Human Resources » Benefits & Retirement » TCRS » TCRS FAQs

TCRS: Frequently Asked Questions

What Is TCRS?
How can I Estimate My Retirement Benefits in TCRS?
When Do You Become Vested?
What Counts As Service Toward Retirement?
Can I be refunded my TCRS contributions?
What If I Have Withdrawn Service?
Does Military Service Count? 

Can I Count Service Prior to Enrollment?

Is retirement credit granted automatically?
Does my accumulated sick leave count as service?
What about Workers' Compensation credit?
Can I transfer my TCRS membership to the Optional Retirement Program (ORP)?
What if I die before retiring?
What are the death benefit options?
What should I do about keeping your beneficiary designation up to date?
Where can I get my TCRS Annual Statement?

    

 For the complete information regarding Tennessee Consolidated Retirement System (TCRS) check their website.

 

   What Is TCRS?
The Tennessee Consolidated Retirement System (TCRS) is the retirement plan that covers employees of the State of Tennessee, public colleges and universities, and public elementary and secondary schools. All regular employees of the University of Tennessee are eligible to enroll in TCRS.

Regular employees who are classified as exempt staff, faculty, or other academic may enroll in either the TCRS plan or the Optional Retirement Program (ORP).

All regular full-time employees are required, as a condition of employment, to participate in one of the available retirement plans. Enrollment is optional for regular part-time employees. Certain term employees are eligible to enroll upon completion of six months of continuous active service.

Regular employees who are classified as exempt staff, faculty, or other academic may enroll in either the TCRS plan or the Optional Retirement Program (ORP).

All regular full-time employees are required, as a condition of employment, to participate in one of the available retirement plans. Enrollment is optional for regular part-time employees. Certain term employees are eligible to enroll upon completion of six months of continuous active service.

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   How can I Estimate My Retirement Benefits in TCRS?

While you may request an estimate from our office anytime, TCRS has placed a Benefits Calculator on their website which enables you to obtain a rough estimate of your future retirement income at any time. To use the Benefits Calculator, you must have a copy of your latest paycheck stub and a good idea of how much TCRS creditable service you currently have. First, select the following link: TCRS retirement calculator (will open in a new browser)
Please follow these easy steps:

Enter your date of birth
Enter your projected retirement date.
Service Credit at Retirement.
Add your current creditable service plus the time until your projected retirement date.
Add your current sick leave balance
Divide your current sick leave balance listed on your paycheck stub by 160 (160 hours of sick leave = 1 month of creditable service)
Average Final Compensation. This is an average of your highest 5 (full-time) years of salary.
Your beneficiary's date of birth.
Your name
Click Calculate.
Remember: This is only an ESTIMATE of your retirement benefits.

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   When Do You Become Vested?

To receive a benefit from TCRS, you must be vested. The term "vested" means you have accrued five years of full-time creditable service which guarantees you a retirement benefit once age or service requirements are met. However, if you retire prior to age 60 and have less than 10 years of service, your benefits will be reduced by the percentages shown in the following table.

 Years Of Service
 Percent Reduction
 5  -  75%
 6  -  60%
 7  -  45%
 8  -  30%
 9  -  15%
10  -  0%

TCRS is the State of Tennessee retirement plan for employees of The University of Tennessee, the State Board of Regents, and/or other political subdivisions. If you are vested and leave employment covered by TCRS prior to retirement or death, you may retain membership in TCRS until you retire or die.

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   What Counts As Service Toward Retirement?

A year of creditable service is earned for each year of full-time employment during which you are enrolled in the retirement program. Each year of creditable service increases the dollar value of your monthly retirement benefit. If participation ceases during the year, a pro rata portion of a year's credit is earned. If you are employed part-time you will accrue creditable service on a pro rata basis. Faculty earn a full year's credit for each academic year completed. If you were refunded prior contributions and services, a member loses all rights, benefits, contributions and service credit in the retirement system. This service will not count for insurance premiums during retirement. 

You may receive a maximum of one year of service credit per year. Also, you cannot earn credit in TCRS based on service for which you are receiving credit in another publicly supported retirement system.

In addition, the following may qualify as creditable service if the necessary conditions are met.

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   Can I be refunded my TCRS contributions?
Refund of Accumulated Contributions. Any member whose retirement account has been credited with contributions (either employee or employer-assumed employee contributions) who terminated service is eligible to withdraw the funds in his/her retirement account by completing an Application of Member for Refund of Accumulated Contributions form with the Tennessee Consolidate Retirement System..

The refund includes all of the contributions made by the member, the employer-assumed employee contributions (only in the case of a noncontributory member with refundability) plus interest. A member whose service began after the noncontributory provisions went into effect is not eligible for a refund because he/she does not have any contributions in his/her account.

By obtaining a refund, a member loses all rights, benefits, contributions and service credit in the retirement system. This service will not count for insurance premiums during retirement.  A new membership date will be assigned in the event a refunded member subsequently returns to service and becomes a TCRS member.

