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Member News Archives | September 2015 A Publication for VRS Members

Your Member Benefit Profile Helps You Plan for Tomorrow, Today

The 2015 Member Benefit Profile (MBP) is now available for Plan 1 and Plan 2 members through your myVRS account. Your MBP provides an overview of your contributions and benefits so you can better plan your road to retirement.

myVRS at your service

Based on information your employer reported to VRS as of June 30, 2015, your MBP gives you benefit information, including:

  • Membership date and years of creditable service.
  • Your VRS Member Contribution Account Balance.
  • Life insurance coverage (if you are eligible).
  • Estimates of your unreduced and reduced retirement benefit amounts, based on your retirement age.
  • A description of the Benefit Estimator and Retirement Planner in myVRS.
  • Tips on how to increase your retirement savings.
  • If you participate, your 457 Deferred Compensation Plan account summary and a retirement income gap analysis, showing a total retirement income estimate compared to a retirement income target of 80 percent of your compensation.

If you are a Hybrid Retirement Plan member, you will not receive a MBP; however, you can review account information in myVRS for both the defined benefit component and defined contribution component of your plan.

Your MBP is available through your myVRS account. If you don't have an account, register for myVRS now. Registered, but forgot your password? Select Forgot Username or Password. If you need help, select the link to myVRS Help.

Patricia S. BishopVRS Board Appoints Patricia Bishop as New Director

The Virginia Retirement System (VRS) Board of Trustees appointed Patricia S. Bishop director of the retirement system effective June 19. Bishop succeeds Robert P. Schultze, who left the agency in February to take a position in the private sector.

Most recently, Bishop served as the agency's acting director. Prior to this, she was the deputy director, responsible for implementation of benefit policy and legislation, benefit processing, retirement counseling, call center services, employer and member training and insurance programs. Read more.

VRS Counseling Center Welcomes You Virtually During World Cycling Championships, September 21-25

In September, the city of Richmond is hosting the UCI Road World Cycling Championships. The race is expected to attract almost half a million spectators over the week-long event, closing many downtown streets at various times of day and limiting access to VRS offices.

Although it's exciting to welcome world-class cyclers and international visitors to Richmond, we recognize that it may not be the most convenient time for members and retirees to visit our offices. Therefore, VRS will not offer in-person appointments at the counseling center during the week of the race, September 21-25.

Instead, we look forward to serving you by phone and email. For retirement counseling support, please contact our Customer Contact Center at 1-888-827-3847, Monday-Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Or send an email to You may also schedule an appointment to speak with a member counselor by phone during this week by calling our toll-free number.

VRS appreciates your flexibility during this special event, and we look forward to resuming in-person appointments September 28.

Prepare Now for Tomorrow: Purchase of Prior Service Changes Coming in 2017

If you have considered purchasing prior service to enhance your retirement benefit, now may be the time to look more closely at that option. Newly passed legislation will change the purchasing rules beginning January 1, 2017.

Under the new provisions, the cost of purchasing prior service may increase in some cases, and the number of months eligible for purchase may be limited. If you have periods of leave or prior service to purchase, especially refunded service, you may want to compare the cost of purchasing the service now versus after the new provisions go into effect. Prior service credit counts toward the years needed to become vested, eligibility for retirement and the health insurance credit.

What This Means for You

  • The cost to purchase refunded service will change. Now, active Plan 1 and Plan 2 members can purchase refunded service by paying 5 percent of their current compensation (4 percent for Hybrid Retirement Plan members) for each month purchased.
  • You can purchase service under the current purchase of service provisions through December 30, 2016.
  • Effective January 1, 2017, the cost to purchase refunded service will be based on the refunded amount, plus interest (currently set at 7 percent) from the date of the refund up to the date of purchase.
  • After January 1, 2017, you will no longer need to purchase the most recent service first.

Key Dates

October 1, 2016

If you decide to purchase service under the current purchase of service provisions, VRS strongly recommends that you apply no later than October 1, 2016. Your employer can help you obtain an official cost letter.

