URP Disability Retirement

What is Disability Retirement?

The WWU Retirement Plan allows a "Retirement Because of Condition of Health" as stated in Section 6.2 of the URP Plan Document. This provision allows a URP participant, regardless of age, to retire because the person's health prevents continued WWU 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 URP.

Normally, when a WWU employee has a health condition that impairs the employee's ability to work, WWU works with the employee to try to accommodate the disability so that the employee can continue working. However, if WWU determines that a URP 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 WWU Retirement Plan.

URP 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 WWU position. The President of the University decides whether or not to approve a URP disability retirement based on the recommendation of the Special Board on Disability Retirement, as defined in Section 6.2 of the WWU Retirement Plan.

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Age & Service Considerations

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

If a disabled URP 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 URP. 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 URP Supplemental Benefit, for which a minimum of 10 years of service is required.

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Disability Retirement Benefits

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

  • Is officially retired from WWU (regardless of age);
  • Can access his/her full URP 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 URP.

Note: Disability Retirees should discuss income options and the tax implications of early funds access directly with the Fund Sponsor(s).

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Relationship of Disability Retirement to Long Term Disability (LTD) Insurance

For most WWU 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 URP contracts when an employee has been approved to receive LTD Benefits. This means that URP 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 (see LTD Certificate of Coverage for details), the employee can access the URP savings to provide retirement income.

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Disability Retirement Related Factors

  • At any time following approval of a disability retirement, WWU may request medical documentation to verify that a qualifying disability continues to exist;
  • Disability retirement prevents any significant future WWU employment;
  • Income from the employee's URP 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 WWU employment under the "40% Re-employment" rule.
    • 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.

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Pre-Disability Retirement Application Steps

Before applying for URP disability retirement, a faculty or staff member should work with Human Resources to ensure that all normal WWU 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 Human Resounces. Medical information should NOT be shared within the employing department.
  3. Request disability accommodation.
  4. Apply for disability benefits under the appropriate WWU disability insurance

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Applying for URP Disability Retirement

Contact the WWU Benefits Office to apply for URP disability retirement.

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Additional Information

Western Washington University Retirement Plan

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Page Updated 12.15.2014