Understanding Your Pension
Let’s start with the basics. You have questions about your pension — and we have answers! Read the following FAQs to find out how you earn and collect your pension:
Earning Your Pension
Q: How do I earn a pension?
A: For every month you work in an 1199SEIU bargaining unit position for an employer that contributes to the Pension Fund (a “contributing employer”), you earn one month of credit toward your pension. This is called “Credited Future Service.”
In addition, you may have worked for your employer before your employer started contributing to the Pension Fund. In this case, you may have earned “Credited Past Service”* for every month you worked before your employer started making payments to the Fund.
*Credited Past Service is not provided after July 31, 2009, except under limited circumstances.
Q: When do I have a right to a pension?
A: Generally, after you have worked five years** for an employer that contributes to the Pension Fund, you have the right to a pension whenever you choose to retire after age 55. This is called “vesting.” You may also be “vested” if you worked for a contributing employer before they began contributing to the Fund, and have five years of service from that job.
**You need 10 years of credited service and/or vesting service if you stopped working for a contributing employer from January 1, 1975, through June 30, 1989.
Q: If I change jobs to another contributing employer, what happens to my pension?
A: If you leave your job and go to work for another 1199SEIU contributing employer, your pension plan is “portable.” You keep earning pension credits as long as you work in an 1199SEIU bargaining unit position covered by the Pension Fund.
Q: If I stop working for a contributing employer, what happens to my pension?
A: If you have worked fewer than five years and stop working for a contributing employer, you are not vested and may lose your pension credits. To keep your pension credits, you have to go back to work for a contributing employer within a certain period of time. Call the Pension Fund at (646) 473-8666 (if you live outside New York City, call  892-2557) for more information on “Breaks in Service,” or refer to your Summary Plan Description (SPD).
If you have worked five years as of June 30, 1989, you are vested. That means you have a guaranteed right to a pension when you retire, no matter where you work after you become vested.
Q: What happens if I die before I begin collecting my pension?
A: Your spouse is automatically protected in case you die before you retire, if you:
- Are vested; and
- Are still married at the time of your death.
Collecting Your Pension
Q: When can I start collecting my pension?
A: There are three types of pensions available under the pension plan:
1. Collecting a Full (“Normal”) Pension
If you are 65 or older, you can retire and receive a Full (“Normal”) Retirement Pension, as long as you have at least five years of credited service and/or vesting service.
If you are 62 and have 20 years of credited service and/or vesting service at the time you leave covered employment, you can retire and receive an Unreduced (“Early Retirement”) Pension, at the same amount you would have received when retiring at age 65.
If you stop working between 55 and 64, but wait until you are age 65 to start receiving your pension, you can still receive a Full (“Normal”) Retirement Pension because you delayed collecting it.
2. Collecting a Reduced (“Early Retirement”) Pension
If you are between 55 and 64, and have at least five years of credited service and/or vesting service, you do not have to wait until age 65 to collect your pension. You can choose to receive a Reduced (“Early Retirement”) Pension instead. However, your pension amount will be lower, since age 65 is considered the “normal” retirement age. Your benefits will be reduced 6% for each full year (or, 0.5% for each month) that you are younger than 65.
NOTE: If you leave covered employment and do not begin to receive your pension within one year, you will not be eligible for supplemental retiree health benefits through the 1199SEIU National Benefit Fund. If you are considering delaying the commencement of your pension, please call the Pension Fund or discuss this with a Pension Counselor.
3. Collecting a Disability Pension
You qualify for a Disability Pension benefit if all of the following are true:
- You are vested;
- You are approved for Social Security Disability; and
- You are totally and permanently disabled as a result of a condition that arose while you were still in covered employment and your employment ended as a result of that condition.
When you reach age 65, your Disability Pension benefit stops and the Pension Fund will send you an application for a (“Normal”) Retirement Pension.
Q: What is my pension based on?
A: We use this basic formula to calculate your pension:
Average Final Pay M How Long You Worked M Pension Multiplier = Your Pension
1. Average Final Pay
The Pension Fund looks at the last 10 years you worked, and selects the five years in a row in which you earned the highest wages. The Fund averages those five years of wages, and this amount is considered your “Average Final Pay.”
2. How Long You Worked
The number of months and years you worked for a contributing employer(s) in a bargaining unit position.
3. Pension Multiplier*
A “pension multiplier” is a percentage set by the collective bargainers and approved by the Trustees. The pension multiplier depends on when you retire and when you are hired.
*If your first hour of credited service is before August 1, 2009, and you retire after April 1, 2005, your pension multiplier is 1.85%. If your first hour of credited service is on or after August 1, 2009, your pension multiplier is 1.60%.
The amount you receive may also be affected by:
- Credited Past Service: If you worked for your employer before your employer started contributing to the Pension Fund, you may have earned “Credited Past Service.”* The Fund will add an additional amount to your pension payment based on this service. The pension multiplier for past service is a lower rate of 1.5%, since your employer never made contributions to the Fund for these payments.
- Early Retirement: If you retire before age 65, your pension will be reduced because it is expected that you will collect your pension for a longer period of time.
Q: Can I continue to work part time after I retire?
A: It depends. You cannot collect your pension benefit while you are still working in “Disqualifying Employment.” Work is considered Disqualifying Employment if you:
- Work more than 40 hours per month;
- Work in the healthcare or human services industry or a related industry (including, but not limited to, hospitals, nursing and convalescent homes, drug stores, laboratories, medical schools and universities);
- Work using skills applicable to your previous employment in the healthcare or human services industry or a related industry; and
- Work in a state in which contributions to the Pension Fund were made or were required to be made.
If you work in Disqualifying Employment after your 65th birthday, you will not receive your pension benefit until your Disqualifying Employment stops. If you leave Disqualifying Employment, you should contact the Fund so that we can begin your benefits.
If you are actively working on the April 1st following the calendar year in which you turned 70½, you will have the option to start collecting your pension — even if you continue to work — on April 1st of the calendar year following the calendar year in which you reach age 70½. If you delay the start of your pension, you will continue to accrue pension credits. When you stop working, you are required to begin collecting your pension (in no event, no later than April 1st of the following year). You must complete and return your application and Election of Payment Option & Beneficiary Designation Form to the Fund. If we do not receive your completed forms by the date that you must begin collecting your pension, we will automatically make the default method of distribution payment under the pension plan, which is a life annuity if you are single, or a 50% Qualified Joint and Survivor Annuity if you are married.
If you are not actively working on the April 1st following the calendar year in which you turned 70½, you are required to begin collecting your pension.
*Credited Past Service is not provided after August 1, 2009, except under limited circumstances.