GJRS Handbook

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1. About this Handbook

This Handbook summarizes the main provisions of laws that provide benefits to certain State of Georgia employees under the Georgia Judicial Retirement System (GJRS), as contained in Title 47, Chapter 23, of the Official Code of Georgia. Unless otherwise specifically indicated, the Handbook describes these laws as in effect on July 1, 2019.

It is important to remember that this Handbook is only a summary of the law and, therefore, provides only general information. A summary cannot address every possible set of circumstances. Also, from time to time, the laws will be amended, and while we make every effort to update this Handbook in a timely fashion, there may be a period of time during which the Handbook does not reflect recent changes in the law. If something is not covered in detail in this summary, or if this summary can be read to be inconsistent with the governing laws, the law will control.  

It is important that you read the entire Handbook.  Reading only portions can be confusing and misleading.

1.1 About the Benefits Described in this Handbook

The Georgia Judicial Retirement System (GJRS) was established effective July 1, 1998, as provided by laws enacted through the Georgia General Assembly. 

This System provides retirement benefits for:

  • Superior Court Judges
  • District Attorneys
  • State Court Judges
  • Solicitors-General of the State Courts
  • Juvenile Court Judges
  • Certain employees of the Attorney General’s Office or Legislative Counsel of the Georgia Assembly.

As of the effective date, active, inactive, and retired members of the Superior Court Judges Retirement System, District Attorneys’ Retirement System, and Trial Judges and Solicitors Retirement Fund (Predecessor Systems) were transferred to GJRS.

Laws governing GJRS provide for service retirements, death and disability benefits, or refunds of contributions and interest to members who leave state employment. Employee and Employer Contributions are paid into the retirement fund for the welfare of members and their beneficiaries. All benefits are paid from this fund. 

An independent actuarial firm specializing in pension and retirement plans examines the fund every year. The actuarial firm prepares an annual valuation on the ability of the fund to meet future obligations, and every five years performs an actuarial experience study. The System is also examined annually by an independent accounting firm. 

A Board of Trustees is responsible for the administration of GJRS. Daily operations are under the direct administration of the Employees’ Retirement System of Georgia (ERSGA) Executive Director and staff. For more information about the Board of Trustees, please visit the GJRS Board of Trustees page. 

1.2 Contacting ERSGA

Through this website, you can:

  • View this Handbook and pamphlets,
  • Download forms
  • Review frequently asked questions
  • Link to other websites

Log in to your account (using the Log In button at the top of the page) to:

  • See your personal account information
  • Conduct transactions such as designating a beneficiary and estimating your retirement benefits
  • Terminated members with less than 10 years of Creditable Service can request a refund of contributions

Inquiries related to retirement or general inquiries about GJRS can be emailed to: ers.contacts@ers.ga.gov.

Mailing address:

Employees’ Retirement System of Georgia
Two Northside 75, Suite 300
Atlanta, GA  30318

Phone numbers:

General Number:  404.350.6300
Toll free: 1.800.805.4609 (outside metro Atlanta area)
Fax:  404.350.6310

Hours of Operation:  8:00 am to 4:30 pm ET

To contact Peach State Reserves, call toll free: 1.866.694.2777

2. Membership

Generally, membership in GJRS is a condition of employment for any person employed as a:

  • Superior Court Judge
  • District Attorney
  • State Court Judge
  • Juvenile Court Judge
  • Solicitor-General. 

Employees become GJRS Members on the first day of their employment in an eligible position. This Handbook will refer to Employees who are Members as Members

2.1 Exceptions

  • Anyone assuming the office of Superior Court Judge or District Attorney who is an active member of the Employees’ Retirement System (ERS) at the time may elect to continue their ERS membership rather than join GJRS.
  • Individuals employed by the Attorney General’s Office or Legislative Counsel in a position requiring admission to the State Bar of Georgia as a condition of employment:
    • Employed on July 1, 1998 who made an irrevocable election to participate prior to December 31, 1998, became a Member of GJRS on July 1, 1998.
    • Employed after July 1, 1998 but prior to July 1, 2005 who made an irrevocable election to participate in the plan, became a Member of GJRS on their date of hire.
    • Individuals employed on or after July 1, 2005 by the Attorney General’s Office or Legislative Counsel of the General Assembly are not eligible to elect GJRS membership.

Please note:  A final conviction of certain crimes can affect a person’s GJRS status, as well as the claim to any benefits earned through GJRS. Please contact ERSGA directly with questions regarding the right to benefits under these circumstances. 

3. Contributions

The benefits paid by the plan are funded through Employee Contributions and Employer Contributions. This section of the Handbook describes the contributions made on behalf of each participating Member. 

3.1 Employee Contributions

The contributions made to GJRS by or on behalf of each Member are either deposited in the Member’s Employee Contribution Account or go towards the Member’s Group Term Life Insurance (GTLI) premiums. The contributions are based on the Member’s Earnable Compensation. See the section of this Handbook titled Earnable Compensation and Salary to learn more about what types of pay are included and excluded in Earnable Compensation. 

The following describes the Employee Contributions made to the plan: 

Employee Contributions are made through payroll deductions in the amount of 7.5% of the Member’s Earnable Compensation. For some members, the employer pays some or all of the Employee Contributions; such contributions are called Pick Up Contributions

To find out if your employer makes Pick Up Contributions on your behalf, contact your employer or ERSGA.

The Employee Contributions deposited into the Member’s Employee Contribution Account start earning 6% interest (compounded annually) after being in the account for one year. Earned interest is calculated and posted on June 30 of each year, based on the previous fiscal year’s ending balance.

Group Term Life Insurance (GTLI) Contributions - Members covered under the Group Term Life Insurance (GTLI) plan pay an additional 0.25% of Earnable Compensation toward the GTLI benefit each month. These contributions are not deposited to the Member’s Employee Contribution Account and are not refundable.

