State Teachers Retirement System of Ohio

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All information displayed only relates to the Defined Benefit Plan. Click on Defined Contribution Plan or Combined Plan for information on these retirement plan options.

Types of Monthly Survivor Benefits

 

There are three types of monthly benefits available to your qualified survivors. The amount payable to qualified survivors depends on specific eligibility requirements. They are:

  1. Dependent-based benefit,
  2. Service-based benefit, and
  3. Retirement-based benefit.

Qualified survivors are automatically eligible for the calculation that provides the greater survivor benefit. Use the STRS Ohio survivor benefits calculator for estimating monthly benefits for your eligible survivors.

Qualifying Survivors

 

It is important to understand who is eligible to receive survivor benefits. Only qualified survivors are eligible for monthly benefits assuming all other eligibility requirements for monthly benefits are met. Qualified survivors are as follows:

Spouse

For dependent-based or service-based benefits, the spouse of a deceased member is a qualified survivor if the:

  • Member had 10 or more years of credit (for dependent-based benefits); or
  • Spouse cares for the deceased member’s qualified children; or
  • Spouse is at least 62 years old; or
  • Spouse is mentally or physically incapacitated.

For retirement-based benefits, the spouse of a deceased member is a qualified survivor if the member was eligible for service retirement before the date of death.

Children

Children (including legally adopted children) of a deceased member are qualified survivors if they are:

  • Under age 18 and never married; or
  • Under age 22, never married, and attending school on at least a two-thirds-of-full-time basis; or
  • Any age, never married and physically or mentally incapacitated before age 18 (or age 22 i in qualified school attendance) or while receiving survivor benefits.

Dependent Parent

A parent of a deceased member is a qualified survivor if the parent is at least age 65 and received at least one-half of his or her support from the member during the 12-month period before the member’s death.

Effective Date of Benefit

For qualified survivors, benefits are effective the first of the month after the date of death unless the application is filed more than 12 months after the date of death, then benefits are effective the first of the month after the application is received.

Dependent-Based Benefit

 

The dependent-based benefit is payable to qualified survivors when the member dies after meeting the following member requirements:

Existing member as of June 30, 2013

  • Has 1.50 years of qualifying service credit before death, and
  • Earned a quarter of a year of service credit within the 30-month period preceding death, or was receiving a disability benefit at the time of death; or received a disability benefit within the last 12 months and was contributing at the time of death.
  • Provided the account has not been withdrawn, protection for qualified survivors under the dependent-based monthly benefit may continue for up to 27 months following the member’s last contributing service.

New member on or after July 1, 2013

  • Has 5.00 years of qualifying service credit before death, and
  • Date of death is no more than one year from the last date of service; or was receiving a disability benefit at the time of death; or received a disability benefit within the last 12 months and was contributing at the time of death.
  • Provided the account has not been withdrawn, protection for qualified survivors under the dependent-based monthly benefit may continue for up to 12 months following the member’s last contributing service.

Monthly survivor benefits are determined according to the number of qualified survivors. These benefits are payable as a percentage of final average salary (FAS), which is currently the average of the member’s five highest fiscal years of earnings, regardless of when they occur.

The percentage of final average salary per number of qualified survivors are as follows:

Graph showing the percentage of final average salary per number of qualified survivors.

If contributions were made for fewer than the FAS period, total compensation during such a period is divided by the total number of years of service in the member’s account to calculate the FAS.

The surviving spouse receives 25% of the FAS and the balance of the total survivor benefit is divided equally among the remaining qualified survivors. If there is no surviving spouse, the benefit is divided equally among the qualified survivors.

Service-Based Benefit

 

The service-based benefit is payable to qualified survivors when the member dies after meeting the following member requirements:

Existing member as of June 30, 2013

  • Has 20 or more years of service credit before death, and
  • Earned a quarter of a year of service credit within the 30-month period preceding death, or was receiving a disability benefit at the time of death; or received a disability benefit within the last 12 months and was contributing at the time of death.
  • Provided the account has not been withdrawn, protection for qualified survivors under the service-based monthly benefit may continue for up to 27 months following the member's last contributing service.

New member on or after July 1, 2013

  • Has 20 or more years of service credit before death, and
  • Date of death is no more than one year from the last date of service; or was receiving a disability benefit at the time of death; or received a disability benefit within the last 12 months and was contributing at the time of death.
  • Provided the account has not been withdrawn, protection for qualified survivors under the service-based monthly benefit may continue for up to 12 months following the member’s last contributing service.

