Disability Benefits


STRS Ohio’s disability benefit program is available to members enrolled in the Defined Benefit and Combined Plans. Members enrolled in the Defined Contribution Plan are not eligible for STRS Ohio disability benefits, but may withdraw the account upon terminating employment. At age 50, other payment options are available, but employment must first be terminated.

Disability Allowance and Disability Retirement

STRS Ohio has two disability benefit programs: disability allowance and disability retirement.

  • Teachers who became STRS Ohio members after July 29, 1992, and Combined Plan members who qualify for disability benefits automatically participate under the disability allowance program.
  • Teachers who were STRS Ohio members on or before July 29, 1992, chose the disability program in which they want to participate.

The medical criteria for both programs are that a disabling medical condition prevents the individual from performing his or her most recent job duties and the condition is expected to last at least 12 months from the date STRS Ohio receives the completed application.

Eligibility Requirements

To qualify for disability benefits, an STRS Ohio member cannot be receiving service retirement benefits and must have the required service credit on account based on the following criteria:

  • Existing members on June 30, 2013, must have at least 5.00 years of qualifying service credit* on account with STRS Ohio and submit a completed application packet within two years of the last date of earned service.
  • New members on or after July 1, 2013, must have at least 10.00 years of qualifying service credit* on account with STRS Ohio and submit a completed application packet within one year of the last date of earned service.

Please note, there are additional eligibility requirements that must be met under each disability program. Members should contact STRS Ohio toll-free at 888‑227‑7877 to determine program eligibility.

*Qualifying service credit includes earned credit with STRS Ohio, Ohio Public Employees Retirement System (OPERS) or State Employees Retirement System (SERS); restoration of withdrawn credit with STRS Ohio, OPERS or SERS; interrupted Ohio public service due to military service; and earned and restored credit that transfers from Ohio Police & Fire Pension Fund, Highway Patrol Retirement System or Cincinnati Retirement System.

Joint Retirement With OPERS/SERS

Credit in STRS Ohio, Ohio Public Employees Retirement System (OPERS) and School Employees Retirement System (SERS) may be combined to qualify for disability benefits under either disability program, unless the member is enrolled in the Combined Plan. The member must contact the system where they have the most service credit for an application. The system with the most service will determine and pay the disability benefit.

Applying for Disability Benefits

Application for disability benefits may be filed by a member or a person acting on the member’s behalf. An Authorization for Release of Retirement Account Information form must be completed and submitted to STRS Ohio before the application can be discussed with anyone other than the member.

The member should apply for disability retirement in a timely manner to avoid exhausting sick leave before the application process is complete. Due to the number of different review processes, members should allow at least four to six months for consideration of a disability application. Listed below are the steps to follow when applying for disability retirement. A Disability Benefits video, which provides an overview of the application process, is available on the STRS Ohio member website.

Application procedures for disability benefits under both the disability allowance and disability retirement programs are as follows:

  1. The member contacts STRS Ohio to request a Disability Application Packet.
  2. To apply for disability benefits, the member must submit:
    • Disability Benefit Application,
    • Report by Employer
    • Attending Physician’s Report, and
    • A copy of his or her most recent official job description is also needed, but should be sent directly to STRS Ohio by the member’s employer.
  3. The member is examined by an independent medical examiner located in the Columbus, Ohio, area and chosen by STRS Ohio. STRS Ohio pays the examiner’s fee, but not the member’s travel expenses.
  4. STRS Ohio’s Medical Review Board may recommend a period of medical treatment for up to six months before a recommendation is made to the Retirement Board.
  5. The Medical Review Board evaluates the applicant’s medical records and makes a recommendation to the Retirement Board.
  6. If the Medical Review Board chair recommends approval of the application, the member must stop working by the end of that month or at age 60, whichever is earlier.
  7. The Retirement Board determines whether the application for disability benefits is approved.
  8. A deposit and service report will be sent to the employer for completion if disability benefits are approved under either program.
  9. Under either program, if approved, disability benefits begin on the first day of the month following the latter of (a) the last day for which compensation was paid, or (b) the date on which the member’s most recent disability application was received by STRS Ohio. If currently employed, the member will decide whether to exhaust sick leave benefits before assuming disability benefits.
  10. If the disability application is not approved, information about the appeal process is mailed to the member.
  11. Under either program, if disability benefits are not approved, the employer will be notified.

