Disability Benefits

Filing For Retirement During the COVID-19 Emergency

The unfortunate reality of the current COVID-19 emergency is that some NYSLRS members may become seriously, or even fatally ill. At a time like this, it is vitally important these members understand how to apply for retirement, if they need to take that step. Here is some guidance:

NYSLRS members who become seriously ill from the COVID-19 virus may wish to file for retirement in order to provide a continuing pension benefit to their beneficiary if they were to die, rather than the one-time in-service death benefit.

These members, or their employer on their behalf, need to file the disability retirement application that is appropriate for his or her retirement plan. Select “Find Your Application” below to help you find the right application. The most common ordinary disability retirement applications are the Application for Article 15 for ERS Tier 3 – 6 (RS6340), the Application for PFRS and for ERS Tier 1 and 2 (RS6038), the 507-A Application for Correction titles and Security Hospital Treatment Assistants (RS6409) and the State Police Application (PF6090).

Additionally, the member, or the member’s spouse, should file a pension payment option election form, with the retirement application, to identify a beneficiary to receive the continuing benefit. An option election form cannot be filed by the employer.

The disability retirement application does not have to be notarized, but the option election form does. You can have the form notarized using audio-video technology, which allows a notary to witness a signature remotely. You can find more information about the virtual notary process on the New York Secretary of State website. If you are in quarantine and unable to use a virtual notary, you can submit a signed form that is not notarized. You’ll need to include a letter to NYSLRS to explain that you were under quarantine when the form was signed, and submit a notarized option election form once the quarantine is lifted.

If a member is unable to sign the option election form, a spouse can sign it and use the virtual notary process or the in-quarantine process described above.

Application and option election forms can be emailed directly to NYSLRS’ Disability Processing Unit. If the member dies after applying, the disability retirement application would be effective upon death. If the member recovers, he or she would be allowed to withdraw the disability retirement application before it is approved.

Eligible members may also file for a service retirement. Your service and disability retirement benefits and death benefits are based on your tier, plan, service credit, and other factors.

Please read below for more information on filing, pension payment option elections and a list of applications. Call our Contact Center at 866-805-0990 if you have questions.


NYSLRS provides a disability retirement benefit for members who are permanently disabled and cannot perform their duties because of a physical or mental condition. A disability retirement benefit is a pension that will provide monthly payments for the rest of your life.

Here are the basic types of NYSLRS disability benefits (you may apply for more than one type).

Ordinary Disability

This benefit is for a disability that may or may not be job-related. There is a minimum service credit requirement (typically ten years), and generally the benefit is not more than one-third of your final average salary (FAS).

Performance of Duty Disability

This benefit is for a permanent disability as a result of an incident that occurred during the performance of your duties. These benefits are usually limited to specific titles and are often tied to specific hazards associated with these jobs. There is no minimum service requirement.

Accidental Disability

This benefit is for a disability resulting from an on-the-job accident. Accident has a specific meaning when used in connection to NYSLRS disability benefits. There is no minimum service requirement.

World Trade Center Presumption

If you were involved in rescue, recovery or cleanup efforts in the wake of 9/11, the presumption could help you qualify for a World Trade Center accidental disability benefit. The amount of the benefit would be based on your retirement plan. Visit our World Trade Center Presumption presentation for details.

If you have questions about which forms to file, filing deadlines or any other issues related to disability benefits, please call our customer service representatives at 866-805-0990, or email them using our secure contact form.

Before You File

Applying for disability is a two-step process:

  1. We must confirm that you meet filing requirements and are permanently disabled from performing the duties of your position, as defined by the New York State Retirement and Social Security Law (RSSL).
  2. We then calculate your benefit, which involves a review of your salary and service credit.

If eligible, you may file for more than one type of disability, and you may file for a service retirement at the same time as you file for disability benefits. If you are also eligible for a service retirement benefit you may contact us to compare the two benefits to help you decide if you should apply for both. If you are terminally ill, to protect your beneficiaries, you should apply for both benefits. You will be provided comparison estimates at a later time. If you have questions, call our customer service representatives at 866-805-0990, or email them using our secure contact form. You can’t cancel your service retirement application after your retirement date, even if your disability application is later denied.

