LEOFF Plan 1

Law Enforcement Officers’ and Fire Fighters’ Retirement System (LEOFF) Plan 1

LEOFF Plan 1 is a lifetime retirement pension plan available to law enforcement officers and firefighters hired before Oct. 1, 1977.

Your contributions

LEOFF Plan 1 employee contribution rate: 0.00%

How much will your pension be?

Estimate your retirement benefit in minutes using the personalized Benefit Estimator in your online account. Your total pension amount is based on your years of service and your income.  See more about how we calculate your benefit.

Years of service

Your service credit is the number of years you work in public service. This time is reported by your employer. When you work at least 70 hours in a month, you receive one service credit for the month. You receive a total of 12 service credit months for the year. Review your service credit detail through your online account.

Your income

The Final Average Salary, or FAS depends on your employment situation before you retire.

  • If you held the same position or rank for at least 12 months preceding your retirement, your FAS is the basic salary for that positon or rank at the time you retire. (If you previously help a higher ranking position for at least 12 months, contact us.)
  • If you didn’t hold the same position or rank for at least 12 months preceding your retirement, your FAS is the monthly average of your highest paid 24 consecutive months within your last 10 years of credited service.
  • If you are disabled, your basic monthly salary at the time you retired will be your FAS. Contact your local disability board for more information.

LEOFF Plan 1 formulas

  • Between five and ten years of service credit: 1% x service credit x FAS= monthly benefit
  • Between 10 and 19 years 11 months of service credit: 1.5% x service credit x FAS= monthly benefit
  • 20 or more years of service credit: 2% x service credit x FAS= monthly benefit

Example:

If you retire at age 53 with 20 years of service credit and a monthly Final Average Salary of $8,000, your monthly  benefit is $3,200, calculated as follows: 2% x 20 x $8,000 = $3,200

When can you retire?

Now that we’ve discussed how much money you can get in retirement, let’s talk about when you can retire. You need 5 or more years of service to qualify for a retirement with LEOFF Plan 1. You’re eligible to retire at age 50 is you have at least five years of service credit. Some members are required to retire at age 60.

How do you retire?

Retiring can take anywhere from a few months to a few years. Find out here which actions you need to take before retiring and what your application options are. 

Separation vs retirement

You are retired from DRS when you separate from employment and begin collecting your pension. If you leave public employment, but you are not yet collecting a pension, we consider you separated, but not retired. These instructions assume you are separating and will be collecting your pension (retiring).

Make a plan

Give yourself time to retire. It’s best to make a two-year plan. This will give you the opportunity to explore healthcare options, find out about Social Security, make retirement savings decisions and set your affairs in order for a successful retirement. The DRS retirement checklist walks you through the steps you’ll take.

You must request an estimate

But how do you actually retire? First you request an official benefit estimate from DRS. The estimate takes about 6 to 8 weeks and is necessary to determine your pension amount. Request an estimate through your online account or call us at 800-547-6657.

  • Official benefit estimate: Request the official benefit estimate if you are within one year of retiring.
  • Benefit Estimator tool: If you are still more than one year away from retirement, you can use the Benefit Estimator in your online account to calculate your projected pension amount.

Submit an application

Once your estimate is complete, you’ll receive a statement in the mail and you’ll have two options to retire: Online or paper application.

Retiring online

Retiring online with DRS is fast and easy. That’s why two out of three members choose to retire online! When you request your formal benefit estimate, you’ll enter an expected retirement date. With online retirement, you can retire anywhere from three months before to three months after the date you request.

Retiring on paper

There are some situations where customers cannot retire online (for example, if you are a member of more than one retirement system). For this reason, we also offer a paper application for retirement. With the paper application, you can retire anytime within one year of the official benefit estimate.

When do you get paid?

Your pension money will be direct deposited into your bank account on the last business day of the month, every month, for the rest of your life. The retirement application has a section for your bank information so your funds will be deposited. Once you’ve retired, you can make any updates to your direct deposit through your online account.

See live or recorded retirement planning webinars.

How can you increase your pension amount?

You can increase your LEOFF Plan 1 pension benefit by increasing your years of service or your income. But when it comes to total retirement income, you have more options. 