Continuing Eligibility Requirements and Termination

Requirements are the same under both disability programs. Medical exams will be required when requested by STRS Ohio. If the member is found to be capable of returning to work, payments could end as early as the first of the month following the Retirement Board action terminating the member’s disability. The Retirement Board may act on these cases at any time throughout the year, not necessarily waiting until the end of the school year. STRS Ohio will notify the previous employer of the termination if the member’s five-year leave of absence has not expired.

Conditions for Termination of Disability Benefits

  • The member performs any teaching service in a public or private setting, school or nonschool setting, on a volunteer basis or for compensation, in or outside the state of Ohio. If the member performs any teaching service in a public or private setting, school or nonschool setting, on a volunteer basis or for compensation, in or outside the state of Ohio (see Employment While Receiving Disability Benefits below);
  • The member’s disability benefit was on a combined basis with OPERS and/or SERS and the member becomes employed in a position covered by one of those systems;
  • The member requests termination of disability benefits;
  • A medical reexamination shows the member is no longer disabled;
  • The member is not following an agreed-upon treatment plan or does not submit required medical reports; or
  • The member has not filed the Statement of Employment and Earnings After Receipt of a Disability Benefit form.

Options if Disability Benefits Are Terminated

  1. Apply for service retirement if eligibility requirements have been met. The percentage used in calculating a member’s service retirement benefit will be based on the total number of years of service credit (excluding years on disability retirement).
  2. Become inactive and apply for service retirement when eligible.
  3. Return to teaching.
    • A member who was under contract when disability benefits were granted and who has not resigned is considered on a leave of absence from his or her position during the first five years following the effective date of disability benefits. If disability benefits are terminated by the Retirement Board within the five-year period, the member is entitled to employment in the same or a similar position and at the same salary no later than the next Sept. 1, unless the member was dismissed, resigned or does not hold a valid teaching license.
    • A member who returns to public employment following termination of disability benefits and earns two years of Ohio service credit in STRS Ohio, OPERS or SERS receives credit toward service retirement for the time on disability. The total credit granted will be the lesser of the time on disability, five years or credit to match the amount of time the member returned to work.

Employment While Receiving Disability Benefits

Employment on any basis while receiving disability benefits may raise the issue of whether a member remains incapacitated from teaching.

A disability benefit terminates if the disability benefit recipient performs any teaching service. Performing teaching service includes any and all teaching service, as well as any service that the member participates in that is similar to the position held as a contributing member of STRS Ohio, whether full time or part time, in a public or private setting, school or nonschool setting, on a volunteer basis or for compensation, in or outside the state of Ohio. Ohio Administrative Code defines “perform any teaching service” as follows:

  1. All employment, contracted services or volunteer work, that if performed in an Ohio public school would be covered by STRS Ohio; and
  2. All teachers, tutors, substitute teachers, electronic classroom instructors, day care teachers, community school instructors and private-lesson providers; and
  3. Work that relates to the work of educators, such as but not limited to, writing curriculum; leading workshops; providing training; instructing students of any age; or directing teachers, student teachers or students.

The Retirement Board has the final determination.

A member receiving a disability benefit from STRS Ohio on a combined basis with OPERS, SERS or both, is ineligible for employment covered by any system that participates in the combined disability retirement. In addition, any employment restrictions in those systems will also apply to the member.

Members receiving a disability benefit independent from OPERS, SERS or both, also may not work in any position covered by another Ohio public retirement system for the first two months of benefits. After this two-month waiting period, part-time or full-time employment in a position covered by any other retirement system may be permitted. While this employment is not performing teaching service, it can raise the issue of whether the member remains incapacitated from teaching and cause a reexamination to occur.

Members who have received a disability benefit for at least 14 months must annually complete and submit a Statement of Employment and Earnings After Receipt of a Disability Benefit form. STRS Ohio automatically mails this form to disability recipients in March. The form requires documentation of any earnings received and work duties performed while receiving disability benefits. If this form is not filed, disability benefits and health care coverage, if applicable, will be terminated.

In addition, STRS Ohio may request members to be reexamined annually to ensure they are still incapacitated from teaching.

Before becoming reemployed while receiving disability benefits, members should submit a job description to STRS Ohio for evaluation.

Employer Procedures

As noted under “Applying for Disability Benefits” (above) employers will be asked to complete a deposit and service report if disability benefits are approved under either program — disability allowance or disability retirement. Further information about completing this report is available here. Employers will also be asked to complete a Report by Employer and submit a current job description if STRS Ohio receives an application for disability benefits for one of the employer’s employees.