You have a right to be represented by an attorney, but you are not required to have one. If you do hire an attorney, your attorney will be copied on all correspondence from NYSLRS concerning your disability claim.

Find Your Application

To find the correct disability benefit application, first select your tier. (If you do not know what tier you are in, check your Member Annual Statement or our What Tier Are You In? page.)

Then, look under Uniformed or Non-Uniformed Services. Uniformed Services include Police and Fire Retirement System (PFRS) members and Employees’ Retirement System (ERS) members in law enforcement positions, such as sheriffs, sheriff’s deputies, correction officers and court officers.

If you participated in 9/11 rescue, recovery and cleanup efforts, you may be eligible for an accidental disability benefit based on the World Trade Center Presumption. But you must first file a World Trade Center Notice (RS6047-N).

If you are unsure about which form to use, please call our customer service representatives at 866-805-0990, or email them using our secure contact form.

Find Your Application

 Tier 1

Uniformed Services

Non-Uniformed Services
Tier 2

Uniformed Services

Non-Uniformed Services
Tier 3

Uniformed Services

Non-Uniformed Services
Tier 4

Uniformed Services

Non-Uniformed Services
Tier 5

Uniformed Services

Non-Uniformed Services
Tier 6

Uniformed Services

Non-Uniformed Services
File Your Application

You can file the disability retirement application yourself or someone authorized to act on your behalf (an attorney, a power of attorney or court-appointed guardian) can file for you. Your employer also has the authority to file.

You can find application filing deadlines in your retirement plan bookletFailure to file within the time limits may make you ineligible for a benefit.

If you are filing an application for an article 15 or 507-A disability benefit, and you claim an accident that does not meet the legal definition of an accident, and you have sufficient service credit to be eligible to apply for an ordinary disability benefit, we will process your application as an ordinary disability benefit. An ordinary disability benefit may be a pension of less than one-third of your final average salary (FAS).

For guidance throughout the process, please consult our publication Applying for Disability Retirement.

Application Checklist

  • Complete all pages of the application and the accompanying medical information release (HIPAA) form. Your physicians cannot release medical records without a completed HIPAA form.
    • Be sure to include your initials on line 8(b) of the HIPAA form.
    • List all disabling conditions.
    • Provide contact information for all physicians treating you, and for those you have visited concerning the disabling condition(s).
  • Sign BOTH the application and the HIPAA release form.
  • If you are filing more than one application, write “Filed Without Prejudice” at the top of each application.
  • It’s a good idea to include your pension payment option election form with your application, especially if you are terminally ill. (Some payment options provide for a beneficiary after your death.)*
  • You can also include proof of date of birth (copy of driver’s license, birth certificate, naturalization papers, passport), but do not delay filing if you don’t have the proper document. We cannot pay your pension benefit without proof of your date of birth, but you can file it later.
  • If you have power of attorney and are filing on a NYSLRS member’s behalf, please include a copy of your POA document. NYSLRS must review the document before your application can be accepted. We recommend you use our POA form.

How to Submit an Application

An application is not considered filed until it is received by NYSLRS. We recommend that you don’t give the application to your employer as this may result in a delay in filing and your application could be denied. We encourage you (or your representative) to file it directly with NYSLRS. Here’s how:

  • Drop it off at our Albany office or at one of our consultation sites across the State.
  • Mail it to the address on the application. We recommend Certified Mail, Return Receipt Requested.
  • Fax to 518-474-3091. (Good for meeting a deadline, but you must still mail us the original.)

*If you choose an option that provides for a beneficiary, your beneficiary may receive a lifetime benefit if you die as a result of your disability. If your disability benefit is approved, you will have an opportunity to change your payment option.