To learn more about GTLI benefits, see the Handbook section titled Group Term Life Insurance

Spousal Contributions – If applicable, contributions are 2.5% of the Member’s Earnable Compensation and are contributed for a maximum of 16 years. Spousal Contributions are deposited into the Member’s Employee Contribution Account. For more information on Spousal Contributions and Spousal Coverage, see the section of this Handbook titled Spousal Coverage.

3.2 Employer Contributions

In addition to the Employee Contributions made to GJRS on a Member’s behalf, the Member’s Employer or governing council makes additional contributions in order to fund the benefits payable under GJRS. The Employer Contribution amount is an actuarially determined percentage of a Member’s Earnable Compensation. It is not applied to the Member’s Employee Contribution Account and is not refundable to the Member.

4. Earnable Compensation and Salary

4.1 Earnable Compensation

Earnable Compensation generally means the full rate of regular monthly compensation from state funds payable to a Member for their full normal working time excluding any local supplements.

4.2 Salary

For all Members, Salary includes Earnable Compensation plus the monthly Employee Contribution made by the Employer on behalf of the Member (if any), referred to as the Pick Up Contribution.

Superior Court Judges: Salary means the earnable monthly compensation from state funds provided by law for Judges of the Superior Courts on the date the Member begins receiving a retirement benefit.

District Attorneys:  Salary means the earnable monthly compensation from state funds provided by law for District Attorneys on the date the Member begins receiving a retirement benefit.

Judges and Solicitors-General of State Courts:  Salary means the highest average earnable monthly compensation received as a Judge or Solicitor-General over a period of 24 consecutive months. For Members first becoming Members on or after July 1, 1998, Salary shall not exceed the Salary from state funds provided by law for Superior Court Judges plus Pick Up Contributions, if any.

Juvenile Court Judges:  Salary means the highest average earnable monthly compensation received as a Juvenile Court Judge over a period of 24 consecutive months. For Members first becoming Members on or after July 1, 1998, Salary shall not exceed the Salary from state funds provided by law for Superior Court Judges plus Pick Up Contributions, if any.

Attorney General’s Office or Legislative Counsel:  Salary means the highest average earnable monthly compensation received over a period of 24 consecutive months. For Members first becoming Members on or after July 1, 1998, Salary shall not exceed the Salary from state funds provided by law for Superior Court Judges plus Pick Up Contributions, if any.

5. Service

Creditable Service is used to determine the amount of benefit payable to the Member upon retirement.

5.1 Service Overview

Creditable Service is made up of prior service (service earned under the Predecessor Systems prior to July 1, 1998) plus service for which the Member is credited while a Member. It can be earned, transferred into GJRS, or in some cases, purchased. 

A Member earns Creditable Service for each month of active GJRS membership for which Employee Contributions are deducted. 

Vesting Service is used to determine:

  • Whether a Member has earned a right to a retirement benefit (vesting)
  • Member eligibility for certain other Plan benefits

Vesting Service is equal to Creditable Service, less any ERS service transferred to GJRS as non-vesting service.

For more information about how a Member’s rights to retirement benefits are determined, please see the Handbook section titled Benefits Eligibility.

For more information about how retirement benefits are calculated, please see the Handbook section titled Retirement Benefit Formula

5.2 Predecessor Systems

Membership in one of the following systems prior to becoming a GJRS Member counts as Creditable Service for prior employment. 

  • Trial Judges and Solicitors Retirement Fund – TJSRF
  • Superior Court Judges Retirement System – SCJRS
  • District Attorneys’ Retirement System – DARS

Members who have previously worked for the State of Georgia, please contact ERSGA for inquiries about eligibility to receive Creditable Service for your employment. 

5.3 Part-Time Service

If a Member has a membership date on or after July 1, 1998 and retires from a part-time position, the Member will receive full credit for all service.  If the Member transfers from a part-time to a full-time position and retires from the full-time position, they will receive full Vesting Service for the part-time service, and pro-rated Creditable Service.  The pro-rated part-time Creditable Service will be based upon the ratio of the average high 24 consecutive months of part-time salary to the average high 24 consecutive months of full-time salary at retirement.   This will be added to the Member’s full-time Creditable Service in the calculation of your retirement benefit.

Example
Part-time service:  10 years        Part-time 24 month average salary:   $  4,000                   
Full-time service :   7 years        Full-time 24 month average salary :  $10,000

Average pay ratio:
Part-time average salary divided by full-time average salary:  $4,000 / $10,000 = .4 (ratio for service determination)

Service calculations:
Total vesting service:        10 years + 7 years = 17 years (all years of service)
Total creditable service:    4 years (10 x.4) + 7 years  = 11 years (part-time service is reduced)

5.4 Service Transferrable from ERS

If a Member has a membership date on or after July 1, 1998, is not a Juvenile Court Judge, and was previously a member of ERS, they may transfer service as described below. 

Creditable Service Only
If a Member has a membership date on or after July 1, 1998 and was previously employed by the Prosecuting Attorneys Council or as a state-paid Assistant District Attorney, the Member may transfer their ERS service to GJRS. Such election must be made within 90 days of becoming a Member of GJRS. If the Member’s contributions have been withdrawn from ERS, they must repay the refund, plus 6% interest within six months of notification of the cost. Service credit will equal the amount of service under ERS. This service does not count toward Vesting and cannot be used to satisfy the requirements for retirement.  [NOTE: In lieu of this non-vesting service transfer, this service may be transferred as Creditable and Vesting Service as described below.]

Creditable and Vesting Service
Superior Court Judges, State Court Judges, Solicitors-General, or District Attorneys who were previously members of ERS may elect to transfer their ERS service to GJRS.  Such election must be made within 90 days of becoming a Member of GJRS. If the Member’s contributions have been withdrawn from ERS, they must repay the refund, plus 6% interest within six months of notification of the cost. GJRS will determine the amount of Creditable Service established by the ERS contributions and interest. This is normally less than the full service credited under ERS. GJRS will permit the Member to purchase the balance of their ERS service. The Member may only purchase service up to the total service accrued under ERS. The cost to purchase service in this manner is determined by the Plan’s actuaries and is based upon age and other factors at the time of the purchase. 

