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:
- Member of the Judicial Retirement System.
- State employee in Plan 1 hired before January 1, 1999, who did not elect the Virginia Sickness and Disability Program during one of two open enrollment periods offered in 1999 and 2002.
- Political subdivision and school division employee in Plan 1 or Plan 2.
You are not eligible to retire on disability if you:
- Are a member of the Hybrid Retirement Plan, with the exception of the JRS Hybrid Retirement Plan.
- Are covered under the Virginia Sickness and Disability Program (VSDP).
- Are covered under the Virginia Local Disability Program (VLDP) or a comparable program provided by your employer.
- Defer retirement and more than 90 days have passed since your separation date.
- Leave employment and take a refund of your member contributions and interest.
- Participate in an optional retirement plan administered or authorized by VRS.
- Have a disability that is not likely to be permanent.
- Are employed by a college or university and opted out of VSDP to participate in your employer-sponsored disability plan.
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 non-work-related disability is the result of an illness or injury that is not 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.
Any condition that existed before you were employed in a covered position must substantially 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, even if it exceeds 24 months.
Is Disability Retirement My Best Option?
Even if you have a disability that is likely to be permanent, you do not have to retire on disability. If you qualify for service retirement, you may find this option would better meet your retirement needs, particularly if you qualify for the hazardous duty supplement , which is not payable to members who retire on disability.
Before submitting a disability retirement application, compare your estimated disability retirement benefit with your estimated service retirement benefit. Your human resource office can assist you with benefit estimates. You can also 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
Social Security Disability Benefits
The amount of the VRS disability retirement benefit is determined by whether you have been awarded or denied Social Security disability benefits. When you retire on VRS disability, you must apply for Social Security disability benefits, even if you qualify for an early Social Security retirement benefit. Look up your normal Social Security retirement age. For more information, call the Social Security Administration toll-free at 800-772-1213 or visit the Social Security Administration website.
If your application for disability retirement is approved, your benefit will be determined in part by any Social Security disability benefits you are eligible to receive. If your disability is work-related, your benefit will be offset by any workers’ compensation benefits you are awarded. 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.
Select from the key topics in the right column for more information about calculating the non-work related and work-related disability retirement benefit.
Eligible for the Hazardous Duty Supplement?
If you have at least 20 years of eligible hazardous duty service credit, you may qualify for the hazardous duty supplement as part of your service retirement benefit. You are not eligible to receive a hazardous duty supplement if you retire on disability. If you qualify for the supplement, compare your estimated disability retirement benefit with your service retirement benefit, including the supplement, before applying for disability retirement to determine which type of retirement is best for you. Your human resource office can assist you. You can also create retirement benefit estimates through myVRS.