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Virginia Retirement System FAQS

WHO IS ELIGIBLE FOR VIRGINIA RETIREMENT SYSTEM (VRS) DISABILITY BENEFITS?
You are eligible for disability retirement if you are working in a VRS-covered position and you are:

  • A teacher, administrator, manager or clerical employee of a local public school division;
  • An employee of a VRS-participating political subdivision, such as a city, county, town, authority or commission, including a school maintenance, janitorial or cafeteria employee or a school bus driver as elected by the school division;
  • A state employee hired before January 1, 1999, if you retained your eligibility to be considered for VRS disability retirement instead of electing to transfer to the Virginia Sickness and Disability Program (VSDP); or
  • A member covered under the Judicial Retirement System (JRS) or member of the General Assembly.
WHO IS NOT ELIGIBLE FOR VIRGINIA RETIREMENT SYSTEM (VRS) DISABILITY BENEFITS?
You are not eligible for disability retirement if you are not working in a VRS-covered position or you are:

  • Covered under the Virginia Sickness and Disability Program (VSDP);
  • Defer retirement;
  • Leave employment and take a refund of your member contributions and interest;
  • Participate in an optional retirement plan administered or authorized by VRS; or
  • Have a disability that is not likely to be permanent.
WHAT IS COVERED EMPLOYMENT?
Covered employment is a full-time, permanent salaried position with an employer that participates in the Virginia Retirement System. Some part-time permanent, salaried state positions are also covered under VRS.
WHAT IS THE DEFINITION OF DISABILITY USED BY THE VIRGINIA RETIREMENT SYSTEM?
Under the Code of Virginia, “disability” means the VRS member is, and has been continuously since the effective date of retirement, mentally or physically incapacitated for the further performance of duty and the incapacity is likely to be permanent. A VRS member shall not be retired for disability for any condition which existed at the time of becoming a member unless medical evidence, convincing to the Medical Board, supports the fact that the pre-existing condition has worsened substantially.

If a VRS member is mentally or physically unable to perform their job, but the disabling condition is not likely permanent, the individual will not qualify for VRS disability retirement benefits.

WHEN SHOULD I GET LEGAL ADVICE REGARDING MY VIRGINIA RETIREMENT SYSTEM (VRS) DISABILITY BENEFITS CLAIM?
You should absolutely consult with a lawyer experienced in Virginia Retirement System disability benefits claims before you file a claim. Too often we are contacted by people who have filed claims and exhausted their administrative appeal rights. If you must later file an appeal to Circuit Court, a court is only going to review the agency record to determine whether there was substantial evidence in the agency record to support the agency decision. EVERY case we have reviewed in which the client has applied for benefits and done the informal fact-finding proceeding himself/herself lacks important information and documents that could have been provided with the original claim.

Do you think that the Virginia Retirement System is going to fill the record with information favorable to you? We have never seen that happen!

Your attorney should be experienced in VRS disability claims, should understand the applicable legal standards, and should know how to gather the evidence necessary to support a claim for Virginia Retirement System disability benefits. Ask the right questions. Attorneys cannot simply dabble in Virginia Retirement System (VRS) disability benefits claims!

If you have been denied VRS disability benefits, we will review that denial letter at no charge and suggest an appropriate course of action. We have a variety of fee programs available.

WHEN CAN I APPLY FOR VIRGINIA RETIREMENT SYSTEM (VRS) DISABILITY BENEFITS?
You can apply for disability retirement from the first day of covered employment or within 90 days of your last day of employment. If you are on leave without pay, you have up to 24 consecutive months on leave without pay to apply for disability retirement; after 24 months, you are no longer eligible to apply. If you are on active duty military leave, you can apply at any time while on military leave.
WHAT MUST MY VIRGINIA RETIREMENT SYSTEM (VRS) DISABILITY APPLICATION INCLUDE?
The following forms are available at www.varetire.org and are required:

