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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 July 2013, and the following terms have also been defined in the Teachers' Summary Plan Description 2012.

Annual Salary means the total annual 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 you have received; and
  • longevity allowances. [See D.C. Code § 38-2021.13(a)]

Annuity means your annual retirement benefit, which is paid on a monthly basis. As the recipient of this benefit, you (or your survivor) are called an “annuitant.”

Average Salary means the highest annual rate of pay resulting from averaging, over any period of 36 consecutive months of teaching service, your rates of annual salary in effect during those 36 consecutive 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)]

Benefits Administrator refers to the current administrator, the District of Columbia Retirement Board (DCRB). The Benefits Administrator is responsible for administering benefits earned from both the District of Columbia Teachers’ Retirement Fund and the D.C. Federal Pension Fund.

Beneficiary refers to the person or persons you designate in a signed and witnessed statement to be eligible for benefit payments that are payable at the time of your death. Those payments may include:

  • a lump-sum payment of your life insurance proceeds; and/or
  • a lump-sum payment of that portion of the retirement benefit payable to you, the retiree, during the month of your death, if you die without leaving an eligible survivor.
  • a lump-sum payment of the mandatory retirement contributions you made and any service contributions you may have made to the Fund, if you die without leaving an eligible survivor. The lump-sum payment is equal to the amount of your total retirement contributions, if you die before you retire; or any remaining retirement contributions (total amount contributed minus total amount of benefits already paid to you), if you die after you retire. [See D.C. Code § 38-2021.10]

Cost-of-Living-Adjustments (COLAs) are annual increases 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 (CPI) for the previous 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, or if the change is negative, no COLA is paid.

The change is based on the difference between the CPI published for December of the preceding year and the CPI published for December of the year before that. If there is an increase in the CPI, 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 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 § 38-2021.08]

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

  • The Fiscal Year 2010 Budget Support Act of 2009 (Sec. 1200, Subtitle U of Title I, “District Retirement Program Post-Employment Health and Life Insurance Benefits Amendment Act of 2009”) requires that a teacher must retire with at least 10 years of creditable District service to be eligible for District health care coverage to continue in retirement. D.C. Law 18-111, applicable October 1, 2009. [See D.C. Code § 1-621.09(h)(1)]

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]

D.C. Federal Pension Fund means the District of Columbia Teachers, Police Officers, and Firefighters Federal Pension Fund established under section 11081 of the Balanced Budget Act of 1997, as amended. This federal fund pays benefits to certain District of Columbia teachers, police officers, and firefighters for service performed on or before June 30, 1997.

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), 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)]

The term includes:

  • former DCPS teachers who terminated their employment and within 60 days, accepted employment with a D.C. public charter school, and elected to continue participation in the Teachers’ Retirement Plan;
  • teachers who are granted an extended leave of absence without pay from the DCPS system to accept a position 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; and
  • teachers who leave their positions for military service due to war or national emergency and return 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 may elect to receive a lump-sum refund of contributions he/she made to the Plan, or an annuity upon or after reaching age 62. Deferred retirement benefits must begin no later than age 701⁄2. [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)(4)]

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)]

Domestic Partner means a person (regardless of gender) with whom a teacher maintains a committed relationship and who has registered the domestic partnership with the District of Columbia’s Department of Health pursuant to the Health Care Benefits Expansion Act of 1992. The Federal government does not recognize domestic partners for federal health care, life insurance, or retirement benefits. [See D.C. Code §§ 32-701 et seq.]

The Omnibus Domestic Partnership Equality Amendment Act of 2008 allows teachers hired by the District after September 30, 1987 to elect a survivor benefit for their registered domestic partner at their retirement. This change only applies to your District service earned after June 30, 1997. D.C. Law 17-231, effective September 12, 2008. [See D.C. Code § 38-2021.05(b)(1)]

Eligible Child(ren) means an unmarried child(ren) or a child(ren) who is not in a registered domestic partnership of a Plan member, including a recognized natural child(ren) and any adopted child(ren):

  • 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 (to the satisfaction of the Treasury Department for D.C. Federal Pension Fund benefit payments or DCRB for District of Columbia Teachers’ Retirement Fund benefit payments) that he or she fully intends to continue his or her education at the same or different school during the school semester immediately after the break. [See D.C. Code § 38-2021.09(c)(2)]

This definition also includes a child(ren) of a legal same-sex marriage.

