LEOFF Plan 2
Law Enforcement Officers’ and Fire Fighters’ Retirement System (LEOFF) Plan 2
LEOFF Plan 2 is a lifetime retirement pension plan available to law enforcement officers and firefighters in Washington. You, your employer and the state contribute a percentage of income to fund the plan.
LEOFF Plan 2 employee contribution rate: 8.53%
This is the percentage of your pretax salary that goes toward your pension retirement income.
See a live or recorded Plan 2 webinar.
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 90 hours in a month, you receive one service credit for the month. You can earn no more than one month of service credit each calendar month, even if more than one employer is reporting hours you work. If you work fewer than 90 hours in any month, you’ll receive partial credit for the month (70 to 90 hours gives you 0.5 credits and 70 or fewer hours will be 0.25 credits). Review your service credit detail through your online account.
Your benefit is determined by your service credit years and Final Average Salary (FAS). Your FAS is the average of your 60 consecutive highest-paid service credit months.
2% x service credit years x Final Average Salary = monthly benefit
Let’s say you work 23 years and the average of your highest 60 months of income (AFC) is $5,400 per month.
2% x 23 years x $5,400 = $2,484
When you retire, you’d receive $2,484 per month.
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 2. You’re eligible to retire at age 53 if you have at least five years of service credit.
Options to retire earlier are available, but your benefit will be reduced to reflect that you will be receiving it over a longer period of time.
Any retirement before age 53 is an early retirement. If you have at least 20 years of service credit and you are at least age 50, you can choose to retire early. If you retire early, your benefit will be reduced to reflect that you will be receiving it over a longer period of time. Your benefit depends on how much service credit you have earned and your age.
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Early Retirement Factors
View the early retirement administrative factors for your plan. The factors are subject to change based on State Actuary figures.
Public safety officers’ tax savings on health insurance premiums
If you retired as a public safety officer from a designated Washington state retirement system, the federal Pension Protection Act of 2006 (PPA) might benefit you. It allows you to exclude up to $3,000 of your qualified health, accident and long-term care insurance premiums from your gross taxable income each year as long as the premiums are also deducted from your retirement benefit.
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 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 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.
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.
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 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 7 or extension 47081
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org – Please provide only the last 4 digits of the deceased’s SSN
If you are a LEOFF Plan 2 member and you become disabled, you might be entitled to a disability benefit. This publication describes disability retirement benefits and how to apply for them. The Department of Retirement Systems (DRS) recommends you contact a Retirement Specialist if you plan to apply for a LEOFF disability retirement.
Am I eligible for a disability retirement benefit?
If you are totally incapacitated for continued employment with your LEOFF employer and you leave that employment as a result of your disability, you might be eligible for a disability retirement benefit.
You do not need a minimum amount of service credit to be eligible for a disability benefit.
You must file an application with DRS before you can qualify for a disability benefit. DRS will determine whether you are capable of carrying out the duties of the job you performed at the time of the disability or any other LEOFF-eligible employment you are qualified to perform. DRS will also determine whether your disability occurred in the line of duty. You are responsible for scheduling and paying for independent medical examinations to prove you qualify for disability retirement.
Each benefit has its own eligibility requirements. The four types of disability benefits are:
- Temporary duty disability
- Nonduty disability
- Duty disability
- Catastrophic duty disability
Temporary duty disability
If you do not earn full service credit because of leave associated with a duty disability, you have the option to purchase up to 24 months of service credit for each covered duty disability. To establish service credit, you must meet the following criteria:
- Your disability must have occurred in the line of duty.
- You must have received your injury on or after July 1, 2002, and be eligible to receive workers’ compensation benefits.
- You and your employer must make employer and member contributions on the compensation you would have earned had you been working. If the payments are made for a retroactive period, interest is charged. If your employer offers a disability leave supplement or similar benefit, your first six months of service credit are interest free.
If your duty disability occurred between July 23, 1989, and June 30, 2002, the amount of service credit you can purchase is limited to six months and requires that you be receiving a disability leave supplement or similar benefit from your employer.
If your disability occurred in the line of duty, you may choose between a nontaxable:
- One-time payment equal to 150% of your eligible retirement contributions
- Minimum monthly benefit of at least 10% of your FAS
If you have fewer than 60 service credit months when you become disabled, the average will be based on your actual total of service credit months.
If the normal retirement benefit calculation rule yields a monthly benefit greater than 10% of your FAS, you will receive the higher benefit amount. However, only the amount equal to 10% of your FAS is nontaxable.
