VRS Disability Retirement
If you can’t perform your job because of an illness or injury that is likely to be permanent, you may be eligible to retire on disability.
Select from the following links for an overview of disability retirement. Select from the key topics in the right column for more details. Refer also to the Disability Retirement Handbook for Members.
Am I Eligible?
You are eligible to be considered for disability retirement if you have a medical condition that prevents you from performing your job and is likely to be permanent and you are a:
- School division or VRS-participating political subdivision employee in VRS Plan 1 or VRS Plan 2; or
- State employee hired before January 1, 1999 who did not elect to transfer to the Virginia Sickness and Disability Program (VSDP).
You are not eligible to retire on disability if you are a state employee covered under VSDP, a political subdivision or school division employee covered under the Virginia Local Disability Program (VLDP) or a comparable program, you defer retirement or you take a refund of your member contributions and interest. For more information about deferring retirement and refunds, see Leaving Employment.
What is a Disability?
Under the provisions for VRS disability retirement, a disability may be:
The result of a physical illness or injury or a cognitive condition. A cognitive disability is a loss or deterioration in intellectual capacity, such as Alzheimer’s disease.
Non-work related or work-related. A work-related disability is the result of an occupational illness or injury that occurs on the job and the cause is determined to be compensable under the Virginia Workers’ Compensation Act.
A chronic condition, such as diabetes or mental illness, that worsens to the point that you no longer can perform your job duties.
If you were disabled before becoming employed in a covered position, your condition must significantly worsen for you to be considered for disability retirement.
When Can I Apply?
There are no minimum requirements for age or service under VRS disability retirement. You can apply from the first day of 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.
Is Disability Retirement My Best Option?
If you have a disability that is likely to be permanent and you are eligible for service retirement under Plan 1 or Plan 2, it may be to your advantage to retire under service retirement instead of disability retirement. Note, too, that if you qualify for the hazardous duty supplement in retirement, you will not be eligible for the supplement if you retire on disability. Before applying for disability retirement, compare a disability retirement estimate with a service retirement estimate to see which option would best meet your retirement needs. You can contact your human resource office for assistance. If you are in Plan 1, you also can create benefit estimates through myVRS. Log in or create a secure myVRS online account.
Select Applying for Disability Retirement from the key topics in the right column for more information about service retirement pending approval of disability retirement.
Service Credit for Workers' Compensation
If you are on leave without pay receiving workers' compensation and retirement contributions are not being withheld from your workers' compensation payment, you may be eligible to purchase up to 24 months of service credit for this period of time. You must purchase this service before you retire on disability. For more information, contact your human resource office.
Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA)
You are eligible for a COLA effective July 1 following one full calendar year (January 1 to December 31) from the effective date of your disability retirement. Read more about the COLA.
Benefit Adjustments for Social Security and Workers’ Compensation
Primary Social Security benefits
The disability retirement benefit is adjusted by any primary Social Security benefits you are eligible to receive. A primary Social Security benefit is a full (normal) Social Security retirement benefit or a Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefit. If you are not eligible for full Social Security when you retire on disability, you must apply for benefits under SSDI even if you qualify for an early Social Security benefit. Look up your normal Social Security retirement age. For more information, call the Social Security Administration toll-free at 1-800-772-1213 or visit the Social Security Administration website.
If you retire on work-related disability, your benefit calculation will be adjusted first by any primary Social Security benefits you are eligible to receive. The amount will then be adjusted by any workers’ compensation benefits you receive. Workers’ compensation will become your primary disability benefit.
Select from the key topics in the right column for more information about calculating the non-work related and work-related disability retirement benefit.
If You Serve in a Political Subdivision Position Eligible for Enhanced Hazardous Duty Coverage
If you have a disability that prevents you from performing the duties of your hazardous duty position and you have at least five years of hazardous duty service credit, contact your human resource office about the availability of other employment as an alternative to disability retirement.