All elections to transfer service from ERS to GJRS must be made in writing within 90 days of becoming a Member of GJRS.

For additional information on transfer of ERS service, contact ERSGA.

5.5 Refund Buyback

A Member who terminates employment but has not yet retired (or is not eligible to retire) has the option to receive a refund of their Employee Contribution Account.  If the Member receives such a refund, they forfeit all Creditable Service for the period of employment covered by the refund. However, if the Member returns to active Membership, they can re-establish Creditable Service via a buyback. To do so, the Member must pay to GJRS a lump sum payment equal to the refund amount originally received, plus 6% interest (compounded annually from the refund date to the buyback date).

For more information about how to receive a refund of your Employee Contribution Account, please see the Handbook section titled Refund of Contributions and Interest

5.6 Military Service

The Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA) provides Members with certain rights regarding employment and retirement benefits, if the Member performs qualified military service.  If returning to employment after a military leave, the Member may receive Creditable Service for the period of leave provided:

  • Application is made to GJRS in writing to establish the service
  • Applicable Employee Contributions are paid for the period of service (these Contributions must be paid within a period up to the lesser of three times the length of the military service or five years)

Actively employed Members who are called to active duty in the National Guard or Reserves,  may make Employee Contributions during their active duty period. The Member must provide GJRS with a copy of orders as soon as they are received. 

If you left state employment to perform military service prior to October 13, 1994, please contact ERSGA for information about your rights to establish Creditable Service.

6. Benefits Eligibility

This section details the types of benefits GJRS Members may be entitled to, and how a Member becomes eligible for these benefits.

6.1 Benefits Eligibility Overview

The retirement benefits available to a Member under GJRS are based upon a benefit formula and are funded through both Employee Contributions and Employer Contributions. Members will always have a non-forfeitable right to their Employee Contributions. However, Members must earn a right to receive other benefits. This right is referred to as a vested right. 

Once a Member earns 10 years of  Vesting Service, they have a vested right to a service retirement at age 60, even if the Member terminates employment before reaching age 60. 

At termination of employment, a Member may be eligible for one of the following types of benefits from the plan: 

  • Regular Retirement Benefit – Available upon the attainment of age 60 with at least 10 years of Vesting Service and at least 16 years of Creditable Service 
  • Early Retirement Benefit – Available upon the attainment of age 60 with at least 10 years of Vesting Service and less than 16 years of Creditable Service
  • Terminated Vested Retirement Benefit – If terminating employment after attaining 10 years of Vesting Service, but prior to age 60, the Member will be eligible to start drawing a retirement benefit once reaching age 60. The Member should contact ERSGA within 90 days prior to their 60th birthday. 

Your  Benefit may be forfeited under two situations:

  • Conviction of certain state or federal crimes or
  • A refund of your Employee Contribution Account

If leaving GJRS before earning 10 years of Vesting Service, a Member will only be entitled to a refund of their Employee Contribution Account. See the Handbook section titled Refund of Contributions and Interest for more information.

7. Retirement Benefit Formulas

This section details the formulas used to calculate Service Retirement benefits for GJRS Members.

7.1 Retirement Benefit Formulas Overview

The benefit formula used to calculate Regular Retirement benefits is: 

66.66% of Salary + 1% of Salary for each year of
Creditable Service between 
16 and 24 years
= Regular
Retirement
Benefit

The benefit formula used to calculate Early Retirement benefits is:

66.66% of Salary x Years of 
Creditable Service ÷ 16
= Early
Retirement
Benefit

Certain limitations on retirement benefits may apply. Refer to the Limitation on Benefits section of this Handbook for more information.

7.2 Retirement Calculation Examples: 

Calculate the Regular Retirement Benefit with 16 years of service 

Age at Commencement 
of Benefits
Years of Service Formula Salary
60 16 $10,722

Retirement Benefit:  
66.66% of Salary = 66.66%  x  $10,722  =  $7,147 per month

 

Calculate the Regular Retirement Benefit with 20 years of service 

Age at Commencement 
of Benefits
Years of Service Formula Salary
60 20 $10,722

66.66% of Salary = 66.66% x $10,722 = $7,147
+
4 Years x .01 x $10,722 = $429 (Years of Creditable Service between 16 and 24  x .01  x  Salary)

Retirement Benefit: 
$7,147 + $429 = $7,576 per month

Calculate the Early Retirement Benefit with 10 years of service 

Age at Commencement 
of Benefits
Years of Service Formula Salary
60 10 $10,722

Early Retirement Benefit:  
66.66% of Salary x Creditable Service ÷ 16
66.66% x $10,722 x (10 / 16) = $4,467 per month.

8. Optional Forms of Payment

In general, retirement benefits are payable for life. 

8.1 Payment Options

Membership Prior to July 1, 2012:  If a Member elected Spousal Coverage and has made Spousal Contributions for at least 10 years prior to retirement, retirement benefits are payable for the Member’s lifetime and at death, the Member’s spouse or designated beneficiary will receive a monthly benefit for the balance of their life. If Spousal Coverage is not elected, or the Member has less than 10 years of Spousal Service at retirement, or if they elected to stop Spousal Contributions before contributing for 16 years, no further benefit is payable after the Member’s death.  

Please see the Handbook section titled Spousal Coverage for more information.

Membership On or After July 1, 2012:  If becoming a Member on or after July 1, 2012, the Member will have the option at retirement to elect a benefit payable over their lifetime only, or a reduced benefit payable over the Member’s lifetime and the lifetime of their named beneficiary. The beneficiary pension will be either: 100% (Option 1 and 4A), 66.66% (Option 2 and 4B), or 50% (Option 3 and 4C) of the reduced monthly benefit. Options 1, 2, 4A, and 4B may not be available if the Member chooses a beneficiary other than their spouse and the beneficiary is ten or more years younger than the Member.

Actuarial tables are used to determine the amount of the reduction of the benefit, in the event that a Member chooses one of the optional benefits. Tables used to determine the benefit payable under Options 1, 2, 3 and 4 are provided in Appendix A. Please contact ERSGA for further information about the actuarial tables.

