UWRP disability retirement

The University of Washington Retirement Plan allows a “Retirement Because of Condition of Health” as stated in Section 6.2 of the UWRP Plan Document. This provision allows a UWRP participant, regardless of age, to retire because the person’s health prevents continued UW employment and is likely to do so for the foreseeable future. “Retirement Because of a Condition of Health” means “disability retirement” as stated in the UWRP.

Normally, when a UW employee has a health condition that impairs the employee’s ability to work, the UW works with the employee to try to accommodate the disability so that the employee can continue working. However, if the University determines that a UWRP participant’s condition is such that the employee cannot work, or that the employee’s condition cannot be accommodated, and after the normal evaluation processes have been followed, the participant may apply for disability retirement under Section 6.2 of the UW Retirement Plan.

UWRP disability retirement requires that the employee, the employee’s physician, and the panel of medical experts (on a special board convened for this purpose) concur that the employee is not able, and is not likely to ever again be able, to perform the material duties of the employee’s UW position. The President of the University decides whether or not to approve a UWRP disability retirement based on the recommendation of the Special Board on Disability Retirement, as defined in Section 6.2 of the UW Retirement Plan.

Age and service considerations

UWRP disability retirement is an option for a disabled UWRP participant who is under age 62 and/or who has less than 10 years of UWRP participation.

If a disabled UWRP participant is age 62 or older and has at least 10 years of service, the participant is eligible for normal retirement with all its associated benefits and does not have to go through the disability retirement process.

An individual who is older than 62 but has less than 10 years of service may retire under the normal provisions of the UWRP. In this case, the person will have the other benefits of retirement, with the exception that he or she will not be eligible for a calculation of the UWRP Supplemental Benefit, for which a minimum of 10 years of service is required.

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Disability retirement benefits

A UWRP disability retirement has the same rights and privileges as a regular retiree and:

  • Is officially retired from the UW (regardless of age);
  • Can access his/her full UWRP contributions and can choose to begin retirement payment distributions (see note about tax implications of early access below);
  • Can purchase Public Employee Benefits Board (PEBB) Retiree Medical and Dental insurance for the rest of his/her life and enroll eligible dependents in the coverage (which requires payment of additional premiums)
    • NOTE: If the retiree did not hold a PEBB benefits-eligible position immediately before retirement, then access to PEBB Retiree Medical and Dental insurance does not apply;
  • Is eligible for a calculation of the Supplemental Benefit provision of the UWRP.
  • Receives rights and privileges of a UW retiree such as a retiree Husky card and discounts to UW arts and events.

Note: Disability Retirees should discuss income options and the tax implications of early funds access directly with your Record Keeper (Fidelity or TIAA).

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Relationship of disability retirement to long-term disability (LTD) insurance

Depending on a person’s type of appointment, the person may be participating in one or more LTD insurance plans available to the campus community. The UWRP disability retirement process requires that a claim be filed with all applicable insurance plans before an application for disability retirement is processed.

Example: A faculty member in the UW Physicians (UWP) practice plan may receive primary long term disability insurance through the UWP practice plan. The primary claim for long term disability insurance benefits would be via the UWP LTD, and the Benefits Office would file a claim on the Public Employee Benefits Board basic LTD (see below)

For most UW faculty and staff there are two types of LTD insurance available.

  1. Basic employer-provided LTD insurance provides a benefits-eligible employee with a maximum benefit of $240 per month. All benefits-eligible employees have this coverage
  2. Optional LTD insurance as an employee election, for which the employee pays the premium. The basic and optional LTD insurances combined provide a benefit of 60% of the employee’s pre-disability earnings

The Optional LTD plan makes monthly contributions to an employee’s UWRP account when an employee has been approved to receive LTD Benefits. This means that UWRP retirement savings can continue to grow while the employee receives the LTD benefits. When the employee reaches the end of the contractual benefit payment period, the employee can access the UWRP savings to provide retirement income. For further details, view the LTD Enrollment Booklet.

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  • At any time following approval of a disability retirement, the UW may request medical documentation to verify that a qualifying disability continues to exist;
  • Disability retirement prevents any significant future UW employment;
  • Income from the employee’s UWRP accounts may be less than it would have been if there had been more years of service;
  • The retiree may not be allowed to return to UW employment under the “40% Re-employment” rule. (See the Partial Reemployment Policy)
    • Tenure-track faculty who retire normally (not a disability retirement) are typically entitled to up to 5 years of post-retirement employment at a maximum of 40% FTE.
    • Non-tenured faculty, librarians, and professional staff who retire normally (not a disability retirement) are not guaranteed continued employment but may be allowed to return up to 40% FTE, if funding and employment is available.

Any post-disability retirement employment must have prior approval from the Director of Benefits AND either the Vice President of Human Resources (for professional staff) or the Provost’s Office (for faculty, librarians and academic staff).

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Pre-disability retirement application steps

Before applying for UWRP disability retirement, a faculty or staff member should work with his/her UW Benefits Consultant to ensure that all normal UW disability support processes have been followed and that an application for disability retirement is properly submitted with all supporting medical documentation and chart notes. Before a disability retirement is processed one or more of the following steps may be appropriate:

  1. Request leave from the employing department and determine whether a medical leave would be covered by:
    • The Family and Medical Leave Act;
    • Use of the faculty sick leave policy for faculty, librarians and academic staff; or
    • Use of sick leave, vacation leave and/or personal holiday for professional staff.
  2. Submit a physician(s) statement about the employee’s health condition to the appropriate Human Resources Consultant (for professional staff) or to Academic Human Resources (for faculty academic staff and librarians). Medical information should NOT be shared within the employing department.
  3. Request disability accommodation.
  4. Apply for disability benefits under the appropriate UW disability insurance;

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Apply for UWRP disability retirement

Contact the UW Benefits Office to apply for UWRP disability retirement.

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