What you should know
It’s comforting to know that TRA is here for you if you experience an unexpected injury or illness. This valuable coverage is available to vested members at no additional cost beyond the statutorily required percent of salary contributions.
To be eligible for disability benefits, you must be actively teaching or on an approved leave of absence at the time the disability occurs. Disability benefits are meant to provide an income if you should become totally and permanently disabled. The physical or mental impairment must preclude the member from engaging in any substantial gainful activity (not just teaching) and be expected to last a minimum of one year.
The disability must be the primary reason for termination of your teaching service as certified by your employer. If your teaching service was previously terminated, at least two of the three required years of allowable service must have been performed after last becoming an active member. An application for disability benefits must be made within the 18-month period following termination of teaching service due to your condition; however, the disability benefit will not begin to accrue more than six months before the date your disability benefit application form is filed with TRA.
If you are placed on a medical leave of absence without pay, you may still be eligible for disability benefits. In fact, members frequently remain on a medical leave of absence without pay while receiving disability benefits. Often this is done so that you can continue to be covered by the group hospitalization program of your local school district. You may also be eligible for other disability benefits offered through your employer and/or the Social Security Administration.
To meet the vesting requirement, you may have a combination of service among any of the Minnesota public retirement funds: Minnesota State Retirement System, Public Employees Retirement Association, or St. Paul Teachers Retirement Fund Association. You must apply for disability benefits with each fund in which you have allowable service.
Definition of ‘Total and Permanent’ Disability
You must be totally and permanently disabled under TRA law to receive disability benefits. Minnesota Statutes Section 354.05, Subd. 14, defines “total and permanent disability” as “the inability to engage in any substantial gainful activity by reason of any medically determinable physical or mental impairment which can be expected to be of long, continued and indefinite duration. An indefinite duration is a period of at least one year.”
Before submitting a disability application, you should consult with your personal physician, chiropractor or psychologist, with respect to a mental impairment, to conduct an examination and complete an evaluation of whether you are totally and permanently disabled under TRA law.
Applying for Disability
To apply for disability benefits, log into your MyTRA account and follow the step-by-step process. You can also call TRA and ask to be sent a disability estimate and application packet.
The following forms must be completed and returned to our office. They will either be sent to you in the application packet or you can download them from MyTRA.
Disability Benefit Application: Please complete this application yourself. In the event you are unable to complete the application because of your condition, a person who is authorized to act on your behalf may complete the application for you. The completed application must be submitted to TRA within 18 months following termination of your teaching service.
Release of Medical Information: This form gives us the right to request medical information concerning your disability and must be submitted along with your application.
Medical Examination Report: There are two TRA-3200 forms in your disability packet. One report may be completed by a licensed physician, chiropractor or psychologist, while the second report must be completed by a licensed physician. Both reports must reference the same medical condition and be submitted before your application will be processed. (Usually, the opinion of your personal physician, chiropractor or psychologist is acceptable as one of the required medical reports.) It is your responsibility to make sure the completed forms are received in our office.
Employer Certification of Service at Time of Disability: This form must be completed by the employer with whom you last performed teaching service. It is your responsibility to give this form to your employer and to make sure it is completed and returned to our office.
Federal and State Tax Withholding Certificate: If you are under the TRA minimum retirement age, your disability income must be reported as ordinary income. If you are over the TRA minimum retirement age, a portion of your disability income may be disbursed tax-free. If you are approved for disability benefits and you have not returned this form, Federal tax will be withheld using the designation married with 3 allowances.
Direct Deposit Agreement: Your monthly payments can be electronically deposited to a bank, savings and loan association, credit union or any financial institution associated with the National Automated Clearinghouse Association or a comparable successor organization. Electronic direct deposit is convenient and provides protection against theft and the uncertainties of postal delivery. It also ensures safe, accurate and timely direct deposit of payments to your account on the first banking day of the month. We suggest you contact your financial institution to verify the appropriate account and transit routing numbers for your account. If you choose to have your monthly payments deposited directly into your account, the direct deposit agreement form must be signed by you even though you have done so elsewhere on your application. If you do not complete the direct deposit agreement form, a check will be mailed to your home address each month. It is important to inform TRA of any address changes that may occur since monthly payments cannot be forwarded to your new address by the post office.
Processing Your Application
The TRA executive director will approve or deny your application for a total and permanent disability benefit based on the medical evidence provided. If TRA requires additional independent medical examination reports, the TRA Board of Trustees might assume the cost of such medical services.
- If the TRA executive director denies your disability claim, you may petition the TRA Board of Trustees for a review of your disability claim. Your petition for review must be sent to the TRA executive director by mail and must be postmarked no later than 60 days after receipt of the notice of denial. Any additional medical evidence must be furnished at your expense.
- If your disability benefit is approved by the TRA executive director, you can expect an initial payment retroactive to your established accrual date.
Thereafter, regular monthly payments will be made during the first week of each month to cover the benefit payable for that month. Monthly payments will continue for as long as you are totally and permanently disabled under TRA law.
Required Medical Examinations
If you are granted a total and permanent disability benefit, regular medical examinations are required annually for each of the first five years following the beginning date of your disability and once every three years thereafter.
If your disability is related to a workers’ compensation claim, it is important to notify TRA. Workers’ compensation law requires that any workers’ compensation payment you receive be reduced by the disability benefit from TRA. Contact the Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry, Workers’ Compensation Division to get more information regarding their policies.
When Disability Payments Begin and End
Disability benefits begin to accrue the day following the commencement of your disability, or following the last day for which salary is paid, whichever is later. However, the disability benefit will not begin to accrue more than six months before the date your Disability Benefit Application form is filed with TRA. Remember, an application for disability benefits must be made within 18 months following termination of teaching service due to your condition.
When you reach normal retirement age, or the five-year anniversary of the effective date of your disability benefit, whichever is later, you will automatically assume retirement status and you will have the right to elect a lifetime annuity plan that provides payment to a beneficiary.
Notify TRA if you become reemployed.
If you resume employment and your salary plus your TRA disability benefit originally granted is less than the salary payable at the time you were disabled, the TRA executive director will continue your disability benefits for as long as your disabling condition continues. Your total earned income including salary from partial employment plus the TRA disability benefit originally granted may not be greater than your salary at the time you became disabled or your disability benefits will be reduced.
If the character and extent of your employment, including part-time teaching service, indicates that you may no longer be totally and permanently disabled, a new medical evaluation will be required. If an examination indicates that you are no longer totally and permanently disabled, or that you are engaged in or are able to engage in substantial gainful activity, disability payments will cease.
While on disability and partially reemployed, you must complete an annual earnings form and a copy of your W2 form. TRA will send you a letter with the form.
If you return to full employment, you may be placed on a trial work period for six months. If you are unable to continue working during the six months, your disability benefit will resume. If you sustain full employment for over six months, then you must reapply for disability benefits if you subsequently become disabled.
Election of an Optional Annuity
We suggest you review your current beneficiary designation and contact our office to request the appropriate beneficiary change form if needed.
Death While on Disability
If you die while you are on disability, your survivors will receive an estimate of the benefits available to them. The benefits depend on your marital status and the pre-retirement beneficiary designations on file with TRA. Refer to Pre-Retirement Survivor Benefits for more information.
TRA’s Disability Coverage publication is available in printable form,
- Disability benefit application
- Medical examination report (print two copies)
- Release of medical information
- Employer certification of service separation
- Direct deposit agreement
- Federal and state tax withholding form