Contributions made to restore service credit after the deadline are refunded at 100% only.
Disaster response disability
There are certain circumstances, on or after March 22, 2014, when you might qualify for disaster response benefits and service credit. In the two situations listed below, your disability must have occurred while you were in eligible federal service providing eligible emergency management services.
Working for a LEOFF Plan 2 employer: You might qualify for a disability benefit if you leave the employment of your LEOFF Plan 2 employer to provide a disaster response, and you become disabled on or after March 22, 2014. Your benefit won’t be reduced if you retire early. The benefit will be a minimum 10% of your Final Average Salary.
Working in eligible federal service: You might qualify for service credit for a leave of absence if you become disabled when you leave the employment of your LEOFF Plan 2 employer to provide a disaster response, on or after March 22, 2014.
If your disability didn’t occur in the line of duty, you might receive a monthly benefit calculated as follows:
2% x FAS x service credit years
Final Average Salary (FAS) is the monthly average of your 60 consecutive, highest-paid service credit months.
Your monthly benefit will be reduced to reflect the difference between your age at the time of your disability retirement and age 53.
If you are age 50 and have 20 years of service credit, the reduction is 3% per year (prorated monthly) from age 53.
Catastrophic duty disability
If your disability occurred in the line of duty and is so severe it prevents you from performing substantial gainful activity or substantial gainful employment in any capacity in the future, you might be entitled to receive a catastrophic duty disability benefit.
The Social Security Administration defines “substantial gainful employment” as working in a position whose average earnings are more than a set dollar amount each month, a figure it updates annually.
The catastrophic duty disability benefit can be calculated in three ways:
- 70% of your FAS
- 100% of your FAS, offset by Social Security disability and workers’ compensation disability payments
- <2% x FAS x service credit years
In addition to your monthly benefit, you will be reimbursed for premiums you pay for employer-provided health insurance, COBRA, and Medicare Parts A and B.
If you are entitled to Medicare, you must enroll and maintain enrollment in both Medicare Parts A and B to remain eligible for the reimbursement.
These premium reimbursements are not taxable.
Medical insurance reimbursements are available for current, past and eligible COBRA enrollees. Reimbursement for these members is never greater than the COBRA coverage they are eligible for.
COBRA covers you up to $800. You have medical insurance costs of $500. Your premium reimbursement is $500. If your medical insurance costs are $1,000, your total reimbursement is $800 — the entire COBRA coverage you are entitled to. You will not be reimbursed for the additional $200 owed toward your medical insurance.
If you are receiving a catastrophic duty disability benefit and you are capable of performing substantial gainful activity or substantial gainful employment or your average earnings exceed the monthly limit, your benefit will automatically convert to a duty disability benefit and you’ll no longer be reimbursed for your medical premiums.
If you are able to perform in a LEOFF-eligible position, your benefit will be stopped.
How to apply for a disability retirement
Call DRS and request an official estimate for a disability retirement. It takes about 3-4 weeks for DRS to calculate your benefit. Then we will mail you a packet with the estimate and a three-part form. You, your employer and your doctor will need to complete all three forms in the packet.
Once DRS receives the completed application and all supporting documentation, it usually takes about four to six weeks to determine your eligibility for a disability retirement.
How long will it take for a determination to be made?
An initial determination can be made within four to six weeks of DRS receiving all three parts of the application as well as all the needed support documentation.
Please send the following documentation with your disability application:
- All medical records, reports and charts pertaining to your disabling condition
- Complete physician information, especially if you are being treated by more than one doctor
- Clarification from your employer regarding your job specification information
- Department of Labor and Industries or self-insurer file documentation, such as the Report of Accident, Independent Medical Examinations and vocation records
- If you are applying for catastrophic disability, also send DRS a copy of your Social Security Administration disability award letter and any additional medical information the Social Security Administration provides
You may apply for disability retirement from DRS before separating from employment. If you have already separated, you may still apply for disability retirement as long as you were disabled at the time of your separation.
What is the lump sum payment option?
If your monthly benefit will be less than $50, you may choose between a monthly benefit and a lump sum payment.
If you choose the lump sum payment, you are considered retired from LEOFF. If you choose a monthly benefit, you cannot take a lump sum payment at a later date.
What happens once I receive a determination from DRS?
If you receive a denial: You may petition for a review within 120 days of receiving your denial letter. If your petition is denied, you will be informed of appeal procedures. You will have 60 days to appeal the decision.
If you are approved: DRS will mail you an approval letter with additional information. You must separate from employment to begin receiving your monthly disability benefit.
