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Glossary of Benefit Terms for Teachers

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

Annual Salary means the total annual gross income you receive during a fiscal year for your work in the public day school system (not including summer school) of the District of Columbia, including:

  • your base salary;
  • any automatic increases; and
  • longevity allowances. [See D.C. Code § 38-2021.13(a)]

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 Salary means the highest annual rate of pay resulting from averaging, over any period of 36 consecutive months of DCPS teaching service, your rates of annual salary in effect during those months, with each rate weighted by the time it was in effect. If a teacher dies after completing at least 18 months of eligible service, but before 36 months, the average salary for computing the survivor benefit is the average for the number of months actually worked. [See D.C. Code § 38-2021.13(b)]

Beneficiary is the person(s) (or trust) you designate in a written, 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 

    (i) the amount of your total retirement contributions, if you die before you retire; or (ii) any remaining retirement contributions, if you die after you retire;

  • that portion of the retirement benefit payable to you, as a retiree (or as an alternate payee), during the month of your death regardless if a survivor annuity is paid; and/or 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 Plan lump-sum benefits, see D.C. Code § 38-2021.10; 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 rmeans 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)]

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 – Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers (CPI-W) for the previous calendar year. For teachers hired on or after November 1, 1996, the annual increase may not exceed 3%. If there is no change in the CPI-W, or if the change is negative, no COLA is paid.

The change is based on the difference between the CPI-W published for December of the preceding year and the CPI-W published for December of the year before that. If there is an increase in the CPI-W, the COLA is calculated as follows:

  • For a retirement benefit with a start date on or before March 1 of the prior year, the percentage change computed is rounded to the nearest 1/10 of 1%; or
  • For a retirement benefit with a start date after March 1 of the prior year, a pro-rata increase of: 1/12 of the percentage of change in the CPI-W for the prior year, multiplied by the number of months  and portions of months (but no more than 12 months) that the retirement benefit was payable before the effective date of the increase, adjusted to the nearest 1/10 of 1%. [See D.C. Code § 38-2021.21]

Creditable District Service for District health care purposes means all your employment with the District of Columbia government. Each period of service can be credited once. [See D.C. Code § 1-621.03(2A)]

Credited Service means service for certain periods in which you were not employed by the DCPS system but for which you may receive credit to be used for purposes of calculating your retirement benefit amount. [See D.C. Code § 38-2021.08]

DCPS Service means your service as a DCPS teacher.

DCPS System refers to the District of Columbia Public Day School System. The term does not include the D.C. Public Charter Schools.

DCPS Teacher means an employee who serves in a salary class position ET 1-15 under the DCPS system. The term includes all teachers employed by DCPS (but not substitute teachers or rehired retired teachers), including certain other educational employees*, but does not include the employees of the Department of School Attendance and Work Permits. [See D.C. Code §§ 38-2021.13(a), 1-603.01(6)]

*For example, principal, athletic trainer, counselor, instructional coach, librarian, occupational therapist, psychologist, reading specialist, social worker, or speech pathologist. Your position must be a covered salary class position ET 1-15.

The term also includes:

  • former DCPS teachers who terminated their employment, and within 60 days of termination, accepted employment with a D.C. public charter school, and elected to continue participation in the Teachers’ Retirement Plan;
  • teachers on an extended leave of absence without pay from the DCPS system to work at a D.C. public charter school, or to serve in a bargaining capacity as a full-time officer or employee of a teachers’ union;
  • teachers on certain other approved leaves of absence; and
  • teachers who leave their positions for military service due to war or national emergency and return to DCPS in five years or less.

Deferred Retirement Benefit is earned when a teacher completes at least five years of eligible service and separates from service before becoming eligible for retirement. Such a teacher is a terminated vested Plan member and may elect to receive an annuity upon reaching age 62 or a lump-sum refund of contributions he/she made to the Plan. [See D.C. Code § 38-2021.09(a)]

Dependent Parents means your natural parents who were receiving one half or more of their total income from you immediately preceding your death. [See D.C. Code § 38-2021.09(c)(3)]

Disability Retirement Benefit may be payable if you have five years of DCPS teaching service at the time you become disabled. [See D.C. Code § 38-2021.04(a)]

Eligible Service means service in the public schools of the District of Columbia under a temporary, probationary, or permanent appointment to a position, the rate of compensation for which is prescribed in a salary schedule pursuant to D.C. Code §§ 1-611.11 and 1-617.16. [See D.C. Code § 38-2021.13(c)]

Eligible Surviving Child(ren) means a Plan member’s surviving child(ren) who is unmarried and not in a registered domestic partnership and

  • who is under age 18, or between 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.