Maximum Plan Benefit 
(Life Annuity)

Payable to the Member:  The highest monthly benefit available, payable for the Member’s lifetime.

Payable to the Beneficiary:  No monthly benefit is payable after death.  If the Member dies before receiving total payments which at least equal the Employee Contribution Account balance, the Member’s beneficiary(ies) will receive the difference in a single payment.

Who May Be a Beneficiary:  An estate, a charity, a trust, or a living person(s).

Changing a Beneficiary:  This may be done at any time.

Option 1
(100% Survivor Benefit)

Payable to the Member:  A reduced monthly benefit, payable for the Member’s lifetime.

Payable to the Beneficiary:  A monthly benefit equal to 100% of the monthly benefit received during the Member’s lifetime, payable for the lifetime of the beneficiary(ies).

Who May Be a Beneficiary:  A living person(s).  If multiple beneficiaries are named, each beneficiary will receive a partial amount based on their respective ages. 

Changing a Beneficiary:  Beneficiary(ies) may not be changed after the Member receives the first monthly benefit payment.

Option 2
(66.66% Survivor Benefit)

Payable to the Member:  A reduced monthly benefit, payable for the Member’s lifetime.

Payable to the Beneficiary:  A monthly benefit equal to 66.66% of the monthly benefit received during the Member’s lifetime, payable for the lifetime of the beneficiary(ies).

Who May Be a Beneficiary:  A living person(s).  If multiple beneficiaries are named, each beneficiary will receive a partial amount based on their respective ages. 

Changing a Beneficiary:  Beneficiary(ies) may not be changed after the Member receives the first monthly benefit payment.

Option 3
(50% Survivor Benefit)

Payable to the Member:  A reduced monthly benefit, payable for the Member’s lifetime.

Payable to the Beneficiary:  A monthly benefit equal to 50% of the monthly benefit received during the Member’s lifetime, payable for the lifetime of the beneficiary(ies).

Who May Be a Beneficiary:  A living person(s).  If multiple beneficiaries are named, each beneficiary will receive a partial amount based on their respective ages.

Changing a Beneficiary:  Beneficiary(ies) may not be changed after the Member receives the first monthly benefit payment.

Option 4A
(100% Survivor Benefit with Pop-up)

Payable to the Member:  A reduced monthly benefit, payable for the Member’s lifetime. If the beneficiary designated at retirement predeceases the Member, the Member will begin receiving the Maximum Plan retirement allowance.

Payable to the Beneficiary:   A monthly benefit equal to 100% of the monthly benefit received during the Member’s lifetime, payable for the lifetime of the beneficiary(ies).

Who May Be a Beneficiary:  A living person(s).  If multiple beneficiaries are named, each beneficiary will receive a partial amount based on their respective ages.

Changing a Beneficiary:  Beneficiary(ies) may not be changed after the Member receives the first monthly benefit payment.

Option 4B
(66.66% Survivor Benefit with Pop-up)

Payable to the Member:  A reduced monthly benefit, payable for the Member’s lifetime. If the beneficiary designated at retirement predeceases the Member, the Member will begin receiving the Maximum Plan retirement allowance.

Payable to the Beneficiary:   A monthly benefit equal to 66.66% of the monthly benefit received during the Member’s lifetime, payable for the lifetime of the beneficiary(ies).

Who May Be a Beneficiary:  A living person(s).  If multiple beneficiaries are named, each beneficiary will receive a partial amount based on their respective ages.

Changing a Beneficiary:  Beneficiary(ies) may not be changed after the Member receives the first monthly benefit payment.

Option 4C
(50% Survivor Benefit with Pop-up)

Payable to the Member:  A reduced monthly benefit, payable for the Member’s lifetime. If the beneficiary designated at retirement predeceases the Member, the Member will begin receiving the Maximum Plan retirement allowance.

Payable to the Beneficiary:   A monthly benefit equal to 50% of the monthly benefit received during the Member’s lifetime, payable for the lifetime of the beneficiary(ies).

Who May Be a Beneficiary:  A living person(s).  If multiple beneficiaries are named, each beneficiary will receive a partial amount based on their respective ages.

Changing a Beneficiary:  Beneficiary(ies) may not be changed after the Member receives the first monthly benefit payment.

9. Limitations on Benefits

There are federal tax law limits on the amount of benefits a Member can receive from GJRS. 

9.1 Limits

Federal Tax Limit 
Section 415 of the Internal Revenue Code limits the amount of benefits a Member can receive from GJRS. The Member will be notified if the benefit they would otherwise be eligible to receive under GJRS exceeds this limit. 

Optional Forms Limit
If becoming a Member on or after July 1, 2012, retirement benefit Options 1 and 4A (100% Survivor Benefit) & 2 and 4B (66.66% Survivor Benefit) may not be available if the Member designated a non-spouse beneficiary who is more than ten years younger than the Member.

10. Disability Retirement

It may be necessary for a Member to apply for a Disability Retirement at some point in their career. This section explains the requirements and process for Disability Retirement.

10.1 Disability Retirement Overview

A Member may receive a Disability Retirement benefit if they:

  • Are an active GJRS Member at the time of becoming disabled
  • Are unable to perform their job 
  • Have attained at least four years of Creditable Service 

If you are considering applying for disability retirement, you  should first consult with GJRS and/or your personnel department.

The ERSGA Medical Board evaluates Disability Retirement applications to determine whether a Member is eligible for Disability Retirement based upon the inability to perform the duties of their original position. If the Medical Board determines that the Member is capable of performing regular duties, the Disability Retirement application will be denied. 

If a Member is approved for a Disability Retirement, their benefit will be determined as follows:

  • Four but less than ten years of Creditable Service - 33.33% of Salary
  • Ten years of Creditable Service - 49.77% of Salary

Medical Re-examination Information 
If a Member retires under Disability Retirement, they are subject to medical re-examination annually for the first five years following retirement and every three years thereafter until reaching the age of 60. Refusal to submit to the medical re-examination may result in a discontinuation of benefits until the re-examination occurs. If the refusal continues for one year, all rights to a Disability Retirement benefit under GJRS may be revoked by the GJRS Board of Trustees. 
 