If you have not separated from employment within 90 days of your approval date, DRS will rescind its approval. If that happens, you must reapply and submit current medical evidence to be considered for a disability benefit.
Your retirement date is the first of the month following your date of separation. For example, if your application is approved May 4, and you separate from service May 15, your retirement date is June 1 and you will receive your first monthly benefit on the last working day of June.
Could I be eligible for other disability benefits outside DRS?
You might also be eligible for disability-related benefits from the Department of Labor and Industries (workers’ compensation benefits), Department of Social and Health Services, the Social Security Administration, your employer, and disability insurers.
Except for catastrophic duty disability, the benefits you receive from the Social Security Administration, Department of Labor and Industries, or other disability insurers do not affect your benefit amount with DRS. However, the benefit from DRS could affect other benefits.
For more information, contact these organizations directly.
Can my monthly benefit increase after I retire?
On July 1 of every year following your first full year of retirement, your monthly benefit will be adjusted by the percentage change in the Consumer Price Index to a maximum of 3% per year.
If you are receiving Social Security, DRS will adjust your benefit in January as well.
Can I lose my benefit?
If you are receiving a monthly disability benefit, DRS might require you to undergo comprehensive medical examinations at DRS’ expense. You or your doctor must report any changes in your condition to DRS. If medical examinations show you have recovered from your disability, DRS will cancel your disability benefit and issue an order that you be restored to duty. If this happens, you will be entitled to receive notice and a hearing.
If you are unable to perform the duties of your former rank, you may request assignment to a lower rank that has duties you are able to perform. At no time should you be restored to duty at a pay rate that is lower than the current rate for the position you held at the time of your retirement. Following cancellation of your disability benefit and upon your return to a LEOFF-eligible position, you will begin earning service credit again and become eligible for an active member benefit.
Can I work after taking a disability retirement?
Your disability benefit could be affected if you go to work for any public employer in Washington state. In some cases, depending on the position and the extent to which you work, your disability benefit might be suspended and you might be required to make contributions to a retirement system. If you decide to return to work, call DRS to determine how your benefit will be affected.
Errors, taxation and assignment of benefits
Payment errors: If you receive an overpayment of your monthly benefit, you will be required to repay it to DRS. If you receive an underpayment, DRS will correct the error and pay you the amount owed.
Federal income taxes: A duty disability benefit is not taxable for amounts up to 10% of your FAS. A nonduty disability benefit is subject to federal income tax. You will need to complete a W-4P form so the proper tax amount is withheld from your monthly benefit.
If you do not complete the form, DRS will apply IRS withholding rules as though you are married and claiming three exemptions. This is regardless of the number of exemptions you qualify to claim on your income tax return.
Assignment and attachment of benefits: Your disability benefit could be subject to assignment or attachment to satisfy court and administrative orders for spousal or domestic-partnership maintenance and child support or orders federal law authorizes.
DRS is authorized to divide pensions between members and ex-spouses or ex-partners based on court-ordered property division. If the divorce decree or dissolution of domestic partnership complies with the applicable law, DRS will send the property-division payment directly to the ex-spouse or ex-partner.
Separation and Withdrawals
If you separate from LEOFF employment, you can either withdraw your funds, retire if you meet eligibility requirements or leave your funds in the plan if you are vested for a future retirement. You can also leave your funds in the account if you have a balance of more than $1,000. If you are inactive and non-vested with a balance of less than of less than $1,000, DRS is required to close your account and return the funds to you. The IRS requires you to start receiving your monthly benefit by age 72, unless you are still employed.
If you have 10 or more years of LEOFF service credit, you can withdraw 150% of your accumulated contributions. If you decide to withdraw your contributions, you give up your right to a future LEOFF retirement benefit. 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.
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
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.
Retired? See working after retirement.
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
How will your retirement income be affected if you return to work? It depends on where you work.
If you are returning to a LEOFF-eligible position, your benefits will stop and you will return to active contributing membership.
If you are considering returning to employment in a position covered by another DRS-retirement system (non-LEOFF), talk to your potential employer or contact DRS to find out how your retirement benefit could be affected.
Working for a non-DRS covered employer
Unless you’ve been approved for a disability retirement, you can return to work for an employer not covered by a Washington state retirement system without affecting your monthly benefit.
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.