For the purposes of this Plan, a child who is a full-time student, and whose 22nd birthday occurs before July 1 or after August 31 of a calendar year, is considered 22 years of age on the first day of July after his or her 22nd birthday. A child will continue to be considered a student during a school break (of five or fewer months) provided the child confirms that he or she fully intends to continue his or her education at the same or a different school during the school semester immediately after the break. [See D.C. Code § 38-2021.09(c)(2)]

Eligible Surviving Domestic Partner means a surviving domestic partner of a teacher who dies prior to retirement, who was in a registered domestic partnership with the teacher for at least two years immediately preceding the teacher’s death, or who is the parent of a child of the domestic partnership. To receive a benefit after the teacher retires, the teacher must have chosen a benefit option which pays an annuity to a surviving domestic partner. [See D.C. Code § 38-2021.09(c)(7)]  Note: A survivor benefit for an eligible surviving domestic partner applies only to the portion of the benefit based on service accrued after June 30, 1997, and will be paid until death, or the registration of a new domestic partnership or marriage prior to age 55.

Eligible Surviving Spouse means a surviving spouse of a teacher who dies prior to retirement, who was married to the teacher for at least two years immediately preceding the teacher’s death, or who is the parent of a child of the marriage. To receive a benefit after the teacher retires, the teacher must have chosen a benefit option which pays an annuity to a surviving spouse. [See D.C. Code § 38-2021.09(c)(1)]  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).

Eligible Teacher is an employee who serves in a salary class position ET 1-15 under the DCPS system. You may also be a teacher if you worked for DCPS and transferred to or were subsequently hired by a District of Columbia Public Charter School (see DCPS Teacher definition above). Retired teachers who are rehired by the District are not eligible teachers.

Fiscal Year means a period starting with October 1 of one year and ending September 30 of the following year.

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 a portion of a teacher’s retirement benefit and/or a 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 (the Act does not apply to domestic partners). For purposes of a survivor annuity, the former spouse is a person:

  • who was married for at least nine months to a Plan member who performed at least 18 months of creditable service in a position covered by the Teachers’ Retirement Plan;
  • wwhose marriage to the Plan member was terminated prior to the Plan member’s death; and
  • who is a party to a QDRO that was issued prior to the Plan member’s death. [See D.C. Code § 1-529.03]

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 child's actual 22nd birthday. [See D.C. Code § 38-2021.09(c)(2)(C)]

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

Involuntary Retirement Benefits may be payable if you are involuntarily separated from service (unless the reason is for cause on charges of misconduct or delinquency), and you have:

  •  25 years of service, including at least five years as a DCPS teacher; or
  • 20 years of service, including at least five years as a DCPS teacher, and you are at least age 50. [See D.C. Code § 38-2021.03(b)]

Lump-Sum Refund of Retirement Contributions means an amount consisting of (1) mandatory retirement deductions made from your salary as a teacher, and (2) voluntary amounts deposited into the Retirement Fund by a teacher to purchase other credited service..

Mandatory 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 § 38-2021.01(a)] Note: Mandatory contributions were post-tax before September 22, 2000. Pre-tax contributions are employer pick-up contributions under section 414(h)(2) of the Internal Revenue Code and taxable to you when distributed. [See D.C. Code § 38-2021.01(c)]

Military Leave is service you performed after your hire date with DCPS and:

  • In accordance with the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act of 1994 (USERRA), 38 U.S.C. §§ 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 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 §§ 38-2021.08(a)(6)(B), 38-2021.09(b)(4) and (c)(8)].
  • 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.

Non-DCPS Teaching Service means prior teaching service purchased by a teacher from another school system that is credited under this Plan.

Plan Member is a DCPS Teacher, or a terminated vested DCPS Teacher or a retired DCPS teacher.

Purchase of Service Credit is service purchased from another school system, DCPS, or CSRS, which is counted toward retirement benefits under this Plan. [See D.C. Code § 38-2021.08(a)]

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.

Service Contributions are the deposits you may make to the Retirement Fund to receive credited service.

Summer School Pay is pay received for teaching summer school and is not included in the calculation that determines your average salary.

Surviving Children means your living children after your death, including your recognized natural children and any adopted children. Note: The federal government does not recognize domestic partners for federal health care, life insurance, or survivor benefits.

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]

Survivor Benefits are benefits in the form of an annuity payable when you die to your eligible surviving spouse or eligible surviving domestic partner, eligible surviving dependent child(ren) and/or dependent parents.

Teaching Service means service in a salary class position ET 1-15 under the DCPS system (including up to 6 months of leave without pay in a fiscal year), under an approved leave without pay to work in a District of Columbia Public Charter School, in a bargaining capacity as a full-time officer or employee of a teachers’ union, and under approved military leave and educational leave, as prescribed by statute.

Terminated Vested means a DCPS teacher, who resigned from the DCPS system prior to retirement with at least five years of eligible (vested) service and who did not take a refund of their Plan contributions.

Voluntary Retirement Benefit is payable if you have at least five years of eligible service as a DCPS teacher and you are:

  • age 62, or,
  • 60 and have 20 years of service,
  • age 55 and you have 30 years of service, or
  • any age if you have at least 30 years of service and you were hired on or after November 1, 1996. [See D.C. Code § 38-2021.03(a)]
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