State Retirement System of Illinois

JB Pritzker, Governor

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   Tier 1 Retiree/Survivor Frequently Asked Questions   


Q: May I work after I retire and still receive my state pension?

A: Yes, with a few limitations. First, if you work in the private sector, your pension is not affected. Second, if you return to the State in a permanent position, your pension stops immediately. Third, if you are employed by the state as a temporary employee and paid on a state payroll, you are limited to 75 working days in a calendar year. Any part of a day is considered a day worked. If you participated in the 2002 ERI, you are restricted from returning to work with the state on a contractual service basis. Retirees who didn't participate in the ERI may work contractually.

Q: If I retire and receive pension payments amounting to more than my contributions, will my spouse still be entitled to survivor benefits if I die?

A: Regardless of the pension payments made to you, your spouse will be entitled to a survivor benefit, assuming he/she is otherwise qualified.

Q: What is the Retirement Systems' Reciprocal Act?

A: The Retirement Systems' Reciprocal Act provides that if an employee has at least one year of pension credits established in more than one Retirement System covered under the Reciprocal Act will be considered together at the time of retirement or death of an employee. The purpose of the Act is to ensure full and continuous pension credit for service in public employment in the State of Illinois, and the transfer of employment from one governmental unit to another.

Q: I contributed to SERS and Social Security. When I retire, will my SERS benefit be reduced because of Social Security?

A: No, there is no SERS offset. However, if your pension is calculated using service not covered by Social Security, this service may affect your Social Security benefit. Contact the Social Security Administration for more information.

Q: What is the Level Income option?

A: The Level Income option allows an employee who is coordinated with Social Security to increase their SERS retirement benefit prior to becoming eligible for Social Security benefits. When the retiree qualifies for Social Security, their SERS benefit is reduced. This allows an individual to have a more constant income during their retirement years.

Q: Will my pension benefit cease after I have received payments equal to the contributions I made to SERS as an active employee?

A: No. Pension benefits are payable to a retired member for life, regardless of contributions.

Death/Survivor Benefits

Q: I am receiving a pension from SERS. If I die, what should be done with that month's pension check?

A: A pension check is due you or your estate for the full month in which your death occurs.

Q: How can I determine who I have listed as my beneficiaries?

A: We can't give you this information over the phone because of confidentiality reasons. A verification letter can be sent to your address with a list of your beneficiaries from our database.

Q: Can I call our office and request that a portion of my contributions designated to a deceased beneficiary go to the children of the deceased beneficiary?

A: No. This can only be done by submitting a new beneficiary form to our office.

Q: At the time of my death, how long will my eligible survivor receive monthly benefits?

A: A survivor remains eligible to receive benefits until death. A child remains eligible until age 18 (22 if attending school full-time), or the child marries. Disabled adults may continue to receive benefits as long as their disability continues and they aren't gainfully employed.

Q: If my spouse is working at the time of my death and is qualified to receive a survivor benefit, could he/she receive the monthly benefit and continue working regardless of where the employment is?

A: Yes, your spouse may work and qualify for survivor benefits.

Q: At the time of my death, if my spouse qualifies for a survivor's benefit, who should he/she contact to apply?

A: In the event of your death, your spouse should contact SERS to begin the process of receiving death benefits.

Q: If my wife and I both receive a state pension from SERS and one of us dies, will the surviving spouse continue to receive their pension and also be entitled to receive survivor benefits?

A: If the surviving spouse qualifies for survivor benefits, they would be entitled to receive their pension and survivor benefits.

Q: As a SERS member contributing to Social Security, would my survivor benefit be offset by Social Security benefits?

A: If a member contributed to Social Security for at least 18 months prior to their death, the SERS benefit will be reduced by one-half of the benefit the survivor is eligible to receive from Social Security at age 60. Depending upon the member's date of death, the offset could be reduced by the amount the survivor is eligible to receive on their own account at age 62.

Q: Can my pension benefit be divided because of a divorce?

A: Yes, if a Qualified Illinois Domestic Relations Order has been issued by an Illinois Court. A QILDRO does not establish a new benefit, nor does it create a new member or beneficiary.
Generally, the QILDRO orders the payment of a benefit to the spouse as the alternate payee. It may also be payable to a child or other dependent as the alternate payee. The QILDRO does not apply to survivor annuities, or disability benefits. ( To download information and forms for a QILDRO, click here.)


Q: How can I change my federal income tax withholding?

Changes in withholding require completion of a new W-4P or you may submit the change in writing. The written request should include your name, last 4 digits of Social Security number, and written signature along with the changes requested. SERS is unable to accept any request to change taxes via a phone call.

Q: What types of taxes are deducted from my SERS benefit?

A: Benefits paid by SERS (with the exception of occupational disability or monthly occupational death benefits) are considered ordinary income and are subject to federal withholding income tax. Benefits paid by SERS are exempt from Illinois tax.

Q: Even though I don't pay State of Illinois tax on my benefit, can I have it withheld?

A: Yes. Upon request, SERS will provide a form for Illinois income tax withholding on which you may elect any dollar amount.

Q: I completed a W-4P for withholding, but nothing is being deducted. Why?

A: Federal withholding tax is deducted according to the tax table provided by the IRS. Allowances are made for your marital status, number of exemptions, plus any nontaxable income. If, after these allowances, your taxable gross income is below the minimum required for withholding, nothing is deducted; however if you want taxes withheld, you may designate a percentage or dollar amount withheld monthly.

Direct Deposit

Q: How do I sign up for Direct Deposit?

A: A SERS Depository Agreement Form must be completed to participate in Direct Deposit. This form is available through our website or by calling 217-524-8806 to receive a form by mail.

Q: How long does it take for Direct Deposit to take effect?

SERS updates financial institutions information at the beginning of each month. Although the date fluctuates slightly each month, generally speaking if the Depository Agreement form is received by the 6th of the month, Direct Deposit becomes effective that same month.

Q: I signed up for Direct Deposit and received my first benefit payment in the mail. Why?

A: The first benefit payments is sent by regular mail. Direct Deposit usually starts with the second payment provided that the Depository Agreement Form is received and all information is accurate.

Q: Will I receive a payment stub when I sign up for Direct Deposit?

Once your benefit is processed through Direct Deposit, you can securely view your monthly earnings statement through the SRS Member Services website. To view your account information, you may register through our website at and navigate to the link “View PDF version on how to secure an ID”. You will find the instructions for the one-time registration process that must be completed to access your account information online.

Q: When are the monthly checks deposited electronically?

Monthly payments are deposited on the 19th of each month. If the 19th falls on a holiday or weekend, the deposit is made the last business day before the 19th. Note: Temporary Total Disability (TTD) benefits are deposited on the 28th of the month. If the 28th falls on a holiday or weekend, the deposit is made the last business day before the 28th.

Q: I am receiving disability benefits. Can my check be electronically deposited?

Yes. All types of Disability benefits may be deposited electronically, including TTD (combined Workers’ Compensation) benefits.

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