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Update on New Sick-Leave/Disability Retirement Program

By Douglas D. Martin,

Human Resources manager

Spectrum Volume 21 Issue 05 - September 24, 1998

Senate Bill 126, approved by the last session of the General Assembly and signed by Governor James Gilmore, establishes a new sick-leave, short-term and long-term disability program for faculty and staff members who are members of the Virginia Retirement System (VRS). In addition, part-time employees who work at least 20 hours a week are included in this new plan. Participants in the Optional Retirement Plans are not eligible for this program.
In essence, this new program provides sick leave of eight-10 days per year but does not allow sick-leave balances to be carried forward from one year to the next. This program also provides for four to five personal-leave days that can be used to address personal needs. Annual leave is not changed.
The new plan also provides short-term disability for a 25 week period of 100 percent, 80 percent or 60 percent of salary depending on years of service with the state. The short-term disability plan is followed by a long-term disability plan that begins after six months and pays 60 percent of salary to age 65. Individuals in a long-term disability status remain members of the Virginia Retirement System and will retire with Virginia Retirement System benefits at age 65. The time spent as an employee and the time spent on disability is added together and all counts as credited service when the retirement benefits are calculated at age 65.
Specific information is currently being developed and refined; however, the following information may help as individuals begin to consider the pros and cons of their current sick and disability plans when compared to the new options that will be available.
The new sick leave/ disability program provided under Senate Bill 126 is OPTIONAL for all eligible current faculty and staff members hired before Jan. 1, 1999. Each eligible employee will be provided an enrollment kit along with information pertaining to options that are available.
Current eligible faculty and staff members will have the following choices:
Remain in their current sick-leave and disability programs. Current rules will continue to apply without any changes in either sick leave or disability coverage.
Opt for the new program and convert any existing sick leave to disability credit under the new plan.
Opt for the new plan and convert existing sick leave to Virginia Retirement System credited service. To calculate the months of service that can be converted, divide the amount of sick leave as of Jan. 9, 1999 by 173 hours. The quotient (rounded up) is the number of months that can be added to service at the time of retirement.
All new staff members hired on or after Jan. 1, 1999 will participate in this new plan. New faculty members hired on or after Jan. 1, 1999 will have the option of joining the new program; however, the existing faculty leave/disability programs offer better benefits in many cases.
The Virginia Retirement System will have overall responsibility for this new program technically known as "Virginia Sickness and Disability Program" VSDP. The administration of this program has been contracted to a third party administrator, CORE, Inc.
Training sessions for staff and faculty members will begin in October and continue as long as needed. Current employees will have from January 1, through March 31, 1999 to indicate their preferences for participating in the VSDP.
Additional information is available on the VRS home page at http://www.state.va.us/vrs/vrs.htm. This web site can also be accessed through the university Personnel Services web site at http://www.ps.vt.edu).
After formal training sessions begin in October, specific questions can be directed to Doug Martin at dmartin@vt.edu.