  • Application for Disability Retirement (VRS-6). On the VRS-6, you provide basic information, including the benefit payout option you wish to elect. You complete Parts A through D and must include acceptable legible evidence of your date of birth, such as a birth certificate. If you are married or separated, your spouse must complete the spouse certification section and sign on or after the date you sign the application. If you are electing the Survivor Option, you also must include acceptable legible evidence of your survivor’s date of birth.After you complete your sections, submit your application to your employer to complete Part E-Employer Certification. Your employer must include a copy of your job description. Your Virginia Retirement System disability application will not be processed until your employer completes and signs this section.
  • Explanation of Disability (VRS-6A). The VRS-6A allows you to provide additional information in support of your application and is required by the VRS Medical Board. The information on this form and supporting documentation include:
    • Job duties and other outside activities you no longer can perform because of your disability;
    • Whether you have been hospitalized or treated at a clinic for your condition;
    • Contact information for all doctors you are seeing for your disability;
    • If you are not eligible for a full Social Security benefit, documentation that you have applied for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits, such as a copy of the Application Summary, online filing confirmation, or Notice of Award or Notice of Disapproved Claim;
    • If you are applying for work-related disability retirement, copy of the letter from the Virginia Workers’ Compensation Commission approving your disability as compensable under the Virginia Workers’ Compensation Act or copy of your workers’ compensation award letter as well as an accident report, if applicable.
  • Physician’s Report (VRS-6B). Each doctor you list on the VRS-6A must complete this form and attach all relevant objective medical evidence. It is your doctor’s responsibility to fully document and supply objective medical evidence related to your condition so that the VRS Medical Board has a clear understanding of how your condition affects your performance of your job duties. A letter from your doctor is an opinion. Results of an examination, test results or x-rays are examples of objective medical evidence. If VRS does not receive this information in a timely manner, your application could be denied. If your doctor does not provide the required medical information, you can request a copy of your medical records and submit the information to VRS. You will be responsible for any costs associated with collecting this information from your doctor.
  • Employer Information for Disability Application (VRS-6D). In addition to your job description, your employer must submit this form to VRS providing additional job information regarding your required duties at the time of your disability. Your employer must explain any physical requirements such as walking, lifting, carrying or other job requirements that you cannot perform because of your disability. If your duties have been modified in any way, your employer must include this information as well.
  • Request for Income Tax Withholding (VRS-15). Submit this form if you are applying for non-work related disability retirement. If you are applying for work-related disability retirement, you will be asked to submit this form if you will be receiving the VRS formula amount. This form is not required if you will be receiving the work-related guaranteed benefit; as with workers’ compensation benefits, this benefit is tax exempt.
  • Authorization for Direct Deposit of Monthly Benefit (VRS-57). The VRS-57 authorizes VRS to deposit your monthly benefit electronically to the financial institution you designate on the form. Tape a voided check to this form before including it with your application.

You should absolutely consult with a lawyer experienced in Virginia Retirement System disability benefits claims before you file a claim.

HOW DO I SUBMIT MY APPLICATION FOR VIRGINIA RETIREMENT SYSTEM DISABILITY BENEFITS?
You or your employer must submit the original application and all required documents to VRS. In the case of a life-threatening condition, VRS will accept a fax of the application from your employer, a family member or an individual authorized to act on your behalf, provided the original is mailed to VRS.

Mailing Address:
Virginia Retirement System
P.O. Box 2500
Richmond, VA 23218-2500

WHAT CAN I DO IF MY VRS DISABILITY BENEFITS CLAIM IS DENIED?
If your Virginia Retirement System disability retirement application is denied, you can appeal the decision. Generally, an appeal will involve the following steps:

    1. You can request another review of your application and submit any requested or additional medical information.
    2. If your application is denied again, your case will be referred to an independent fact finder. An independent fact finder is an attorney in private practice with experience in reviewing disability cases. This individual does not represent you or VRS. You can hire your own attorney and would be wise to do so.
    3. The independent fact finder will arrange an informal proceeding at a date agreeable to you at a location in your area. The purpose of the proceeding is to consider all current and any additional medical evidence you wish to provide. A court reporter will be present to record the proceeding. Your employer is allowed to attend; if you have an attorney, he or she will be invited. You also can invite family members, co-workers, your doctor or other witnesses. Once the proceeding ends, you cannot provide any additional medical evidence.
    4. Any medical evidence you provide at the proceeding will be sent to the Medical Board. The Medical Board will review the additional information and recommend to VRS that your application be approved or denied; the independent fact finder also will send his or her recommendation to VRS. The Medical Board may request additional medical evidence or require you to undergo a functional capacity evaluation or an exam by an independent medical examiner before submitting its recommendation to VRS.
    5. Based on the recommendation of the independent fact finder and the Medical Board, VRS will make a final case decision to approve or deny your application. If it is denied, you can appeal the final case decision to the appropriate circuit court.

If your Virginia Retirement System disability retirement application is denied, you should absolutely consult with a lawyer experienced in Virginia Retirement System disability benefits claims. Too often we are contacted by people who have filed claims and exhausted their administrative appeal rights. If you must later file an appeal to Circuit Court, a court is only going to review the agency record to determine whether there was substantial evidence in the agency record to support the agency decision. EVERY case we have reviewed in which the client has applied for benefits and done the informal fact-finding proceeding himself/herself lacks important information and documents that could have been provided with the original claim.

Do you think that the Virginia Retirement System is going to fill the record with information favorable to you? We have never seen that happen!

Your attorney should be experienced in VRS disability claims, should understand the applicable legal standards, and should know how to gather the evidence necessary to support a claim for Virginia Retirement System disability benefits. Ask the right questions. Attorneys cannot simply “dabble” in Virginia Retirement System (VRS) disability benefits claims!

If you have been denied VRS disability benefits, we will review that denial letter at no charge and suggest an appropriate course of action. We have a variety of fee programs available.

WHAT OTHER VRS DISABILITY RETIREMENT BENEFITS MIGHT I RECEIVE?
In addition to the monthly benefit, the plan provides:

  • A continuation of some benefits under the VRS Group Life Insurance Program if you were covered before retiring on disability.
  • State retiree health benefits if you are a state employee. If you are an employee of a school division or a political subdivision, contact your human resource office about retiree health insurance your employer may offer.
  • The health insurance credit, a tax-free benefit that assists with the portion of premiums you pay for individual health insurance premiums, if you qualify.

Contact us today for your FREE Case Evaluation by calling us toll-free at 1-866-623-3380 or by filling out the FREE Case Review form to your right. We look forward to helping you!

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