What Happens Next?
  • After receiving your application, we will send you an acknowledgement letter.
  • We will also notify your employer and request payroll status information and a copy of your current job duties.
  • We will review your application to see if filing requirements have been met. This means your application was properly signed, you have enough service credit to be eligible, and you filed your application in time.
  • If you have met the initial filing requirements, the medical review process begins. We will request medical records from the doctors, facilities and hospitals listed on your application. (You may wish to contact your doctors. Let them know we will be contacting them and encourage them to reply promptly.)
  • We will contact your employer to request additional information, such as medical records and accident reports.
  • You may receive additional forms to complete.
  • We may ask you to see one or more independent medical examiners. NYSLRS will pay the bill for these exams.
  • An administrative or medical review board will review your application.
  • We will mail you a letter notifying you and your attorney of the review board’s decision.
  • If your disability is approved, we notify your employer and ask them to tell us your last day of paid service. If you are still on payroll, we ask that they remove you within 30 days.

Workers’ Compensation

Members applying for certain disability retirement benefits may be required to file for Workers’ Compensation. Your NYSLRS disability benefit may be reduced by the full amount of the benefit that you receive from Workers’ Compensation. Check your plan booklet for details.

Denial of Benefits

If your application is denied, you can appeal that decision (read our Hearings FAQs for more information). We must receive your written request for a hearing within four months of the determination date on the denial letter mailed to you. You can email our Hearing Administrative Bureau or write to them.

Receiving a Benefit

If your application is approved, your date of retirement will be the date your application was filed, or the day after the last day you were paid on the payroll, whichever is later. We will send you an estimate of the benefit under all pension payment options available to you, if you have not already received one. If you are already retired on a service or disability retirement, or if you are approved for more than one type of disability retirement, we will provide you with estimates for all benefits you are eligible for. We will include a form so you can choose which benefit you would like to receive.

If you have already submitted a pension payment option election form, you will have the opportunity to change your payment option when you receive your estimate. The amount of your benefit will depend on a number of factors, such as your tier and retirement plan and whether your disability was the result of an on-the-job accident. Your plan booklet provides details.

If you are not currently receiving a NYSLRS pension, you should expect your first disability benefit payment 8 to 12 weeks after you receive your disability approval letter. If you are already receiving a NYSLRS pension, it may be longer before you receive your first payment. However, that payment will be retroactive to your date of retirement.

 Check Your Plan Booklet

We strongly recommend that you review the disability benefits section of your retirement plan booklet. You can find your plan booklet on our Publications page. Your retirement system, tier and retirement plan are listed in your Member Annual Statement (MAS), which is provided to you every summer. If you need assistance finding the right booklet, call our customer service representatives at 866-805-0990, or email them using our secure contact form.

Your plan booklet provides important information about your disability benefits, including:

  • Eligibility requirements;
  • Filing deadlines;
  • How much the benefit will be; and
  • Whether you need to apply for Workers’ Compensation.
Resources
Other Questions
  1. I’ve just been approved to reclassify my service or disability retirement to a World Trade Center accidental disability benefit. What will my date of retirement be?

    Your date of retirement will be the date your World Trade Center accidental disability application was approved.

  2. I’ve been approved for a disability benefit but I don’t want to start collecting it right now. What should I do?

    If you are no longer on your employer’s payroll, you must accept the approved disability retirement benefit. If you are still working, you must send a letter asking us to withdraw your disability retirement application. We will also require a letter from your employer saying you wish to withdraw your disability retirement application, you are still working, and your employer will be keeping you on their payroll. If you have questions about this process, please contact your case examiner.

  3. Where can I get information about health insurance benefits?

    We do not administer health insurance programs, although we may deduct health insurance premiums from your monthly pension benefit. If you are still working, or if you retired from an employer other than New York State, your employer’s Human Resources office should be able to answer questions you may have regarding health insurance coverage or premium deductions. If you retired from a New York State agency, you can email the New York State Department of Civil Service or contact them at 1-800-833-4344, or at 518-457-5754.