DCP savings program

The Deferred Compensation Program or DCP is a voluntary savings program you can use to increase your retirement savings. DCP uses many of the same investment options available to Plan 3 members, including investments that are managed for you. With DCP, you control your contribution amount so your savings can grow with you. Saving an additional $100 a month now could mean an extra $100,000 in retirement! (Example based on 6% annual rate of return over 30 years of contributions.) Find out more.

See a live or recorded DCP webinar.

Annuity options

What is an annuity?

Annuities are lifetime income plans you purchase.

When it’s time to retire, you have some additional options—options that can change your finite savings into a monthly, lifetime income called an annuity. An annuity is a guaranteed income plan you purchase. The monthly payments you receive are based on the dollar amount you choose to purchase. The annuity will provide monthly payments for your lifetime. The annuities DRS offers are administered by Washington state with investments provided by the Washington State Investment Board.

Is an annuity right for me?

Annuities can provide guaranteed income for your life. And they offer security through a set monthly income which can increase annually if you are eligible for a Cost-of-Living Adjustment (COLA). However, flexibility is not a feature of annuities. Once you set it up, an annuity doesn’t allow you to change the income amount. Once you begin receiving monthly payments, you cannot cancel the annuity.

With annuities, you take money out of market risk and use it to give yourself a monthly lifetime income. Annuities are the only investment withdrawal option that guarantee you will not outlive your account balance.

How do annuities affect my taxes?

Each year you’ll receive a statement that shows the taxable amount of your annuity. Complete a Form W-4P to choose the amount you’d like withheld from your payments for taxes. Without a Form W-4P, the tax withholding will follow IRS guidelines using a status of married with three allowances.
For more information about taxes, review IRS Publication 575. You might want to consult a tax advisor. DRS and the record keeper are not authorized to give tax advice.

LEOFF Plan annuity

This annuity is available to all Law Enforcement Officers’ and Fire Fighters’ (LEOFF) customers. With this annuity, your survivor will be the same as the one you selected for your pension payment. You can use your DCP savings to purchase this annuity in addition to other approved funding sources. If you return to work, this annuity continues. See annuity video.

More about the LEOFF Plan annuity

When can I purchase? When you are retiring.

Are there limits to the annuity amount I can purchase? Minimum: $25,000; There is no maximum.

How much does it cost? Log in to your account and choose “Purchasing Annuity.” Here you can find the monthly increase to your pension for any purchase amount.

What type of funds can I use to purchase an annuity? Your payment must come from an eligible governmental plan, like your DCP savings. Members cannot use PERS/SERS/TRS Plan 3 contributions to pay for this annuity.

When does my annuity benefit begin? Your retirement date or the day after your bill for the annuity is paid in full, whichever comes later.

How often do I receive my annuity benefit? Monthly.

Can I designate a survivor? Yes. Your survivor must be the same survivor and survivor option you chose for your retirement benefit.

Will I receive a Cost-of-Living Adjustment (COLA)? Yes. You will receive a COLA up to 3% annually.

How do I purchase this annuity? Request this annuity when you retire online. You can also purchase it when completing a paper retirement application.

Can I cancel the annuity if I change my mind? In most cases, no. Annuities are fixed income sources. Once you purchase the annuity, you will not have access to the funds you used to make the purchase.

There are two exceptions:

If you have not completed the annuity purchase, you can still change or cancel the annuity.

Once you make the purchase, you’ll have 15 days to cancel the transaction. You’ll receive a mailed letter that includes your rescission, or cancel by date.

Will my annuity purchase be refunded when I die? If you (and your survivor if you selected a survivor option) die before the amount of your annuity purchase has been paid back to you, the difference will be refunded to your beneficiary.

What if I return to work? Your annuity continues.

Purchase service credit

Purchasing additional service credit increases your monthly retirement benefit for the rest of your life. You can purchase between one and 60 months of service credit in whole months. The increase to your benefit is calculated using the same formula as your retirement benefit. This additional service credit is available at the time of your retirement only. Also, you cannot use the additional credit to qualify for retirement (it won’t increase your years of service).

More about the service credit annuity

When can I purchase? When you are retiring.