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   What If I Have Withdrawn Service?

If you were previously a member of TCRS and have withdrawn your accumulated contributions, you may re-establish retirement credit for all periods of service by redepositing the contributions withdrawn plus 7 1/2 % interest per year. Any redeposit may be made in a single payment, or monthly payments for the least of amount of time being re-established or 15 years whichever is less. You must complete at least 12 months of current membership service before you are eligible to make a redeposit. (There is an exception to the establishment of withdrawn service by some part-time employees and employees hired under Comprehensive Employment and Training Act (CETA). You should contact your Human Resources office or the Office of Benefits and Retirement Services regarding this service.)
If you were refunded prior contributions and services, a member loses all rights, benefits, contributions and service credit in the retirement system. This service will not count for insurance premiums during retirement. 

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   Does Military Service Count?

You may establish up to four years of creditable service for military service rendered under the following conditions provided you received a discharge other than dishonorable, and your military service is not credited in any other retirement system including the Uniformed Services Retirement System.

Armed Conflict Service--you may establish credit for service rendered during periods of armed conflict. Such credit may be established free of charge, even if the military service during armed conflict preceded your initial employment with the State or the University.
The designated periods of armed conflict are as follows:

World War I: April 7, 1917 - November 11, 1918

World War II: December 7, 1941 - December 31, 1946

Korean Conflict: June 27, 1950 - January 31, 1955

Vietnam Era: February 28, 1961 - May 7, 1975

Peacetime Service Which Interrupted The University of Tennessee or State Employment--you may establish retirement credit for peacetime service in the armed forces of the United States if you were a member of TCRS prior to entering military service and returned to employment within six months after receiving a discharge. You must make the appropriate retirement contributions in order to establish credit for this service.
You may apply to your Human Resources office or the Office of Benefits and Retirement Services for retirement credit for military service. However, no rights or benefits may be derived from the military credit until you have become vested.

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   Can I Count Service Prior to Enrollment?

If one or more of the following conditions apply, you may receive retirement credit for service prior to your enrollment in TCRS by submitting an application and making the required contributions.

You may establish credit for The University of Tennessee service prior to membership by paying the contributions you would have paid had you been a member plus the interest (currently 7 1/2%).
If you have prior part-time eligible service, you may establish retirement credit without payment of interest if the required contributions are made within one year of your enrollment. If credit is not established within one year, interest at the rate of 7 1/2% will be charged on buy-back contributions.
You may establish credit for service rendered as a temporary or term employee with the State or The University of Tennessee, once you have one full year of creditable service in TCRS.
If you were employed prior to July 1, 1988, and were not permitted to join a retirement plan because you were age 60 or older, you may establish credit for service prior to enrollment.
If you were a teacher, you may establish credit for service rendered in the employment of the State of Tennessee prior to July 1, 1972, including any public teaching service or State service, except as a substitute teacher.
You may establish credit for service as an agricultural county agent or home demonstration agent or assistant provided you are not receiving credit for this period of service in any other public retirement system, including the Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS) and the Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS).
You may establish credit for service as a member of the General Assembly or as a delegate to the State Constitutional Convention.
If you were a public school teacher or a full-time state employee in a state other than Tennessee, you should contact your local Human Resources office or the Office of Retirement and Benefits Services for information regarding possible establishment of credit for retirement eligibility.

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   Is retirement credit granted automatically?

A formal request for approval must be submitted to the Office of Retirement and Benefits Services in accordance with
Personnel Policy 335, Educational Leave.

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   Does my accumulated sick leave count as service?

Unused sick leave will count toward your creditable service. For example, an employee who has 28 years of creditable service and two years of unused sick leave can qualify for service retirement with 30 years service. Unused annual leave which has been transferred to sick leave may be included. The accumulated sick leave must be documented by sick leave records and applies only to persons who accumulate sick leave under the University's sick leave plan as stated in
Personnel Policy 380 (pdf).

Each 20 days of unused sick leave equals one month of creditable service. Remaining days, if 10 or more, will be counted as a full month.

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   What about Workers' Compensation credit?

Any TCRS member who receives a temporary disability benefit from the Division of Claims Administration or under a workers' compensation program shall be entitled to establish retirement credit for this period of absence from service. The member must return to active service or retire immediately following cessation of the temporary disability benefits. No member shall be granted retirement credit in excess of one (1) year per occurrence of temporary disability. To receive credit for workers' compensation leave, an application must be made through the Office of Benefits and Retirement Services.

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   Can I transfer my TCRS membership to the Optional Retirement Program (ORP)?

If you are classified as faculty, other academic, or staff exempt, and you are a member of TCRS, you may transfer membership to the ORP. To do so, you must complete the necessary forms and submit them to your Human Resources office or the Office of Benefits and Retirement Services.

Funds in your contributory member account at TCRS, if any, may also be transferred to the ORP. Your request for transfer of funds must be submitted to your Human Resources office or the Office of Retirement Benefits Services and approved by TCRS. The transfer, after being approved, will be made within 90 days.