December 2016

If you are eligible to purchase service through a salary-reduction agreement, you must have deductions taken for the month of December 2016, or earlier.

December 30, 2016

If you use a lump-sum payment method, the full payment must arrive at VRS no later than December 30, 2016.

If you are considering a trustee-to-trustee transfer or rollover of funds from another retirement plan to purchase the service, it may take 90 days or longer for your plan provider to process the payment and send it to VRS. You will want to request an official cost letter as soon as possible to ensure payment arrives at VRS no later than December 30, 2016.

VRS Resources

  • Attend a webinar: The Changes to Purchase of Prior Service Provisions webinar will cover changes in types of service, eligibility windows, cost, payment methods and purchase payment agreement requirements, and discuss the implications of purchasing service before or after January 1, 2017.
      Offered at these times:
    • Wednesday, October 28 (12-1 p.m.)
    • Monday, November 9 (11a.m.-12 p.m.)
    • Thursday, December 17 (2-3 p.m.)

  • Check out these online key topics related to current purchase of prior service provisions: Types of Prior Service; Payment Methods; and How to Apply; and resources such as Quick Facts and purchase of prior service forms.

  • Visit the online purchase of prior service estimators to estimate the costs of purchasing service under current provisions.

  • Coming in late September to myVRS: Refunded Service Comparison Estimator. This new estimator, available when you log into your myVRS account, will indicate whether you have refunded service eligible for purchase and provide a comparison of the lump-sum cost to purchase now versus after January 1, 2017.

How Purchase of Prior Service Affects Your Retirement Benefits

You left your job years ago and took a refund. Now you're back in a VRS-covered job and can purchase that service. What should you consider before deciding whether to purchase service?

  • Prior service credit that you purchase counts toward the five years needed to become vested, which is the minimum length of service needed to qualify for a future retirement benefit.
  • Because VRS calculates your retirement benefit in a formula using years of creditable service among other factors, more years may mean a higher retirement benefit, so purchasing prior service credit may increase your future benefit.
  • Adding service to your record may allow you to qualify for retirement at an earlier date.
  • Prior service credit that you purchase also counts toward eligibility for the health insurance credit, if offered by your employer.

You may be able to purchase service from previous public employment, active duty military service, an eligible period of leave or VRS refunded service as credit in your plan. Find out if you may be eligible to purchase prior service credit.

Be Alert to Retirement Benefit Scams

If someone contacts you, claims to be from VRS and wants to visit your home to discuss retirement benefits, don't believe them.

VRS employees do not come to your home to discuss benefits. VRS offers retirement planning sessions throughout the state, held at colleges, universities, other public locations or the VRS offices in Richmond.

Remember, never give your personal information over the phone unless you have initiated the call, and do not send confidential information through email, even to VRS. Email is not secure.

Never provide personal information to unfamiliar companies or individuals. If you are unsure if an unfamiliar individual or organization is legitimate, check with the Better Business Bureau before sharing personal or financial information. If you have any questions about a retirement session or a correspondence from VRS, please call toll-free 1-888-827-3847

National Save for Retirement Week: It's Your Time to Save

National Save for Retirement Week, October 20-26, is a good reminder to assess whether you will have enough money set aside to live comfortably in retirement. If you haven't started saving, it's a good time to begin. If you are already saving, think about saving more to build your retirement savings.

Here are some things to think about during National Save for Retirement Week:

  • To live comfortably during retirement, most experts agree that you will need from 80 to 100 percent of your pre-retirement income.
  • Your defined benefit plan and Social Security are a foundation, but additional savings will help fund your retirement.
  • Saving just $100 per month through payroll deduction early in your career could give you close to $100,000 in your account in 30 years.*
  • The more you save, the faster your money can grow. Increasing your contributions from $100 to $130 a month could add up to more than $126,000 in 30 years.*
    *For illustrative purposes only, assumes a 6 percent effective annual return.