Monthly survivor benefits are determined according to the number of years of service credit. These benefits are payable as a percentage of final average salary (FAS), which is the average of the member's five highest fiscal years of earnings, regardless of when they occur.

The percentage of final average salary per years of service are as follows:

Graph showing the percentage of final average salary per years of service.

Retirement-Based Benefit

 

The retirement-based benefit is payable when the member dies after qualifying for service retirement (but before actually retiring with STRS Ohio) and there are no children who are qualified survivors.

If there are one or more children who are qualified survivors, the primary beneficiary must select between the dependent-based and the service-based benefit. However, once the children no longer qualify for benefits (due to age or marital status, for example), the primary beneficiary may change to the retirement-based benefit.

If a member dies after meeting service retirement eligibility, a retirement-based benefit is payable to a qualified survivor.

Eligibility requirements for service retirement are:

Unreduced Benefit for Retirement Dates Minimum Age and Years of Service
Through–7/1/2015 Any age and 30 yrs.;
or age 65 and 5 yrs.
8/1/2015–7/1/2017 Any age and 31 yrs.;
or age 65 and 5 yrs.
8/1/2017–7/1/2019 Any age and 32 yrs.;
or age 65 and 5 yrs.
8/1/2019–7/1/2021 Any age and 33 yrs.;
or age 65 and 5 yrs.
8/1/2021–7/1/2023 Any age and 34 yrs.;
or age 65 and 5 yrs.
8/1/2023–7/1/2026 Any age and 35 yrs.;
or age 65 and 5 yrs.
8/1/2026 Age 60 and 35 yrs.;
or age 65 and 5 yrs.
Actuarially Reduced Benefit* for Retirement Dates Minimum Age and Years of Service
Through–7/1/2015 Age 55 and 25 yrs.;
or age 60 and 5 yrs.
8/1/2015–7/1/2017 Any age and 30 yrs.;
or age 55 and 26 yrs.; or
age 60 and 5 yrs.
8/1/2017–7/1/2019 Any age and 30 yrs.;
or age 55 and 27 yrs.; or
age 60 and 5 yrs.
8/1/2019–7/1/2021 Any age and 30 yrs.;
or age 55 and 28 yrs.; or
age 60 and 5 yrs.
8/1/2021–7/1/2023 Any age and 30 yrs.;
or age 55 and 29 yrs.; or
age 60 and 5 yrs.
8/1/2023 Any age and 30 yrs.;
or age 60 and 5 yrs.

* An actuarially reduced benefit reflects a reduction for each year that a member retires before meeting eligibility for an unreduced benefit.


Qualifying Survivors

The following individuals are eligible for a retirement-based benefit:

  • A surviving spouse.
  • A designated financially dependent beneficiary. To qualify for benefits, this individual must have received at least one-half of his or her support from the member during the 12-month period before the member’s death. Proof of dependency must be substantiated before benefits are paid.
  • A designated qualified child who is designated as the member’s sole beneficiary following the termination of dependent-based or service-based survivor benefits.

The retirement-based benefit is determined using the service retirement benefit calculation described in the Service Retirement and Plans of Payment brochure. The benefit is calculated as if the member had actually retired and provided the maximum joint and survivor benefit to the qualified survivor. This is the Joint and Survivor Annuity option 1 without reversion plan of payment without any guaranteed period as described in the Service Retirement and Plans of Payment brochure.

Retirement-based Benefits Sample Estimate
Deceased member Age 59
Service credit 30 years
Spouse Age 57
Final average salary $50,000
Percentage of final average salary x 66%
Annual Single Life Annuity $33,000
Monthly Single Life Annuity $2,750
Percentage of Single Life Annuity*
(Joint and Survivor Annuity option 1 without reversion)
x 90.04%
Survivor benefit payment $2,476

*The retirement-based benefit is based on actuarial calculations; individual benefit calculations will vary.

In this example, if the deceased member also had a child who is a qualified survivor, the retirement-based benefit could not be selected. The primary beneficiary would choose between the dependent-based or service-based benefits. Once the child was no longer eligible for benefits (due to age or marital status, for example), the primary beneficiary could change from either the dependent-based or service-based benefit to the retirement-based benefit.