Returning to Gainful Occupation 
If receiving a Disability Retirement benefit, the amount of the Disability benefit may be limited or reduced if the Member works or is able to work in a gainful occupation. 

The Disability benefit a Member receives, plus wages, cannot be greater than the Salary used to calculate the Member’s Disability Benefit. 

11. Death Benefits

The benefits payable to a Member’s beneficiary(ies) upon their death are dependent upon membership date and Spousal Coverage election.

11.1 Membership Prior to July 1, 2012

If a Member elected Spousal Coverage and has made Spousal Contributions for at least 10 years prior to death, and has not stopped making contributions prior to 16 years, their spouse or designated beneficiary will receive a monthly benefit for life. Please see the Handbook section titled Spousal Coverage for more information.

11.2 Membership On or After July 1, 2012 

If a Member with a membership date on or after July 1, 2012 has 10 or more years of Vesting Service at death, their Spouse will receive a monthly benefit for life, calculated as if the Member had retired on the date of death and elected the 50% survivor benefit (Option 3). 

11.3 Other Information

If your spouse or designated beneficiary is not entitled to a monthly pension at your death, the plan provides for a refund of your Employee Contribution Account Balance. 

In all cases, if you and/or your beneficiary have not received payments totaling at least the amount of your Employee Contribution Account at retirement, the balance of the account is refundable.

12. Spousal Coverage

If becoming a Member on or after July 1, 2012, the Member is not eligible for Spousal Coverage. Please see the Handbook sections titled Death Benefits and Optional Forms of Payment for more information.

12.1 Participation

If becoming a Member before July 1, 2012, Spousal Coverage provides a benefit to a Member’s spouse, or in some instances, their designated beneficiary, after the Member’s death. Spousal Coverage is automatic unless rejected within 90 days of becoming a Member.  

If a Member originally rejected or dropped Spousal Coverage due to the death or divorce of their Spouse and later marries or remarries, the Member may elect or resume Spousal Coverage by notifying GJRS in writing within 90 days of marriage. 

If a Member originally rejected Spousal Coverage, they may elect retroactive coverage by notifying GJRS and paying the appropriate retroactive cost for the coverage. 

12.2 Contributions

Spousal Contributions are made through payroll deductions in the amount of 2.5% of a Member’s Earnable Compensation and are deposited to their Employee Contribution Account. Spousal Contributions stop after the Member has paid the contribution for a total of 16 years.

In the event of the death of a Member’s spouse or divorce, they can elect to stop Spousal Contributions by notifying GJRS within 90 days of the spouse’s death or finalization of divorce. If the Member ceases to make Spousal Contributions under this section, there is no return of the Spousal Contributions previously made and any subsequent spouse or beneficiary will not be eligible for a monthly benefit upon the Member’s death unless they once again elect Spousal Coverage and resume Spousal Contributions upon a subsequent marriage.

A Member may continue making contributions after the death or divorce of a spouse and, at retirement, elect a non-spouse beneficiary. If becoming a member before July 1, 2005, a Member can elect a non-spouse beneficiary at any time.

12.3 Spousal Benefit

If a Member is under age 60, has at least 10 years of Spousal Contributions, and was a member of a predecessor system prior to July 1, 1998, a lifetime benefit of 50% of the amount the Member would have received if they continued in service and retired at age 60 will be payable to their spouse.

If a Member’s membership date is on or after July 1, 1998 and death occurs after 10 years of Spousal Contributions but they are younger than 60, a lifetime benefit of 50% of the Member’s benefit calculated as though they were age 60 but based on the actual Creditable Service as of the date of death will be payable to the Member’s spouse. 

At retirement, a person other than a Member’s spouse can be named as beneficiary. The benefit to a non-spouse beneficiary will be actuarially reduced based on the beneficiary’s age.

If becoming a member of GJRS before July 1, 2005, a Member can name a person other than their spouse to receive the spousal benefit at any time.

If your spouse or beneficiary predeceases you, you can name a new beneficiary to receive your spousal benefit.

If you fail to designate a beneficiary, a monthly benefit is not payable, and a refund of your Employee Contribution Account will be paid to your estate.

13. Group Term Life Insurance

Members on July 1, 2002 had the option to elect to be covered under the Group Term Life Insurance (GTLI) benefit.  Members joining GJRS between July 1, 2002 and June 30, 2009 are automatically covered under the GTLI. This coverage is not available if GJRS membership commenced on or after July 1, 2009.

13.1 GTLI Overview

If a Member is actively employed and has GTLI coverage, premiums equal to ¼% of Earnable Compensation are deducted from pay. Premiums for GTLI are not refundable at any time. 

The base GTLI benefit is 18 times monthly Earnable Compensation. However, as a Member gets older, this base benefit is reduced. At age 60, Earnable Compensation is frozen and coverage begins reducing by ½% per month until reaching age 65.  

When retiring, GTLI coverage continues; however, no premiums are paid, and the amount of coverage – regardless of age – is reduced to 70% of the benefit payable at age 60. Disability retirees retain full coverage until age 60, when coverage reduces to 70%. 

13.2 Coverage While on Leave Without Pay (LWOP)

Coverage while on LWOP may be retained by Members with one year of service if a written request is made to ERSGA to continue this coverage. This coverage may be kept for a maximum of four years. Coverage terminates if a written request to continue is not filed with ERSGA. A copy of the GTLI Leave Without Pay Continuation Form can be found here.

Anyone accepting employment outside of state government while on LWOP (other than military service) is not eligible to retain this coverage. Premiums in the amount of 1% of the final monthly salary accumulate each month while on LWOP and are due at the time of retirement, refund, or death.

13.3 GTLI after Termination

If terminating employment prior to retirement with at least 18 years of Creditable Service, GTLI coverage is automatically retained. Premiums in the amount of ½% of the final monthly Salary accumulate each month while vested and are due at retirement, refund, or death. This coverage can be discontinued only by a written request to ERSGA, and premiums will continue to accrue until this request is received by our office. 

