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Office of Human Resources: Benefits FAQ

I heard that employees in the Alternative Retirement Plan (TIAA-CREF, VALIC, ING and Fidelity) will be able to switch to SERS. Is this true?
How do I change my health care plan?
How long is my child covered under my health care plan?
How do I update my beneficiary information?
How do I start a tax-sheltered annuity?
How do I request a leave of absence?
What is the State Employee Assistance Program (SEAP)?

I heard that employees in the Alternative Retirement Plan (TIAA-CREF, VALIC, ING, and Fidelity) will be able to switch to SERS. Is this true?

You are referring to House Bill No. 870, which was introduced in March 2005. This bill has not been passed yet. If passed, there will be a 180-day window before the bill goes into effect, and another 180 days during which the option to make the switch will be available. The cost for switching will vary depending on your years of service, your salary and other factors. You can find a list of FAQs on the APSCUF website. If this bill becomes a reality, all affected employees will be notified by the Benefits office.

How do I change my health care plan?

During an open enrollment period, you may change health care plan options. Eligible employees may enroll in any approved plan for which they are eligible that offers services in their county of residence. Open enrollment is also the time to add dependents that were not added within 60 days of acquiring the dependent for any reason. You must complete an enrollment/change form with the Office of Personnel in order to change plans and/or add dependents. Open enrollment time period varies by bargaining unit.

How long is my child covered under my health care plan?

Coverage for an eligible dependent of an employee whose benefits are administered by the Pennsylvania Employees Benefit Trust Fund (PEBTF) ends on the child's 19th birthday or when the child takes a full-time job or marries. Under the PEBTF, coverage will continue until age 23 if the child qualifies as a full-time student. Student certifications must be completed twice a year, in January and July.

For employees whose benefits are administered by the State System of Higher Education's Group Health Plan (SSHEGHP), coverage ends on the last day of the month the child reaches age 19, takes a full-time job or marries. For those SSHEGHP employees, coverage will continue until age 25 if the child qualifies as a full-time student. Student certifications must be completed periodically.

For both plans, to qualify as a full-time student, the dependent child must meet all of the following conditions:

  • Is a full-time student attending an accredited educational institution
  • Is unmarried
  • Does not work full time
  • Is claimed as a dependent on your federal income tax return

To qualify for continued coverage as a disabled dependent, all of the following requirements must be met:

  • Becomes totally and permanently disabled prior to age 19
  • Was your dependent before age 19
  • Is claimed as a dependent on your federal income tax return
  • Completes a disabled dependent certification form

How do I update my beneficiary information?

As an employee of the State System of Higher Education/California University of Pennsylvania, you should always keep your retirement and life insurance beneficiary information updated. You should consider completing a new beneficiary form any time you have a change in your life, such as the birth of a child, a marriage, divorce or death of a spouse/dependent. You should contact the Office of Personnel for a change of beneficiary form if you are unsure of your current retirement, group life insurance, and/or voluntary group life/accidental death and dismemberment insurance beneficiary nomination, or when you want to change your beneficiary nomination.

How do I start a tax-sheltered annuity?

The State System of Higher Education offers a tax-sheltered annuity (TSA) program, which is made available to employees of certain educational institutions under Section 403(b) of the Internal Revenue Code. This program allows employees of the State System to contribute to a selected long-term savings plan on a pre-tax basis up to an allowable maximum. The portion of income that is deferred does not become taxable until it is later withdrawn by retirees.

There are several advantages to this program for employees: contributions are deducted through the payroll system before they are included in employees' salary, which reduces current federal income taxes; interest and earnings on contributions accumulate tax-free until received as benefits; a large number of insurance, annuity and mutual fund companies are available and offer a variety of investment options; and accumulations can be transferred from one insurance, annuity or mutual fund company to another.

Because of the program's tax advantages, the government limits how much employees can contribute each year. There are also other limitations, such as how often changes can be made to contributions and when money can be withdrawn without penalty. These should be fully explored before beginning a tax-sheltered savings plan.

The Office of Personnel can provide a TSA list of participating insurance and annuity companies at your request. To enroll in the program, employees must contact the company of their choice and complete the company's enrollment application. Employees must provide the Office of Personnel with a copy of the enrollment application and complete the State System of Higher Education Salary Reduction Agreement. The University must agree that the proposed contribution is within allowable government limits.

How do I request a leave of absence?

When an employee needs to be absent 10 or more working days, it is necessary for the employee to request, in writing, approval of the use of extended leave. This written request is made through the employee's supervisor outlining the reason for the leave of absence, beginning date of absence and the anticipated date of return. For reasons of illness, along with your request, the employee must submit medical documentation to determine eligibility of leave to the Office of Personnel. Medical forms will be provided upon request. Failure to provide the documentation will preclude you from receiving the benefits under the provisions of The Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993.

What is the State Employee Assistance Program (SEAP)?

Balancing the daily demands of work and home can be challenging. University employees and their family members can receive no-cost, confidential assistance for a wide range of personal and/or work-related concerns through the State Employee Assistance Program (SEAP)

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