If you are a member of the Hybrid Retirement Plan, consider increasing your voluntary contribution percentage to the Hybrid 457 Deferred Compensation Plan. You'll reap the benefits of long-term tax-deferred savings and an employer match for a portion of your contribution. Learn more about voluntary contributions.

Participating in the Commonwealth of Virginia 457 Deferred Compensation Plan, a supplemental 403(b) plan or other employer-sponsored plan makes saving automatic each month. Use your Benefit Planner in myVRS to see how starting an account or increasing your contributions can add to your retirement income.

Check with your employer to determine if you are eligible to participate in the Commonwealth of Virginia 457 Deferred Compensation Plan, a supplemental 403(b) plan or other employer-sponsored plans.

Customer Service Improvements Coming to myVRS in 2016

VRS is engaged in a multi-phase effort to enhance online services for members. In the works for 2016 and 2017 are new features in myVRS that will include a retirement planner, personalized counseling and self-service functions including refund requests and, eventually, online application for retirement.

As financial-based transactions become available online, VRS will introduce new security procedures early next year to keep your myVRS account as safe as possible. These changes will include a new user authentication process when you access your account. You will need to verify certain information and answer a set of security questions. It's all designed to protect your information while expanding services to better meet your needs.

Look for more details about the changes in future issues of Member News.

Have Questions About Your Benefits? Your Handbook Has Answers

When you have a question about your benefits, sometimes all you need to find the answer is your member handbook. Refer to your handbook for retirement eligibility requirements, benefit options, life insurance information, investment options and health insurance coverage information.

By scanning the handbook table of contents, there's a good chance you'll find the answers you are seeking, even if your question is specific to your plan.

All VRS handbooks include details about calculating your retirement benefit amount, purchasing prior service credit, group life insurance, planning for retirement and applying for retirement.

If you have questions about disability, turn to the Virginia Sickness and Disability Plan Handbook, the VRS Disability Retirement Handbook for Members or the Virginia Local Disability Handbook, depending on your eligibility.

Thinking about retirement? The Getting Ready to Retire Guide for Members in Plan 1 and Plan 2 and the Getting Ready to Retire Guide for Hybrid Members focus on qualifying for retirement, applying for retirement and what happens after you retire.

Of course, VRS is always happy to help you by phone or in-person at our Counseling Center. Call toll-free 1-888-827-3847 to talk to a representative or make an appointment.

FAQ: Retirement Is Getting Closer: How Do I Determine My Benefit and if It Will Be Enough?

VRS has resources just for you! We have tools to help you estimate your retirement benefit and assess whether you need to save more to meet your retirement needs.

Log into your myVRS account:

  • Plan 1 or Plan 2 members view your 2015 Member Benefit Profile. It provides an estimate of your benefit at reduced and unreduced retirement. It includes a chart of your estimated VRS benefit amount, plus Social Security and any Commonwealth of Virginia 457 savings you have, compared to what you may need for a comfortable retirement. Your MBP also offers tips on how to increase your savings and get the most out of your supplemental savings plans.
  • Use the benefit estimator, the benefit planner and your current account information to see how close you are to meeting your retirement goals. You can enter different retirement dates and payout options and use the Planner to estimate your income from your VRS benefit, other employer-sponsored plans and Social Security with projections on healthcare and other living expenses in retirement.

VRS also offers counseling sessions, webinars, presentations and online classes to help you meet your retirement goals. For example:

  • Are You on Track?- Provides an overview of your VRS benefits and optional programs, purchase of prior service and member resources.

  • Are You Ready to Retire?- Guides you through important retirement decisions (such as when to retire and how to select a benefit payout option). Other topics include using myVRS and benefits after retirement.

  • Your Next Steps - Walks you through the retirement application process. Topics include a timeline of action items, an overview of the required forms, post-retirement considerations (such as taxes and COLA) and your VRS resources after retirement.