Are there limits to the amount of service credit I can purchase? Minimum: One month; Maximum: 60 months.

How much does it cost? Log in to your account and choose “Purchasing Service.” Here you can find the estimated cost and income increase per month you purchase.

What funds can I use to purchase service credit? You can use any funds except for Plan 3 contributions.

When does my annuity benefit begin? After you have made payment in full.

How often do I receive the benefit? Monthly.

Can I designate a survivor? Yes. Your survivor will be the same option you chose for your retirement benefit.

Will I receive a Cost-of-Living Adjustment (COLA)? Yes. You will receive a COLA up to 3% annually. If you’re a TRS Plan 1 or PERS Plan 1 member, a COLA is an optional choice at retirement.

Can I cancel the annuity if I change my mind? No. Annuities are fixed income sources. Once you purchase the annuity, you will not have access to the funds you used to make the purchase. If you have not completed the annuity purchase, you can still change or cancel the annuity.

How do I purchase service credit? Request this annuity when you retire online. You can also purchase it when completing a paper retirement application.

Will my annuity purchase be refunded when I die? Yes. If you (and your survivor if you selected a survivor option) die before the amount of your purchase has been paid back to you, the difference will be refunded to your beneficiary. For TRS Plan 1, this refund does not apply if you selected the Maximum Option.

What if I return to work? The return to work rules for service credit are the same as your retirement benefit. If you return to work for a DRS-covered employer, your annuity will stop if you return to retirement system membership or if you exceed allowable hours as a retiree (867 per year). If you do not return to a DRS-covered employer, your annuity will continue.

When will my benefit increase be effective? The increase in your benefit will be effective the day after the department receives your full payment

See a live or recorded annuity option webinar.

Life events that can affect your pension

Death

Death of a retired member

Please contact DRS as soon as possible. If the retiree chose a survivor benefit, we must update the account for payments to continue. If the retiree did not select a survivor option, we need to stop monthly benefits to avoid an overpayment. When you contact us, please be ready to provide the deceased retiree’s full name, Social Security number and date of death.

Death of an active or not yet retired member

If the deceased worked in a public service position in Washington, payment may be due to survivor(s). When you contact us, please be ready to provide the deceased member’s full name, Social Security number and date of death. Also tell us if the death may be work-related.

Death of a beneficiary

If you are an active member, you can update your beneficiary designation at any time by logging into your online account.

If you are retired and your beneficiary or survivor dies before you do, please contact DRS.


Report a death to DRS

Phone: 800.547.6657 – Menu option 3 or extension 47081

Email: drs.dnd@drs.wa.gov – Please provide only the last 4 digits of the deceased’s SSN

Disability

If you are a member of LEOFF Plan 1 and you become disabled, you may be entitled to disability benefits. Please contact DRS to discuss those benefits.

Separation and Withdrawals

Separating

If you separate from LEOFF employment, you can choose to either leave your contributions in the plan until you’re eligible to retire or withdraw them. The IRS requires that you begin taking payment of your monthly benefit by the time you are 72, unless you are still employed.

Separating from LEOFF-covered employment is the only circumstance where you can withdraw your contributions. Doing so cancels any rights and benefit you have accrued in LEOFF. You can restore your contributions and re-establish your benefit only in certain circumstances.

There are tax implications to withdrawing your contributions, so you might want to contact the IRS or a tax advisor before making a decision. 

Be sure to keep us up to date on any changes to your name, address or beneficiary. It’s important that you keep your beneficiary designation current, because a divorce, marriage or other circumstance might invalidate it.

Withdrawals

For information about withdrawing your retirement contributions before retirement, see Withdrawal of Retirement Contributions.

Loans and borrowing

Due to Internal Revenue Service regulations regarding government pension plans, none of the state retirement pension plans allow for loans or borrowing from your contributions. Retirement plan members, you can only access the funds you’ve contributed if you have separated employment from a DRS-covered employer.

The Deferred Compensation Program (DCP) does not allow loans. If you have a DCP account, an Unforeseeable Emergency Withdrawal may be possible under certain criteria. To discuss the requirements and obtain an Unforeseeable Emergency Withdrawal Packet, contact a DCP representative at 888-327-5596.