If receiving a refund of Employee Contribution Account, coverage in GTLI is terminated. 

14. Refund of Contributions and Interest

A Member may decide to take a refund of their contributions and interest after terminating employment. 

14.1 Refund of C&I Overview

Members of GJRS are required to make Employee Contributions into the System. Members are always 100% vested in their Employee Contributions and any interest earned in their Employee Contribution Account.

For more information about Employee Contributions, please see the Handbook section titled Contributions.

A Member’s Employee Contribution Account Balance includes Employee Contributions, any Spousal Contributions, any Pick Up Contributions made by the Member’s employer, and interest. 

When terminating state employment – regardless of age or years of Creditable Service – a Member is immediately entitled to receive a refund of their Employee Contribution Account Balance in a lump sum payment. Taking a refund, however, has several consequences: 

  • All other benefit rights in the GJRS plan are waived. No other benefits will be payable to the Member or to any beneficiary(ies).  
  • If the Member has 10 or more years of Vesting Service, taking a refund cancels the right to receive a monthly benefit in the future. 
  • Plan membership ends. If later rehired, the Member will become a member again under the terms of the plan in effect at the rehire date. This is true even if the Member later buys back their refunded Creditable Service.  
  • If the Member has GTLI coverage, such coverage is waived when receiving a refund.

For more information about buying back Creditable Service after taking a refund, please see the Handbook section titled Creditable Service, subsection Refund Buyback.

Employer Contributions and contributions you make for GTLI premiums are not refundable.

Note: You can apply for a refund online by accessing your account using the Log In button at the top of any page.

15. Post-Retirement Benefit Adjustments

Each year, the Board of Trustees may consider the grant of a Post-Retirement Benefit Adjustment for retirees.

15.1 Post-Retirement Benefit Adjustment Overview

Each year, the Board of Trustees may consider the grant of a Post-Retirement Benefit Adjustment of up to 3% for retirees. The decision will be based on the long term financial soundness of the pension system. Post-Retirement Benefit Adjustments are not guaranteed and Members should not base any financial decisions on the possibility of a Post-Retirement Benefit Adjustment until an adjustment has been announced.

When a Post-Retirement Benefit Adjustment is approved, it is granted to retirees and beneficiaries who have been receiving retirement benefits for at least seven months.

Employees who first or again become Members of GJRS on or after July 1, 2009 are not entitled to any Post-Retirement Benefit Adjustments after retirement.

16. Benefit Payment Details

Benefit payments are made the last working day of each month. Before the payments can begin, a Member must complete the retirement process and leave State employment.

16.1 Protection of Benefits

Benefits from GJRS are not subject to execution, garnishment, attachment, writ of sequestration, or any other process or claim, except with regard to an IRS levy, court-ordered child support, or court-ordered sanctions due to conviction of certain criminal acts. GJRS benefits are not assignable even with a Domestic Relations Order (DRO).

Benefit payments are made the last working day of each month. Before the payments can begin, you must complete the retirement process and leave state employment.

16.2 Correcting a Benefit Error

The Board of Trustees of GJRS is in charge of all records of the retirement system. If a Member receives more or less than the benefit to which they are entitled due to an error, the error will be corrected upon discovery and the benefit will be adjusted accordingly. With errors, there is a potential for underpayments or overpayments. Underpayments will be made to the Member as soon as possible. For any overpayments, your repayment is required and repayment options will be discussed with the Member. 

16.3 Deductions

Your GJRS retirement benefit is generally not assignable. This means that only limited deductions may be made from your retirement check, such as: 

  • Federal income tax 
  • Georgia state income tax 
  • Health insurance premiums 
  • Dental insurance premiums 
  • GTLI premiums (if applicable) 
  • Some credit unions

16.4 Taxes

Employee Contributions made by a Member are generally contributed to GJRS on an after-tax basis, and the portion of the retirement benefits which are attributable to these Employee Contributions is determined on a pro-rated basis using tables found in the Internal Revenue Code to provide a partial tax exemption each calendar year.  

However, Employee Contributions only provide a small portion of each monthly payment. The majority of the monthly payment is taxable to the retiree and/or beneficiary(ies). When the Employee Contributions are exhausted, the total benefit check is taxable. Each year a 1099-R is issued to every retiree and beneficiary receiving benefits to identify taxable retirement benefits when filing for income taxes. 

Withholding forms (W-4P for federal and G-4P for Georgia state taxes) are included in the retirement packet. Retirees can change their tax withholding and direct deposit elections at any time by accessing their account using the Log In button at the top of any page, or by contacting ERSGA. 

17. Returning to State Employment

17.1 Re-employment after Commencement of Retirement Benefits

If returning to employment for the state, even as an independent contractor, while receiving benefits from GJRS, a Member’s benefits will be suspended if they work over 1,040 hours during any calendar year. 

However, a Member may serve as a member of the General Assembly or serve as a Senior Judge after retiring with no suspension of benefits. Also, former Members of the Trial Judges and Solicitors Retirement Fund (TJSRF) or the Superior Court Judges Retirement System (SCJRS) are not subject to a suspension of their GJRS benefit.

Before you consider returning to work after retirement, we would advise you to discuss the matter with an ERSGA representative and/or a personnel manager.

17.2 Re-employment before Receiving a Refund of Employee Contribution Account Balance

When terminating employment and leaving an Employee Contribution Account with GJRS, a Member has the opportunity to retain their membership rights under GJRS in the event they once again become a Member of GJRS.

17.3 Re-employment after Receiving a Refund of Employee Contribution Account Balance

When a Member receives a refund of their Employee Contribution Account, the Member forfeits any Creditable Service attributable to that same period of employment. 

If the Member once again becomes a Member of GJRS, they may re-establish any prior Creditable Service by making a lump sum payment to GJRS in an amount equal to the refund  originally received, plus 6% interest compounded annually from the date of the refund. Please see the Handbook section titled Service for more information about a Refund Buyback.