If you are in a non-exempt position that is reclassified as an exempt position, you are eligible to transfer your TCRS membership to the ORP. The transfer, if requested within 90 days following your reclassification, may be effective immediately without securing TCRS approval.

Counseling with respect to these transfers is available from your Human Resources office or the Office of Benefits and Retirement  Services, who can also provide a comparison of estimated retirement benefits.

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   What if I die before retiring?

If you should die before you retire and are active in TCRS membership at the time of death, your designated beneficiary may be entitled to one of the death benefit options listed below. If you have no accumulation in your member account, the lump-sum payment option is not available and your spouse is the only person who can receive monthly benefits until you become eligible for full-service retirement.

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   What are the death benefit options?

100% Joint and Surviving Spouse Benefit After Ten Years Service--If you have ten years or more of creditable service and die while in service, your surviving spouse is automatically eligible for a 100% joint and survivor monthly benefit, provided your spouse is named as your beneficiary. The benefit is computed as if you had retired on the date of your death.
100% Joint and Survivor Benefit for any Beneficiary --This option will provide a 100% joint and survivor benefit for your designated beneficiary, if you die while still employed by The University of Tennessee or another State agency. When you, as a vested member, meet the conditions for service retirement (age 60 and vested or 30 years of service), you may designate a beneficiary other than a spouse. Estates, institutions, and multiple beneficiaries can receive only a lump-sum payment; they are not eligible to receive monthly benefits.
Line of Duty Death Benefit--A retirement allowance will be paid to your surviving spouse if your death is the result of an accident in line of duty and your surviving spouse is your designated beneficiary. This allowance will be coordinated with other benefits payable by the Board of Claims, Claims Commission, or Social Security, including any payments from Social Security for minor children.
Lump-Sum Benefit--If you have creditable service before July 1, 1981, your designated beneficiary is entitled to a lump-sum payment. Any lump-sum benefit to which your beneficiary is entitled may be taken as a single payment, or if you completed ten years creditable service prior to your death, a monthly retirement allowance may be paid to your beneficiary. This allowance is determined by converting the lump-sum death benefit into a monthly income payable for a period not to exceed 120 months.
If you have been in active pay status at any time within 120 days prior to your death and have not retired, your designated beneficiary or estate will receive a matching refund. The total refund would then be double the amount of the contributions accumulated in your individual member account. If your total TCRS creditable service is after July 1, 1981, your beneficiary would not be entitled to a lump-sum benefit.

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   What should I do about keeping your beneficiary designation up to date?

It is important to keep your beneficiary designation updated. Your TCRS beneficiary can be an individual, your estate, an institution, or more than one person. Secondary or contingent beneficiaries are not permitted. If your circumstances change, review your designation so that benefits will be paid to the desired beneficiary. You may change you beneficiary at any time by submitting a TCRS Change of Beneficiary form to your Human Resources Office or the Office of Benefits and Retirement Services for transmittal to TCRS.
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 Where can I get my TCRS Annual Statement?

Great news! TCRS Member Self-Service (MSS) is now available! This new, online functionality will allow you to:

Update your TCRS contact information
View your entire TCRS account history
Retrieve your member annual statement
Maintain your TCRS beneficiary information

The attached flyer shows you how to register, retrieve your annual statement, and view/update your beneficiary information.
Your account history screen may reflect additional service in the fiscal year beginning July 1, 2014 for overtime or bonuses; we will be correcting any overstated service credit in the near future. Those employees who have previously refunded their contributions may have difficulty logging into MSS; we are working on a resolution.
For assistance with Member Self-Service, navigate to http://tcrs.tn.gov and access the Member Self-Service User Guide or demonstration video available under the Concord tab. You may also call 800-770-8277, option 8 with questions.
Higher Education employees, please note: ORP members are not TCRS participants and will not be able to register for a TCRS Member Self-Service account

AboUT You 

RESOURCES:

Campus/Institute Contacts:
Chattanooga   
Family Practice- Chatt. 
Health Science Center  
Knoxville Area    
Martin   
UTSI    
UT Memorial Hospital

SEND FORMS TO:
Deferred Compensation (401k, 457, 403b) Forms:
     Total Rewards/ Benefits & Retirement Office
     600 Henley St, #115
     Knoxville, TN  37996-4115

Insurance Forms:
     Insurance & Retirement
     P115 Andy Holt Tower
     1331 Circle Park
     Knoxville, TN  37996-0100

Retirement Forms:
     Total Rewards/ Benefits & Retirement Office
     600 Henley St, #115
     Knoxville, TN  37996-4115

Other Links:
Deferred Compensation (State site)
Deferred Compensation (Empower Retirement site)
Optional Retirement Program (ORP State site)
Tennessee Consolidated Retirement System (TCRS State site)
Office of Personnel Management- OPM (CSRS & FERS)