If you need to show proof of your account balance or monthly pension payment to secure a home loan, mortgage or other borrowing, log in to your DRS online account to view, print or download an account balance or pension verification letter.

Returning to public service

Returning

If you leave your position, withdraw your contributions and later return to work covered by LEOFF, you might be able to restore your previous service credit. To do so, you must repay the total amount of the contributions you withdrew plus interest within five years of returning to work or before you retire, whichever comes first. Contact us to find out that amount.

A dual member, or someone who belongs to more than one retirement system, might be able to restore service credit earned in a retirement system other than LEOFF. Each time you become a dual member, you’ll have 24 months to restore service credit earned in a previous retirement system.

It might still be possible to purchase service credit after the deadline has passed. However, the cost in that case is considerably higher.

Missing or withdrawn service credit

Service credit is the time used to calculate your pension retirement income. Sometimes customers notice their service credit doesn’t match their seniority date—these times do not always match. Often, the difference is because of missing or withdrawn service credit. You may be eligible to purchase some or all of the missing credit. Here is what you need to know about the process.

How do I check my service credit?

View your complete service credit history through your online account. It is a good practice to check your service credit every few years to be sure it matches your expectations.

Contact DRS for a cost estimate

You will need to contact DRS to request a cost for restoring your credit. We are not able to provide an estimate when you call. Similar to a retirement benefit estimate, this cost must be calculated by DRS and may require information from your employer.

You’ll need this information

The following preparation can expedite your request:

Provide the dates for the missing service. Find your service credit history in your online account.

Let us know if there is a gap in your service credit or if you withdrew from your account.

  • If there is a gap in your service credit, do you know why? Were there any special circumstances around your employment at the time? Some common events for missing credit include: authorized leave of absence, childbirth, substitute teaching, temporary duty disability, or injury.
  • If you withdrew from your account, when did you pull out the contributions?

How do I pay?

Make direct payment with either a personal or cashier’s check. Or in many cases it’s also possible to transfer funds from another eligible retirement account to purchase service credit. However, DRS cannot accept funds in excess of the cost to make your purchase. Check with your account administrator to see if you can transfer those dollars to a 401(a) account type.

There is a deadline

You must request and purchase the missing service within the timeframe allowed for your plan. The amount of time varies by plan. Ask DRS about your options for purchase. If the deadline has passed, you may still have the option to purchase additional service credit as an annuity option when you retire. This purchase will not restore missing time, but it would be used in your retirement payment calculation.

Working after retirement

If you return to public service in Washington state after you retire, your benefit could be affected, depending on the position and number of hours you work.

In certain circumstances, you might be required to become a member of, and pay contributions to, another retirement system. You might be able to work limited hours with no impact to your benefit.

If you think you might be returning to work after retirement, call us to see if your benefit will be affected.

Members of more than one retirement plan

If you are a member of more than one Washington state retirement system, you are a dual member. You can combine service credit earned in all dual member systems to become eligible for retirement.

In most cases, your monthly benefit will be based on the highest base salary you earned, regardless of which system you earned it in.

Base salary includes your wages and overtime and can include other cash payments if those payments are included as base salary in all the retirement systems you are retiring from.

See a live or recorded membership in multiple plans webinar.

Military service

Do you have U.S. military service? If you leave or reduce your DRS retirement plan-covered employment to serve in the military, you may be eligible for restoration of missing retirement service credit. The amount of service credit you have directly affects your retirement income calculation.

There is a deadline

You must complete payment for the military service credit within five years of returning to DRS-covered employment, or before you retire, whichever comes first. After this time has passed, you will no longer be eligible to replace the service using the military credit program, but you are still welcome to purchase up to five years of standard service credit to fill in any gaps.

How much will it cost?

You can recover between five and 10 years of service, depending on your circumstance. If your service was during a period of war or an armed conflict during which you earned a campaign badge or medal, you can recover up to five years of interruptive military service credit at no cost to you. For other military service, you will receive an optional bill for the member retirement contributions you would have paid on your normal salary during that time (plus any interest).

How do I apply?

Contact DRS to ask about recovering military service credit. You will then submit information, such as a copy of your DD214, to help us determine your eligibility. DRS will review your account as well as the information you provide and notify you of our findings, including an optional bill if applicable. This usually takes 2-3 weeks.

