Know Your Benefits: Leaving Public Employment

It may never come up, but, you should know what would happen with your NYSLRS membership and benefits if you ever leave public employment. Even if you no longer work for a New York public employer, you’d still be a NYSLRS member. Depending on your circumstances, that membership may come with certain benefits and responsibilities.

What Happens to My Contributions If I Leave Public Employment?

If you have less than ten years of service credit, you can end your membership and request a refund of your contributions by filing a Withdrawal Application (RS5014).

If you have not earned enough service credit to be vested (eligible for a retirement benefit) and don’t withdraw your contributions, they will continue to earn 5 percent interest for seven years. At that point, if you are still off the public payroll, by law, your membership ends automatically, and your contributions will be deposited into a non-interest-bearing account. (Your contributions are not automatically refunded.)

If you are vested, your contributions will remain on deposit with NYSLRS, and when you reach retirement age, you’ll be eligible to apply for a retirement benefit.

Leaving Public Employment

How Will Leaving Public Employment Affect My Death Benefits?

If you have at least ten years of service credit before you leave, 50 percent of your death benefit may still be payable when you die. With less than ten years of service credit, the 50 percent death benefit is only payable if you die within one year of leaving public service.

How Can I Pay Back My Outstanding Loans?

If you have an outstanding NYSLRS loan, you must still make payments directly to NYSLRS at least once every three months. You must repay your loan within five years of the date it was issued, or you will default on the loan. Defaulting on a loan may carry considerable tax consequences: You’ll need to pay ordinary income tax and possibly an additional 10 percent penalty on the taxable portion of the loan. Once you’ve left public employment, you aren’t eligible to take a NYSLRS loan.

How Can I Stay Informed About My Membership If I Leave Public Employment?

If you leave public employment, but haven’t ended your NYSLRS membership, you’ll still:

Beyond staying informed, you’ll need to keep your membership information up to date:

  • Keep your beneficiary information current, and
  • Let us know about any name or address changes (for either you or your beneficiaries).

Finally, it’s your responsibility to file an Application for Service Retirement (RS6037) when you are eligible to retire — we will not pay out a retirement benefit unless you apply for it.

For more information, read our Life Changes: What if I Leave Public Employment? (VO1800) publication.

11 thoughts on “Know Your Benefits: Leaving Public Employment

  1. gimauv1

    Hello so my very dear friend was tragically killed and while she no longer worked for the state she did for over 20 years. There must be a death benefit available to her beneficiary?

    1. NYSLRS

      We’re sorry for your loss.

      Death benefits depend on the former member’s tier (when they joined NYSLRS), retirement plan, and whether they were retired, on payroll or off payroll.

      Someone should call to report the death to NYSLRS, if that hasn’t already been done. They can do that by calling 1-866-805-0990 and then pressing 3. Our customer service representatives will ask for a death certificate to be mailed, and they can provide information about the process and next steps.

  2. Michael hammond

    Hello, i left my public service job as of april 2008. I have been receiving a small pension since then. The pension amount really doesnt do much to help every month and now that i live alone, my wife is in a nursing home. Is there a plan were i may receive a lump some settlement from the retirement system and not receive future payments. A large sum would help me more than the payments every month. Thanks

    1. NYSLRS

      The NYSLRS social media team doesn’t have access to your account information. We suggest you can contact our customer service representatives with your lump sum question. You can contact them using our secure email form. One of our representatives will review your account and respond to your questions. Filling out the secure form allows us to safely contact you about your personal account information.

  3. Barbara S

    There should be more clarification for anyone who vests out and then wants to collect a pension after turning 55; there are no benefits available once you start receiving your pension benefit. NOTHING, your Union will also turn their back on you, you do not receive a retirement ID card, no health, dental or vision benefits.

    1. NYSLRS

      NYSLRS doesn’t administer health insurance programs for its members or retirees. Whether you work for New York State or another public employer, it’s a good idea to speak with your employer’s health benefits administrator (HBA) before leaving public employment.

      We do offer several publications that may help members decide whether to leave public service (Life Changes: What if I Leave Public Employment?) or plan for retirement (Straight Talk About Financial Planning For Your Retirement). More are available on our Publications page.

  4. Chandra D Theetge

    What happens if you leave but return after a few years?? I am vested and a tier 4. If I leave and return (before 7 years) will I stay the same tier?

    1. NYSLRS Post author

      If you are vested with more than 10 years of service, then your membership will remain active until you retire. If you leave public service and come back, you’ll still be a Tier 4 member.

      If you are considering leaving public service, you will probably want to email our customer service representatives using our secure email form (see link below) for information specific to your account. Filling out the secure form allows us to safely contact you about your personal account information.

  5. Sue

    You should also mention that your sick time cannot be used to add to your service time unless you collect a pension (turn 55) within one year of leaving state service.


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