A Partial Lump-Sum Option Plan (PLOP) is available to retirement-based survivor benefit recipients. The PLOP allows survivors to take from six to 36 times the member’s monthly Single Life Annuity (SLA) benefit in a lump sum. Monthly benefits still begin with the benefit effective date and are payable for life, but they are reduced to reflect the amount taken in a lump sum. For more information regarding the PLOP, please refer to the Partial Lump-Sum Option Plan brochure.

Survivors receiving monthly benefits qualify for:

Cost-of-Living Adjustment (COLA)

Survivor benefit recipients with a benefit effective date of Aug. 1, 2013, or later receive a 2% COLA beginning on the fifth anniversary of the survivor benefit, which also establishes the date for future increases. For example, a survivor recipient who has an effective date of July 1, 2015, will receive his or her first COLA on July 1, 2020, and that COLA will be 2%.

Future increases are calculated on the original survivor benefit and are not compounded over the previous year. The cost-of-living increase is added to the regular monthly benefit.

Variable Supplemental Benefit Payment

The Retirement Board considers a lump-sum supplemental payment each year only when the board determines that funds are available. Payment is based on the number of years of service credit and the number of years as a benefit recipient. You must have received at least 12 consecutive monthly benefits before qualifying to receive this supplemental benefit payment.

Access to Health Care Coverage

Most survivor benefit recipients and their eligible dependents have access to the STRS Ohio Health Care Program.* Survivors receiving retirement-based benefits are eligible for access to health care coverage (medical, vision and dental) provided the member had at least 15 years of service credit, or 20 years of service credit beginning Aug. 1, 2023. You can view the current health care plan information in the Health Care section.

*The STRS Ohio Health Care Program is not guaranteed. STRS Ohio hopes to continue the program, but reserves the right to change or discontinue all or part of the program for all or a class of eligible benefit recipients and dependents at any time.

Access to Dental and Vision Coverage

STRS Ohio offers dental and vision coverage to eligible survivor benefit recipients and their eligible dependents. Survivors receiving retirement-based benefits are eligible if the member had 15 or more years of service, or 20 years of service beginning Aug. 1, 2023. Enrollment in an STRS Ohio health care plan is not a requirement to enroll in the dental or vision plans. Separate monthly premiums apply to the dental and vision plans. For more information, contact STRS Ohio toll-free at 1-888-227-7877. You can view the current dental and vision plan information in the Health Care section.

Optional Long-Term Care Coverage

STRS Ohio members, benefit recipients and their eligible family members may apply for supplemental group long-term care insurance issued by the Prudential Insurance Company of America (Prudential). Long-term care is the help or supervision provided for someone with severe cognitive impairment or the inability to perform the activities of daily living: bathing, dressing, eating, toileting, transferring and continence. Services may be provided at the home or in a facility, and the care may be provided by a professional or informal caregiver, such as a friend or family member. Enrollees pay the full cost of coverage directly to Prudential. For more information, call Prudential toll-free at 1-877-857-8220.

Account Withdrawal in Lieu of Benefits

 

The primary beneficiary may withdraw the deceased member’s account in lieu of receiving monthly benefits if there are no children who are qualified survivors. If there are no qualified survivors, the primary beneficiary must withdraw the deceased member’s account.

If there is no spouse and only one qualified survivor age 18 or older, the survivor may forfeit rights to benefits and withdraw the account, which includes interest and 50% matching funds, if certain criteria are met. If the survivor instead takes even one monthly benefit payment and becomes eligible for the balance of the account (for example, drops out of school or reaches age 22), the survivor receives only the member’s contributions less any survivor benefits previously paid. No interest or 50% matching funds would be payable.

If there is no spouse and only one qualified survivor age 18 or older, the survivor may forfeit rights to benefits and withdraw the account, which includes interest and 50% matching funds. If the survivor instead takes even one monthly benefit payment and becomes eligible for the balance of the account (for example, drops out of school or reaches age 22), the survivor receives only the member’s contributions less any survivor benefits previously paid. No interest or 50% matching funds would be payable.

Withdrawal Amount

The withdrawal amount payable to a survivor consists of the deceased member’s contributions plus interest and, with 5.00 or more years of qualifying service credit,** 50% matching funds.