If you retire at age 53 with three years of service credit from LEOFF Plan 2 and four from the Public Employees’ Retirement System (PERS) Plan 2, you are a dual member. Without dual membership, your service wouldn’t be eligible for a monthly benefit from either system. With dual membership, your service credit is combined, giving you enough to retire. Your benefit is calculated with service from that system alone. Here’s the calculation:
2% x 3 (LEOFF service credit years) x Final Average Salary (FAS) = LEOFF benefit
2% x 4 (PERS service credit years) x FAS = PERS benefit
LEOFF benefit + PERS benefit = total monthly benefit
See a live or recorded membership in multiple plans webinar.
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 apply to 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 might be able to recover up to five years of interruptive military service credit at no cost to you.
For other military service, you can apply to receive an optional bill for the retirement contributions you would have paid on your normal salary during that time. However, you must pay your optional bill within five years after you return to work, and you must be working for the same employer you left to serve in the military. If you don’t pay the bill within five years, you might still be able to purchase the service credit, but at a much higher cost.
How do I apply?
Contact DRS about a month and a half after you have returned to work to ask about recovering military service credit. You will then submit information, such as a copy of your Member 4 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.
Additional information for LEOFF Plan 2 customers
I’m a member of LEOFF Plan 2. When am I eligible for disaster response service credit?
There are certain circumstances, on or after March 22, 2014, when members of LEOFF Plan 2 might qualify for disaster response benefits and service credit. In all situations listed in this section, your disability or death must have occurred while you were in eligible federal service providing eligible emergency management services.
Death benefit while working for a LEOFF Plan 2 employer
Your surviving spouse, registered domestic partner or, if none, the guardian of your minor child or children might qualify for an unreduced death benefit if you leave the employment of your LEOFF Plan 2 employer to provide a disaster response and you die on or after March 22, 2014. The benefit will be a minimum 10% of your Final Average Salary.
Disability benefit while working for a LEOFF Plan 2 employer
You might qualify for a disability benefit if you leave the employment of your LEOFF Plan 2 employer to provide a disaster response and you become disabled on or after March 22, 2014. Your benefit won’t be reduced if you retire early. The benefit will be a minimum 10% of your Final Average Salary.
Service credit for leave of absence while working in eligible federal service
You might qualify for service credit for your leave of absence if you become disabled when you leave the employment of your LEOFF Plan 2 employer to provide a disaster response on or after March 22, 2014. Your surviving spouse, registered domestic partner or, if none, the guardian of your minor child or children might qualify for this service credit if you die as a result of this federal service.
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.
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.
2022 salary limit
The 2022 limit is $305,000. This means any salary you earn over this amount in 2022 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.
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:
More about LEOFF Plan 2
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
When you apply for retirement, you will choose one of the four benefit options shown below. Once you retire, you can change your option only under limited circumstances.
Option 1: Single Life
This option pays the highest monthly amount of the four choices, but it is for your lifetime only. No one will receive an ongoing benefit after you die. If you die before the benefit you have received equals your contributions plus interest (as of the date of your retirement), the difference will be paid in a lump sum to your designated beneficiary.
Option 2: Joint and 100% survivor
Your monthly benefit under this option is less than the Single Life Option. But after your death, your survivor will receive the same benefit you were receiving for their lifetime.
Option 3: Joint and 50% survivor
This option applies a smaller reduction to your monthly benefit than Option 2. After your death, your survivor will receive half the benefit you were receiving for their lifetime.
Option 4: Joint and 66.67% survivor
This option applies a smaller reduction to your benefit than Option 2 and a larger reduction than Option 3. After your death, your survivor will receive 66.67% (or roughly two-thirds) of the benefit you were receiving for their lifetime.
Your spouse must agree to the option you pick
If you are married and choose a Survivor Option other than Option 3, the law requires that your spouse consent to your choice by cosigning your retirement application. If your spouse’s consent is not provided, an Option 3 benefit will be paid to you and your spouse will be designated to receive the survivor benefit.
See a live or recorded benefit options webinar.
Health insurance options
Ask your employer if you will be eligible for health insurance coverage through the Public Employees Benefits Board (PEBB) once you retire. You can also call the Health Care Authority at 800-200-1004 or visit hca.wa.gov.
If you qualify for continuing coverage after retirement, you must meet strict timelines to apply or request a deferral. If you are not entitled to PEBB coverage, you might be eligible for health insurance your employer provides. For more information, consult your employer.
You are eligible for LEOFF Plan 2 membership if you were hired on or after Oct. 1, 1977, as a full-time, fully compensated and fully 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
- General authority law enforcement officers a state university or port district employs
- Directors of public safety and public safety officers (if cities or towns whose populations are less than 10,000 employ them)
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 less 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 (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