Marriage or divorce

Your retirement account can be affected by changes in your marital status. If you marry or divorce before you retire, you need to update your beneficiary, even if your beneficiary remains the same.

Marriage

If you are married when you retire, you choose from a few benefit options that can include retirement income coverage for your spouse if you die before them. See options for changing your benefit after retirement.

If you marry after retirement, you could be eligible to change your benefit option to add your spouse. You need to be married at least a year and request DRS add your spouse during your second year of marriage. See options for changing your benefit after retirement.

If you become widowed after retiring, you can have your benefit option changed to the single-life option with no survivor reduction. You will need to report the death to DRS.

Contact DRS for more information.

Divorce or separation

Upon divorce or separation, your monthly benefit is not subject to sharing or division unless it is court-ordered. DRS could be required to pay a portion of your retirement account to satisfy a divorce agreement. This order is called a property division. The order could award an interest in your account to your ex-spouse, or split your account into two separate accounts.

For questions about a property division, or to start the process, contact DRS.

For further research on property orders, see WAC 415-02-500.

IRS federal taxes or limits on your benefit

Federal taxes on your benefit

Most, if not all, of your benefit will be subject to federal income tax. The only exception will be any portion that was taxed before it was contributed. When you retire, we will let you know if any portion of your contributions has already been taxed.

Since most public employers deduct contributions before taxes, it’s likely your entire retirement benefit will be taxable.

At retirement, you must complete and submit a federal W-4P form to let us know how much of your benefit should be withheld for taxes. If you don’t, IRS rules require withholding as if you are married and claiming three exemptions. You can adjust your withholding amount at any time during retirement by completing a new W-4P form.

For each tax year you receive a retirement benefit, we will provide you with a 1099-R form to use in preparing your tax return (see 1099-R). These forms are usually mailed at the end of January for the previous year. The information is also available through your online account.

It is your responsibility to declare the proper amount of taxable income on your income tax return.

Federal benefit limits for high income members

If you are a highly paid member or retiree, you may encounter a federal limit on your retirement benefit. There are two federal regulations that could limit benefits for highly paid members and retirees. The salary limit (which restricts the salary used to determine your benefit) and the benefit limit (which limits the annual benefit amount you can receive). In other words, federal law limits the amount of compensation you can pay retirement system contributions on, and that can be used in your benefit calculations. The IRS can adjust the amount each year.

2021 salary limit

The 2021 limit is $290,000. This means any salary you earn over this amount in 2021 will not be part of your retirement contributions or your pension calculation. See the following section for more information on how this limit applies to you.

Internal Revenue Salary Limit for Active Members

If you began public service before 1/1/96

  • You don’t have a salary limit
  • You pay contributions on all salary earned
  • DRS does not adjust your Average Final Compensation for limit testing purposes
  • Your pension calculation is not affected by salary limits
  • IRC section 415(b) requires that your annual benefit must not exceed the limit. If you don’t exceed the benefit limit at the time you retire, it is still possible that your benefit may be affected at a later date.

If you began public service on or after 1/1/96

  • The current year salary limit applies (see above)
  • The salary limit is the same for all members and is adjusted annually by the IRS
  • If you reach the salary limit in a calendar year, you stop paying contributions
  • DRS notifies your employer when you approach the salary limit
  • Your Annual Final Compensation is capped for limit testing purposes if it includes the years you exceeded the salary limit
  • Your pension calculation is affected by salary limits

How do survivors or beneficiaries impact the limit?

Does my benefit amount change for my survivor beneficiary after I die?

No. If you chose to provide for a survivor beneficiary, and you die before your survivor does, your benefit transitions to your survivor at the rate you chose (100%, 50% or 67%). After the transition, your survivor’s benefit will also be tested.

Example: If a retirement member chooses to provide 50% of their benefit to a spouse or domestic partner, the full benefit is $230,000, but it’s over the dollar limit and is capped at $185,000 annually. If the member dies first, the spouse or domestic partner will receive $115,000 annually ($230,000 x .50 = $115,000).

What happens if my survivor beneficiary dies before I do?