18. Designating a Beneficiary

18.1 Actively Employed

All active GJRS Members are strongly encouraged to designate one or more beneficiaries to receive the GJRS benefit which may be payable at the Member’s death. Eligible Members must also designate beneficiary(ies) to receive the Group Term Life Insurance (GTLI) benefit. 

Failure to designate a beneficiary will result in any applicable death benefits for an active Member being paid to the Member’s estate. In certain circumstances, the death benefit payable to a living person beneficiary is larger than the death benefit which may be paid to an estate. Please see the Handbook section titled Death Benefits for more information. 

Members will be asked to designate a primary beneficiary and a contingent (also known as a secondary) beneficiary for both the retirement plan and the GTLI benefit (if applicable). A Member may designate one or more primary and one or more contingent beneficiaries for each benefit. If the Member wants their Estate to be their primary beneficiary, the Member does not need a contingent beneficiary. 

A primary and a contingent beneficiary do not share benefits. A contingent beneficiary will only receive a benefit if there is no surviving primary beneficiary at the time the death benefit is to be paid, or if the primary beneficiary does not survive the Member by at least 32 days. 

Members may designate their retirement plan and GTLI (if applicable) beneficiary(ies) online by accessing their account using the Log In button at the top of any page, or by contacting ERSGA directly. 

Members do not have to designate the same beneficiary for all benefits (retirement plan, GTLI).

18.2 At Retirement

When retiring, Members will be asked to designate the applicable beneficiary(ies) at that time. 

19. Appendix A

19.1 Optional Form Factors

The percentages in the following tables show the proportion of the Maximum Plan Benefit payable to you when choosing a survivor benefit. To calculate the monthly benefit payable under any option, find the percentage relating to your age and your beneficiary’s age as of your retirement date and multiply the Maximum Plan Benefit amount by that factor. For multiple beneficiaries or Member/beneficiary ages not listed in the table, please contact ERSGA.

You can also generate an Estimate of your Retirement Benefit, including optional forms of payment, by accessing your account using the Log In button at the top of any page.

Because of certain limitations under the federal Internal Revenue Code, you might not be eligible to elect the 100% or 66.66% Survivor Benefit under Options 1, 2, 4A, or 4B if you elect a non-spouse beneficiary who is more than 10 years younger than you. If this is applicable, you can still choose the 50% Survivor Benefit under Options 3 or 4C with your chosen beneficiary.

19.2 Option 1: 100% Joint & Survivor Benefit

The following table shows the percentage of the monthly Maximum Plan Benefit as a result of receiving a monthly benefit in the form of Option 1, effective July 1, 2019.

Option 1 Factors
Beneficiary Age Retiring Member’s Age
  60 61 62 63 64 65
55
56
57
58
59
60
61
62
63
64
65
66
67
68
69
70
85.64%
86.11%
86.60%
87.10%
87.60%
88.10%
88.61%
89.12%
89.63%
90.14%
90.65%
91.14%
91.64%
92.12%
92.60%
93.06%
84.47%
84.96%
85.47%
85.99%
86.51%
87.05%
87.58%
88.12%
88.66%
89.20%
89.74%
90.28%
90.81%
91.33%
91.84%
92.34%
83.23%
83.74%
84.27%
84.81%
85.36%
85.92%
86.48%
87.05%
87.62%
88.20%
88.77%
89.34%
89.91%
90.47%
91.02%
91.56%
81.92%
82.45%
83.00%
83.56%
84.13%
84.71%
85.30%
85.90%
86.51%
87.11%
87.72%
88.32%
88.93%
89.53%
90.12%
90.71%
80.55%
81.09%
81.65%
82.23%
82.82%
83.43%
84.05%
84.67%
85.30%
85.94%
86.58%
87.23%
87.87%
88.51%
89.15%
89.77%
79.10%
79.65%
80.23%
80.83%
81.44%
82.07%
82.71%
83.36%
84.02%
84.69%
85.37%
86.05%
86.73%
87.41%
88.09%
88.76%

19.3 Option 2: 66.66% Joint & Survivor Benefit

The following table shows the percentage of the monthly Maximum Plan Benefit as a result of receiving a monthly benefit in the form of Option 2, effective July 1, 2019.

Option 2 Factors
Beneficiary Age Retiring Member’s Age
  60 61 62 63 64 65
55
56
57
58
59
60
61
62
63
64
65
66
67
68
69
70
90.04%
90.38%
90.74%
91.09%
91.45%
91.81%
92.17%
92.53%
92.89%
93.25%
93.61%
93.95%
94.30%
94.64%
94.97%
95.29%
89.08%
89.45%
89.82%
90.20%
90.58%
90.97%
91.36%
91.76%
92.15%
92.53%
92.92%
93.30%
93.68%
94.05%
94.41%
94.76%
88.16%
88.54%
88.93%
89.33%
89.74%
90.15%
90.56%
90.98%
91.39%
91.81%
92.22%
92.63%
93.04%
93.44%
93.83%
94.21%
87.18%
87.58%
87.99%
88.40%
88.83%
89.26%
89.70%
90.14%
90.58%
91.02%
91.46%
91.90%
92.34%
92.77%
93.19%
93.61%
86.13%
86.55%
86.97%
87.41%
87.85%
88.31%
88.77%
89.23%
89.70%
90.17%
90.64%
91.11%
91.57%
92.04%
92.49%
92.94%
85.02%
85.45%
85.89%
86.34%
86.81%
87.28%
87.77%
88.25%
88.75%
89.25%
89.74%
90.24%
90.74%
91.24%
91.73%
92.21%

19.4 Option 3: 50% Joint & Survivor Benefit

The following table shows the percentage of the monthly Maximum Plan Benefit as a result of receiving a monthly benefit in the form of Option 3, effective July 1, 2019.