Eligible Domestic Partner means a surviving registered 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.

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 of 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 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)]

An eligible spouse may be a same-sex spouse from a valid marriage performed in the District of Columbia or another jurisdiction. The Religious Freedom and Civil Marriage Equality Amendment Act of 2009, D.C. Law 18-110, effective March 3, 2010; the Jury and Marriage Amendment Act of 2009. D.C. Law 18-9, effective July 7, 2009. These changes only apply to your District service earned after June 30, 1997 for retirement Plan purposes. [See D.C. Code §§ 46-401 and 46-405.01]

As of June 26, 2013, this definition also includes a same-sex spouse from a valid same-sex marriage for your Federal service earned before or on June 30, 1997 for retirement Plan purposes. United States v. Windsor, 570 U.S. 12 (2013).

Eligible Teachers are employees who serve in a salary class position ET 1 - 15 under the DCPS system. You are also a teacher if you are eligible as an employee of a District of Columbia Public Charter School. 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 is entitled to a retirement and/or survivor benefit under court-issued Qualified Domestic Relations Order (QDRO) approved by DCRB pursuant to the D.C. Spouse Equity Act of 1988. The former spouse is a person:

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

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 a minimum of five years as a DCPS teacher, and you are at least age 50. For details, see page 27. [See D.C. Code § 38-2021.03(b)]

Lump-Sum Refund of Retirement Contributions means an amount consisting of (1) retirement deductions made from the salary of a teacher, (2) amounts deposited into the retirement Fund by a teacher covering earlier services, and (3) interest earned on any deductions taken from salary earned prior to February 15, 1980.

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)] If you are a DCPS teacher represented by the Washington Teachers’ Union, your contributions are made on a pre-tax basis.

Military Leave is military 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; 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.
  • 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 § 38-2021.08]

Non-Teaching Service means service purchased by the teacher which is credited from another school system.

Plan (or Teachers’ Retirement Plan) means the District of Columbia Teachers’ Retirement Plan.

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

Qualified Domestic Relations Order (QDRO) is a court order that is in compliance with the D.C. Spouse Equity Act of 1988 and has been approved as qualified by DCRB. [See D.C. Code §§ 1-529.01 et seq.]

Service Contributions are the deposits you may make to the retirement Fund to receive credit for your 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 Domestic Partner means the person who was registered with you in a domestic partnership for at least two years immediately preceding your death, or is the mother or father of your child from your registered domestic partnership. A surviving domestic partner is not recognized under a QDRO or for any benefit you may have earned on or before June 30, 1997 under the D.C. Federal Pension Fund.

Registration of a new domestic partnership by a surviving domestic partner prior to age 55 will terminate a survivor annuity. The Equity in Survivor Benefits Amendment Act of 2012 (D.C. Law 19-301), effective May 1, 2013. Prior to May 1, 2013, the remarriage age was 60. This change only applies to your District service earned after June 30, 1997.

Surviving Spouse means your surviving wife or husband, who was married to you for at least two years immediately preceding your death, or is the mother or father of your child by marriage. A surviving spouse may also be a former spouse who is a party to an approved QDRO. [See D.C. Code § 38-2021.09(c)(1)]

Remarriage of a surviving spouse prior to age 55 will terminate a survivor annuity. The Equity in Survivor Benefits Amendment Act of 2012 (D.C. Law 19-301), effective May 1, 2013. Prior to May 1, 2013, the remarriage age was 60. This change only applies to your District service earned after June 30, 1997.   

Survivor Benefits are benefits payable to your spouse or domestic partner, eligible dependent children and/or dependent parents when you die. For details, see pages 43-48 of the Teachers' Summary Plan Description 2012.

Teaching Service means service in a salary class position ET 1-15 under the DCPS system, under an approved leave without pay to serve as an employee of a District of Columbia Public Charter School, in a bargaining capacity as a full-time officer or employee of a teachers’ union, or in the military services, as prescribed by statute (see pages 22-25 of the Teachers' Summary Plan Description 2012).

Voluntary Retirement Benefits are payable if you have worked for at least five years as a DCPS teacher and you are at least 62 years of age, or:

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