If your survivor beneficiary dies before you do, your benefit increases as if you hadn’t chosen a survivor option. If your survivor beneficiary was your spouse or domestic partner, we will continue to use your original benefit amount in your annual testing. If your survivor beneficiary was not your spouse or domestic partner, we will use your new, higher limit amount in your annual testing.

More information about federal limits

The IRS characterizes the retirement systems as 401(a) defined benefit plans. To retain status as qualified plans, the systems must comply with federal regulations. For more information about salary limit regulations, see Internal Revenue Code (IRC) Section 401(a)(17). For more about benefit limit regulations, see IRC 415(b).

For more information see these IRS resources:

IRS Plan Benefit Limits

Employee Plans Technical Guidelines

More about LEOFF Plan 1

Selecting a beneficiary

The beneficiary information you give DRS tells us the person(s) you want to receive your remaining benefit, if any, after your death. Submit or update your beneficiary information at any time before retirement using your online account. Or you can submit a paper beneficiary form.

If you don’t submit this information, any benefits due will be paid to your surviving spouse or minor child. If you don’t have a surviving spouse or minor child, we will pay your estate.

Be sure to review your beneficiary designation periodically and update it in your online retirement account if you need to make a change. If you marry, divorce or have another significant change in your life, be sure to update your beneficiary designation because these life events might invalidate your previous choices.

State-registered domestic partners, according to RCW 26.60.010, have the same survivor and death benefits as married spouses. Contact the Secretary of State’s Office if you have questions about domestic partnerships.

Your retirement benefit options

Survivor benefits

After your death, your eligible surviving spouse will continue to receive the amount you were receiving at the time of your death. The amount of your spouse’s benefit could increase by 5% of your FAS for each eligible child, to a maximum of 60% of your FAS.

Survivor eligibility

To be eligible for a survivor benefit, your spouse or partner must have been married to you or in a registered domestic partnership with you:

  • At the time of your death in service
  • For at least one year before your service or disability retirement
  • For at least one year before you separated from service with at least 20 years of service credit

Other circumstances could exist that would cause a spouse or registered domestic partner to become eligible for a survivor benefit.

Health insurance options

Ask your employer if you will be eligible for health insurance coverage.

Plan eligibility

You are eligible for LEOFF Plan 1 membership if you were hired before Oct. 1, 1977, as a fulltime, fully compensated commissioned law enforcement officer or firefighter.

Law enforcement officers: A law enforcement officer is someone who works for a LEOFF employer and is fully commissioned and empowered to enforce the laws of the state of Washington. These positions include:

  • County and deputy sheriffs
  • Police chiefs
  • City police officers (if appointed to offices, positions or ranks that a city charter provision or ordinance specifically designates)
  • Town marshals and deputy marshals
  • Directors of public safety and public safety officers (if employed by cities or towns whose populations are smaller than 10,000)

The following positions are excluded from LEOFF membership:

  • Noncommissioned people in positions that are primarily clerical or secretarial
  • Deputy sheriffs who have not passed a civil service exam
  • Directors of public safety or public safety officers in cities or towns whose populations are smaller than 10,000, if they were receiving a LEOFF retirement allowance on July 25, 1993

Firefighters: A firefighter is someone who has the legal authority and primary responsibility to direct or perform fire protection activities (that is, preventing, controlling and extinguishing fires). Secondary fire protection activities might include incidental functions, such as housekeeping, equipment maintenance, grounds maintenance, fire safety inspections, lecturing, performing community fire drills, and inspecting homes and schools for fire hazards. Supervisory firefighter personnel meet the criteria of a firefighter.

The following positions are excluded from LEOFF membership:

  • Firefighters who have not completed a civil service exam (if the employer requires it)
  • Volunteer or resident volunteer firefighters

If you were first hired as a law enforcement officer or firefighter after Aug. 1, 1971, you were required to meet minimum medical and health standards to join the retirement plan.

If you separate from LEOFF-covered service, you’ll be required to meet these standards again to be eligible for Plan 1 membership. You’ll also be required to meet certain age requirements as well. If you are found to be ineligible, you will need to become a member of LEOFF Plan 2 instead. Some exceptions do apply. Contact DRS to find out more.

Plan resources

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