FAQs for Retirees

Frequently asked Questions for Retirees on everything from changing address, deposits, etc.

Retirees

  • Who should I call with questions concerning my health insurance?

    City of Austin Human Resources (HR) currently provides basic medical, dental and vision coverage to City of Austin retirees and dependents. If you sign up for these benefits at retirement, your share of the premiums are deducted from your monthly benefit payment and sent to the City for you.

    You can reach City HR at (512) 974-3284. Their office is located in One Texas Center, 505 Barton Springs Road, Suite 600, Austin, TX 78704.

  • Can I change my Benefit Payment Option?

    You cannot change your payment option or your survivor after retirement. Even if you and your spouse divorce after retirement, you cannot name another survivor. Your COAERS $10,000 taxable death benefit, however, and your City $1,000 life insurance benefits can always be updated and changed.

  • Can I return to work for the City?

    If you are rehired with the City of Austin and have an employment status other than a regular full-time employee, you can work up to 1,508 hours in any rolling 12-month period while receiving your retirement benefit. If the hours you work exceed 1,508 hours in any rolling 12-month period, your benefit payment will be suspended.

    If you are under 55 years of age at retirement, you must wait 90 days after your retirement date to return to work, and you cannot have a pre-determined rehire agreement to return to work for the City. Otherwise, your benefit payment will be suspended for the duration of your reemployment.

    If a retiree goes to work in a job that is not with the City, it does not affect your beneft.

  • How do I update my account information?

    How do I update my address?

    Retirees and vested members who are not currently working for the City must submit address changes in writing. You can print out a Change of Address form, or our office can provide one to you.

    How do I update my direct deposit information?

    You can print and fill out an Authorization Agreement for Direct Deposit, or our office can provide one to you.

    How do I change my federal income tax withholding?

    You can print and fill out an IRS Form W-4P Withholding Certificate for Pension Payments, or our office can provide one to you.

    The original signed forms should be either mailed or dropped off at our office. For security reasons, we do not accept these changes over the phone, via fax, or email.

  • Will I receive a Cost Of Living Adjustment (COLA)?

    Each year, the Board of Trustees obtains a report from its actuary concerning the feasibility of a cost of living adjustment. By law, an adjustment can be granted only if the actuary recommends it and certifies in writing that the adjustment would likely be sustainable. Again this year, the actuary could not recommend a cost of living adjustment. Accordingly, the Board and City Council cannot legally authorize an adjustment.

    The ongoing loss of purchasing power for retirees continues to be of concern to the Board of Trustees. They have worked diligently over the past year to develop a comprehensive funding policy to both set forth the mechanics of measuring the financial health of the System and outline the conditions under which a cost-of-living increase could be considered. The Board adopted the policy at their November 25, 2014 meeting.

    As the financial condition of the System improves, it is anticipated that there may be competing interests and the funding policy seeks to establish a hierarchy of priorities. The first priority, as established by the Board, is to restore regular cost-of-living adjustments for retirees, but only when the System is on solid financial footing. This translates to a funded level of at least 80% with an amortization period of 20 years or less after adding the liabilities for continuing adjustments. To understand the actuarial jargon, it is helpful to think of this like your home it's like saying you will make improvements to your home only when it is at least 80% paid for and the remainder will be paid off in 20 years or less.

    It is important to note that the City Council controls the supplemental contributions they are making to support the retirement system. But the COAERS Board of Trustees has established that they would only give their support to a reduction in contributions if the Retirement System is 105% funded and retirees are receiving annual cost-of-living adjustments.

    Likewise, the Texas Legislature controls benefit provisions, but the Board would only support increases in benefits (such as a decrease in retirement age, or a multiplier increase) if the Retirement System is 120% funded or greater, retirees are already receiving annual cost-of-living adjustments, and the required City contribution rate is less than or equal to eight percent.

    Even with the funding policy in place, the point in time at which a cost-of-living adjustment can be recommended remains uncertain; but we are on a path that will eventually achieve that goal. A copy of the complete funding policy is available at this link.

  • My spouse/survivor has died, what do I need to do?

    Please call our office at (512) 458-2551 as soon as possible to report the death of your survivor. If you selected a joint and survivor option at retirement (Option I, II, III) but not a joint and last survivor option (Option IV), your monthly benefit payment will increase or “pop up” to your life annuity amount. The increase occurs only after we receive your beneficiary's certified death certificate, and is not retroactive to the date of death.

  • I need help deciding what is best for me and my family. What type of advice does your staff provide?

    COAERS staff will advise you concerning the benefits available to you and your family. COAERS does not provide advice or recommendations concerning financial, estate planning, tax, investment, or legal issues. You should consult with qualified independent professionals regarding these issues.

  • What happens if I get a divorce?

    Texas is a community property state, so any COAERS benefits you earn during marriage may be divided by a court in a divorce proceeding. If, during a divorce proceeding, it is determined that you will keep 100% of your COAERS benefit, we do not need any paperwork from you. However, if it is determined that you and your spouse will be dividing your COAERS benefit, you will need to submit a Qualified Domestic Relations Order (QDRO). A QDRO is a special legal order which is signed by the judge who has jurisdiction over your divorce. It tells us what portion of your retirement contributions or monthly retirement benefit to pay to your spouse and the form of payment (lump sum or annuity) after your divorce is final.

    For COAERS to pay benefits to a former spouse (also called an alternate payee), the QDRO must meet specific requirements. QDROs that do not meet COAERS requirements will not be honored, which could result in delays and additional legal costs. A model QDRO form is available on the link below for attorneys to use to draft the QDRO correctly. It is strongly recommended that you or your attorney present the QDRO to us prior to the finalization of your divorce. Our Member Services Specialists are also available to discuss the effects a QDRO can have on your contributions or monthly retirement benefit. Just contact us to set up an appointment.

    To view the COAERS Board Approved Policy on QDROS, follow this link. For a Sample QDRO form, click here.

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