Option 3 Factors
Beneficiary Age Retiring Member’s Age
  60 61 62 63 64 65
55
56
57
58
59
60
61
62
63
64
65
66
67
68
69
70
92.26%
92.54%
92.82%
93.10%
93.39%
93.68%
93.96%
94.25%
94.53%
94.82%
95.09%
95.37%
95.64%
95.90%
96.16%
96.41%
91.58%
91.87%
92.17%
92.47%
92.77%
93.07%
93.38%
93.69%
93.99%
94.29%
94.59%
94.89%
95.18%
95.47%
95.75%
96.02%
90.85%
91.15%
91.46%
91.78%
92.10%
92.43%
92.75%
93.08%
93.40%
93.73%
94.05%
94.37%
94.69%
95.00%
95.30%
95.60%
90.06%
90.38%
90.71%
91.04%
91.38%
91.72%
92.07%
92.42%
92.76%
93.11%
93.46%
93.80%
94.14%
94.48%
94.81%
95.13%
89.22%
89.56%
89.90%
90.25%
90.60%
90.97%
91.33%
91.70%
92.07%
92.44%
92.81%
93.18%
93.54%
93.91%
94.26%
94.61%
88.33%
88.67%
89.03%
89.40%
89.77%
90.15%
90.54%
90.92%
91.32%
91.71%
92.11%
92.50%
92.89%
93.28%
93.67%
94.04%

19.5 Option 4A: 100% Joint & Survivor Benefit with Pop-up

The following table shows the percentage of the monthly Maximum Plan Benefit as a result of receiving a monthly benefit in the form of Option 4A, effective July 1, 2019.

Option 4A Factors
Beneficiary Age Retiring Member’s Age
  60 61 62 63 64 65
55
56
57
58
59
60
61
62
63
64
65
66
67
68
69
70
84.80%
85.22%
85.64%
86.06%
86.50%
86.93%
87.36%
87.80%
88.24%
88.67%
89.11%
89.54%
89.96%
90.38%
90.80%
91.20%
83.62%
84.05%
84.48%
84.93%
85.38%
85.83%
86.29%
86.75%
87.22%
87.68%
88.14%
88.60%
89.05%
89.50%
89.94%
90.38%
82.37%
82.82%
83.27%
83.73%
84.20%
84.68%
85.16%
85.64%
86.13%
86.62%
87.10%
87.59%
88.08%
88.56%
89.03%
89.50%
81.06%
81.51%
81.98%
82.46%
82.95%
83.45%
83.95%
84.45%
84.97%
85.48%
86.00%
86.51%
87.03%
87.54%
88.04%
88.55%
79.67%
80.14%
80.63%
81.12%
81.62%
82.14%
82.66%
83.19%
83.73%
84.27%
84.81%
85.35%
85.90%
86.44%
86.98%
87.52%
78.22%
78.70%
79.20%
79.71%
80.23%
80.76%
81.30%
81.85%
82.41%
82.97%
83.54%
84.12%
84.69%
85.27%
85.84%
86.41%

19.6 Option 4B: 66.66% Joint & Survivor Benefit with Pop-up

The following table shows the percentage of the monthly Maximum Plan Benefit as a result of receiving a monthly benefit in the form of Option 4B, effective July 1, 2019.

 

Option 4B Factors
Beneficiary Age Retiring Member’s Age
  60 61 62 63 64 65
55
56
57
58
59
60
61
62
63
64
65
66
67
68
69
70
89.32%
89.63%
89.94%
90.25%
90.57%
90.89%
91.20%
91.52%
91.84%
92.15%
92.46%
92.77%
93.07%
93.37%
93.67%
93.96%
88.44%
88.76%
89.09%
89.42%
89.75%
90.09%
90.42%
90.76%
91.09%
91.43%
91.76%
92.09%
92.42%
92.74%
93.06%
93.37%
87.51%
87.84%
88.18%
88.53%
88.88%
89.23%
89.59%
89.94%
90.30%
90.66%
91.01%
91.37%
91.72%
92.07%
92.41%
92.74%
86.52%
86.86%
87.22%
87.58%
87.94%
88.32%
88.69%
89.07%
89.44%
89.82%
90.20%
90.58%
90.96%
91.33%
91.70%
92.06%
85.46%
85.82%
86.19%
86.56%
86.95%
87.33%
87.73%
88.12%
88.52%
88.93%
89.33%
89.73%
90.13%
90.53%
90.92%
91.31%
84.34%
84.71%
85.09%
85.48%
85.88%
86.29%
86.70%
87.12%
87.54%
87.96%
88.39%
88.81%
89.24%
89.67%
90.09%
90.51%

19.7 Option  4C: 50% Joint & Survivor Benefit with Pop-up

The following table shows the percentage of the monthly Maximum Plan Benefit as a result of receiving a monthly benefit in the form of Option 4C, effective July 1, 2019.

Option 4C Factors
Beneficiary Age Retiring Member’s Age
  60 61 62 63 64 65
55
56
57
58
59
60
61
62
63
64
65
66
67
68
69
70
91.77%
92.01%
92.26%
92.51%
92.76%
93.00%
93.25%
93.50%
93.75%
93.99%
94.24%
94.48%
94.71%
94.95%
95.17%
95.40%
91.07%
91.33%
91.59%
91.85%
92.11%
92.37%
92.64%
92.90%
93.17%
93.43%
93.69%
93.95%
94.21%
94.46%
94.70%
94.95%
90.33%
90.60%
90.87%
91.14%
91.42%
91.70%
91.98%
92.26%
92.54%
92.82%
93.10%
93.38%
93.66%
93.93%
94.19%
94.46%
89.53%
89.81%
90.09%
90.38%
90.68%
90.97%
91.27%
91.57%
91.87%
92.17%
92.47%
92.76%
93.06%
93.35%
93.64%
93.92%
88.68%
88.97%
89.27%
89.57%
89.88%
90.19%
90.50%
90.82%
91.14%
91.46%
91.78%
92.09%
92.41%
92.72%
93.03%
93.34%
87.77%
88.08%
88.39%
88.70%
89.02%
89.35%
89.68%
90.01%
90.35%
90.69%
91.03%
91.37%
91.71%
92.04%
92.38%
92.71%