age 55 (applies only to the portion of the survivor benefit based on service accrued after June 30, 1997) or age 60 (applies only to the portion of the survivor benefit based on service accrued through June 30, 1997).

Final Salary is the base pay you were earning at the time you retired or separated. 

Former Spouse is a living person whose marriage to a Plan member resulted in a divorce, annulment, or legal separation, and who is entitled to all or a portion of a Plan member’s retirement benefit and/or a regular survivor benefit under a court-issued Qualified Domestic Relations Order (QDRO) that is accepted and approved by DCRB as a qualifying court order under the D.C. Spouse Equity Act of 1988. For a former spouse to be eligible for a regular survivor benefit, he/she must be a person:

  • who was married for at least nine months to a Plan member who performed at least 18 months of total creditable service in a position covered by the Plan;
  • whose marriage to a Plan member was terminated prior to the Plan members’ death; and
  • who is a party to a QDRO that was issued prior to the Plan member’s death. [See D.C. Code §§ 1-529.01 et seq.]

Full Months is thirty (30) days.

Full-Time Student is an eligible surviving child(ren) between the ages of 18 and 22 who is regularly pursuing a full-time course of study or training in residence in a high school, trade school, technical or vocational institute, junior college, college, university, or comparable recognized educational institution. A full-time student is deemed to have reached age 22 on June 30th following the year the child's actual 22nd birthday. [See D.C. Code § 5-701(5B)]

Individual Retirement Record (IRR) reflects your monthly contributions deducted from your base pay during your Plan participation. The IRR (also referred to as Form 2806) is available from OPRS.

Labor Organization means the Fraternal Order of Police, MPD Labor Committee (active retired police officers) and the D.C. Firefighters’ Association, Local #36, International Association of Firefighters (active firefighters). Active Plan members, who are on an approved leave of absence to serve as a full-time officer or employee for either of these labor organizations for purposes of bargaining with the District, continue their Plan participation by making the required contributions. [See D.C. Code § 5-704(f)]

Lateral Law Enforcement Officer is any law enforcement officer who is appointed after January 11, 2000, pursuant to the Lateral Law Enforcement Act and whose position or duties are listed below:

  • a member of the Capitol Police;
  • a member of the United States Park Police;
  • a member of the Federal Protective Service;
  • a member of the United States Secret Service Uniformed Division;
  • an employee who performed duties in a position primarily related to the investigation, apprehension, or detention of individuals suspected or convicted of offenses against the criminal laws of the United States of America or any state of the United States of America, including a county sheriff and municipal policeman position; or
  • a person who performed in any capacity described above within 12 months of his or her application to the Police Department at Class 1 Private. [See D.C. Code §§ 1-610.71 et seq.]

Lateral Transfer Service is your authorized prior service time that meets the requirements of the Lateral Law Enforcement Act or the Lateral EMT Act. If you were appointed after January 11, 2000, as a lateral law enforcement officer with the Police Department pursuant to the Lateral Law Enforcement Act, lateral transfer service is your years of authorized prior law enforcement officer service. Lateral transfer service is used with police officer service to determine your eligibility to retire and it is included in your total creditable service to calculate the amount of your retirement benefit, provided you complete a purchase of service deposit for such service before you retire. [See D.C. Code § 5-704(k)]

If you were transferred after October 2, 2001, from being a single role EMT or paramedic with the EMS to become a uniformed EMT firefighter (this may include a uninformed dual role EMT/Paramedic firefighter) with the Fire Department pursuant to the Lateral EMT Act, lateral transfer service is your authorized years of prior service as an EMT or paramedic. Lateral transfer service is used with firefighter service to determine your eligibility to retire, even if you do not complete a purchase of service deposit. It is included in your total creditable service to calculate the amount of your retirement benefit, provided you complete a purchase of service deposit for such service before you retire. [See D.C. Code § 5-704(i)]

Lump-Sum Refund of Your Retirement Contributions means an amount consisting of (i) mandatory retirement deductions made from your salary as an active Plan member, and (ii) voluntary amounts deposited into the Retirement Fund by an active Plan member covering lateral transfer service and other creditable service.

Mandatory Retirement Contributions are the 7% or 8% contributions to the Retirement Fund that you are required to make from your annual salary. [See D.C. Code § 5-706(a)]

  • Police Officers’ mandatory contributions are post-tax and are not taxable when distributed. Firefighters’ mandatory contributions are pre-tax employer pick-up contributions under section 414(h)(2) of the Internal Revenue Code and are taxable when distributed. [See D.C. Code § 5- 706(a)(1)]

Mayor is the Mayor of the District of Columbia or his/her designated agent or agents. [See D.C. Code § 5-701(12)]

Military Leave is military service you performed after your hire date with the Police or Fire Department and:

  • In accordance with the Uniformed Services Employment and Redeployment Rights Act of 1994 (USERRA), 38 USC §§ 4301 et seq., 20 C.F.R. §§ 1002 et seq., military leave taken on or after October 13, 1994, means service in the uniformed services, such as, in the U.S. Armed Forces (Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force and Coast Guard) and reserve components, and the Army and Air National Guard, the commissioned corps of the Public Health Service, the National Disaster Medical System, or any other category of persons designated by the President in time of war or national emergency. [See D.C. Code §§ 5-704(b)(2), 5-704(d), 5-716(g)]
  • Military leave taken before October 13, 1994 means honorable active service in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, or Coast Guard of the United States. It does not include service in the National Guard, except when Guard members are ordered to active duty in the service of the United States. [See D.C. Code § 5-701(11)]