  • With 5.00 or more years of qualifying service credit,* interest at a rate no greater than 6% compounded annually is payable on the teaching contributions and an additional amount equal to 50% of the sum of the teaching contributions, plus interest, will also be paid.
  • With at least 3.00 years but less than 5.00 years of qualifying service credit,* interest at a rate no greater than 6% compounded annually will be paid on the teaching contributions.
  • With less than 3.00 years of qualifying service credit,* interest at a rate no greater than 4% compounded annually will be paid on the teaching contributions.

    * When referring to withdrawals, “qualifying service credit” refers to Ohio teaching service, restored withdrawn credit, purchased service for Ohio public teaching from which no STRS Ohio contributions were withheld, and credit obtained for leaves of absence under Section 3307.77 of the Revised Code.

Interest rates are subject to change. For current interest rates, contact us toll-free at 1-888-227-7877.

Interest for all years withdrawn begins to accrue in the fiscal year following deposit. For example, interest on 2015–2016 contributions would begin July 2016 and be payable August 2016 or later. No interest is payable if a member withdraws his or her account in July and contributed to STRS Ohio for only the year just ended. Interest stops accruing the month before account withdrawal.

The decision to withdraw the deceased member’s account must be made before receiving monthly survivor benefits. If a survivor who is receiving monthly benefits becomes ineligible for survivor benefits (because of age or death, for example), the withdrawal amount, if any, will be limited to the deceased member’s contributions less any survivor benefits previously paid. No interest or 50% matching funds would be payable.

If the member had ever received disability retirement benefits, the withdrawal amount does not include interest or 50% matching funds. The account balance is reduced by the benefits received for members who received disability retirement benefits.

Potential Benefits Forfeited

If the deceased member’s account is withdrawn, eligible survivors lose the opportunity to qualify for STRS Ohio benefits that could include:

  • Monthly survivor benefit payments to qualified survivors, if eligible,
  • Access to STRS Ohio-sponsored health care coverage,
  • Annual cost-of-living adjustments to the monthly survivor benefit, and
  • Variable board-approved supplemental benefit payments.

Items to Consider

The following questions should be answered before deciding whether to withdraw the account or to receive monthly survivor benefits:

  • Is the monthly benefit guaranteed for life or will it terminate at a specified date?
  • Is access to health care coverage from STRS Ohio available and, if so, will eligible survivors need it?

Beneficiaries

 

Statutory Succession of Beneficiaries

The statutory succession of beneficiaries applies if the member:

  • Has not previously filed a valid beneficiary designation form with STRS Ohio, OPERS or SERS.
  • Has not filed a valid beneficiary designation form after any one of the following:
    • Marriage;
    • Birth or adoption of a child;
    • Divorce, marriage dissolution, legal separation;
    • Withdrawal of account; or
    • Permanent STRS Ohio retirement plan selection if a plan change was made.
  • Is not survived by a designated beneficiary.
  • Designates statutory succession.

Under statutory succession, beneficiaries qualify in the following order:

  1. Spouse
  2. Qualified children
  3. Nonqualified children (share and share alike)
  4. Dependent parent
  5. Parents (share and share alike)
  6. Estate

Designating Beneficiaries by Name

 

If the statutory succession of beneficiaries does not meet your needs, you may designate beneficiaries by name.

Use the beneficiary designation form.

You may designate whom you wish to receive either monthly survivor benefits or a lump-sum payment of the account when you die. Designating a beneficiary by name may jeopardize monthly survivor benefit protection to otherwise dependent survivors, so you should be cautious about designating a beneficiary who is not a spouse or dependent child or parent.

Regardless of whether a beneficiary is determined by statutory succession or designated by name, all qualified survivors receive monthly dependent-based or service-based benefits if the member had any qualified children.

A beneficiary designated by name who does not meet eligibility for monthly survivor benefits is only eligible to receive a one-time cash refund of the accumulated balance at the time of the member’s death. The accumulated account balance includes total contributions and interest and, if the member has at least 5.00 years of service credit, 50% matching funds. If multiple primary beneficiaries are designated by name they will receive only a lump-sum refund of the account, which would be shared equally unless the member filed a designation form with the retirement system listing specified percentages for each beneficiary.

If you are also a member of either OPERS or SERS, the last beneficiary designation filed with any of the three retirement systems (STRS Ohio, OPERS or SERS) will apply in all three systems.

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