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CEA Supports Teachers’ Spouses Eligibility for Retirement Benefit

CEA is calling for a legislative remedy to ensure that the surviving spouse of a retirement-eligible teacher who dies would automatically be offered pre-retirement Plan D, even if the spouse was not the sole named beneficiary.

The importance of fixing the Connecticut General Statutes came to CEA’s attention recently because of a very unfortunate incident.

An active teacher died unexpectedly. Because he was eligible for retirement at the time of his death, his wife expected to qualify for pre-retirement Plan D, which would pay her his accrued monthly pension (with a slight reduction) for the rest of her life.  Sadly, she learned from the Retirement Board that he had not named her as his beneficiary; he had named his father (who had since passed away).

Years ago when the teacher married he never changed his beneficiary designation to add his wife. As a result, she cannot receive Plan D since the law specifically requires the surviving spouse to be named as the sole primary beneficiary. Instead, she will get monthly survivor benefits which are significantly less than the pre-retirement Plan D benefit.

CEA worked with the Retirement Board to draft a legislative proposal to change the law so that a surviving spouse of an eligible teacher who dies would automatically be offered pre-retirement Plan D, even if the spouse was not the sole named beneficiary.  If a teacher for some reason does not wish to offer the benefit to his/her spouse, the teacher would need to proactively waive the spouse’s right. This puts the onus on the teacher to reject pre-retirement Plan D rather than to remember to name a spouse as the sole primary beneficiary.

At a recent meeting, the CEA Board of Directors unanimously moved to add this proposed change to Connecticut General Statutes Section 10-183h to CEA’s 2012 Legislative Agenda. The language the board formally moved to support is as follows:

Surviving spouse’s benefit. On and after January 1, 2009, unless a member had filed a waiver of the co-participant option while actively teaching, the surviving spouse of a member who, at the time of death was eligible for a retirement benefit other than a disability benefit, may elect to receive a monthly benefit for life equal to the benefit payable if a one hundred per cent co participant’s option had been elected or an amount equal to the member’s accumulated contributions with credited interest.

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