Non-Service-Related Disability means a physical or mental illness contracted or an injury that was incurred outside the line of active duty as a police officer or firefighter that prevents you from performing your duties as a police officer or firefighter. [See D.C. Code § 5-701(2) and (19)]

Other Creditable Service includes your years of civilian service performed prior to your hire date with the Police or Fire Department and/or active military service performed prior to your retirement date from the Police or Fire Department (military leave during war or national emergency or six-months of approved leave without pay in a calendar year that are treated as police officer or firefighter service are excluded). If eligible, such service is included in your total creditable service to calculate the amount of your retirement benefit. Civilian service and active military service are not used to determine your eligibility for a retirement benefit, even if you complete a purchase of service deposit for such service. [See D.C. Code § 5-704]

*Note: You must complete a purchase of service deposit for civilian service before you retire. You may need to complete a purchase of service deposit for active military service.

Plan Member is an active-duty police officer or firefighter, or a terminated vested police officer or fire- fighter or a retired police officer or firefighter.

Police Officer or Firefighter Service iincludes honorable service in the Police or Fire Department (suspensions are not included). You earn police officer or firefighter service credit while you are employed by the Police or Fire Department and you are making retirement contributions. Police officer or firefighter service may also include up to six months of approved leave in any calendar year, military leave (during war or national emergency), and approved union leave. Your police officer or firefighter service is used to determine your eligibility for retirement and the amount of your optional or deferred retirement benefit. [See D.C. Code § 5-701(10)]  

Qualified Domestic Relations Order (QDRO) is a court-issued order assigning a portion of a retirement benefit and/or awarding a survivor benefit to a former spouse that DCRB may accept as a qualifying court order, if it complies with the D.C. Spouse Equity Act of 1988 (see D.C. Code §§ 1-529.01 et seq.). QDROs issued prior to March 16, 1989, or after a member’s death, are not acceptable.

Regular Survivor Benefit is an annuity paid to your eligible surviving spouse and/or your surviving child(ren). It may also be paid to an eligible former spouse who is a party to a QDRO.

Remaining Retirement Contributions are the differences, if any, between the amount of your total contributions to the Plan and the amount of the total retirement benefits paid to you prior to your death.

Service-Related Disability is a physical or mental illness contracted or an injury that was incurred in the line of active-duty as a police officer or firefighter, or a physical or mental illness or an injury originally suffered in the line of active duty and later aggravated in the line of active duty as a police officer or firefighter, that prevents you from performing your duties as a police officer or firefighter. [See D.C. Code § 5-701(2) and (19)]

Social Security Full Retirement Age is the age (65 or later depending on date of birth) at which an individual qualifies to receive full Social Security old-age retirement benefits, provided he/she has earned the required number of Social Security credits. You do not earn Social Security credits as an active-duty police officer or firefighter.

Social Security Retirement Benefit is a retirement benefit you receive from the Social Security Administration, provided you qualify. To qualify, most individuals need to complete at least 10 years of Social Security covered employment to earn the required number of Social Security quarters. You do not earn Social Security credits as an active-duty police officer or firefighter.

Surviving Children means your living children after your death, including your recognized natural children, stepchildren, or any adopted children.

Surviving Spouse means your living wife or husband who you were married to at the time of your death.

*Note: A surviving spouse may be a same-sex spouse from a valid marriage performed in the District of Columbia or another jurisdiction. [See Obergefell v. Hodges, 135 S. Ct. 2584 (2015); D.C. Code §§ 46-401 and 46-405.01]

Terminated Vested means a police officer or firefighter who left the Police or Fire Department before retirement with at least five years of police officer or firefighter service and who did not take a refund of their Plan contributions (or who has redeposited his/her refund with interest, if applicable), and will be eligible for a deferred retirement benefit at age 55.

Total Creditable Service is your combined full years and full months of police officer or firefighter service and, if applicable, lateral transfer service and/or other creditable service. It is used to calculate the amount of your retirement benefit. Each period of service can only be credited once.

    Note: You must complete a purchase of service deposit for lateral transfer service and prior civilian service while you are an active Plan member. You may also need to complete a purchase of service deposit for active military service.

Uniformed EMT is a single role EMT or paramedic with the EMS who, pursuant to the Lateral EMT Act, transferred after October 2, 2001, to the Fire Department. A uniformed EMT may include a uniformed dual role EMT/Paramedic.

Unused Sick Leave is added to your police officer or firefighter service to calculate the amount of your optional retirement benefit. It is not used to calculate a deferred or a disability benefit. Unused sick leave is not used to determine your eligibility for a retirement benefit. It is not added to police officer service to determine if a police officer is eligible to have base pay include longevity pay when calculating a retirement benefit.

Service Contact: 
Member Services Center
Contact Phone: 
(202) 343-3272
Contact Fax: 
(202) 566-5001
Contact TTY: 
711
Office Hours: 
8:30 am to 5:00 pm