General Information

  • Is membership required for all new employees?

Full-Time Employees
Membership in a contributory retirement system is mandatory for nearly all public employees who are regularly employed on a full-time basis.

Part-Time and Other Employees
Each retirement board exercises full jurisdiction to determine an employee's eligibility for membership in cases involving part-time, provisional, temporary provisional, seasonal, or intermittent employment or service.

Certain part-time, seasonal, or temporary employees who are ineligible for membership may be required to participate in an alternative plan.

  • For whom is membership optional?

Membership is optional for certain individuals:

    • elected officials,
    • state officials appointed by the governor, and
    • dentists or physicians employed as hospital interns may elect to become members within 90 days of commencement of service.
  • Who is excluded from membership?

Except in very limited circumstances, persons who are retired from one of the 104 public retirement systems in Massachusetts cannot join another Massachusetts public retirement system. You may also be excluded if you are paid through a federal grant for a position for which you are required to be a member of the Federal Civil Service Retirement System.

Please Note
You are not barred from membership if you previously worked under the Federal Civil Service Retirement System. If you receive retirement benefits from the Federal Civil Service Retirement System and also from a retirement system under Chapter 32, the latter benefit will be limited to a certain maximum.

As noted above, a retirement board has the discretion to exclude from membership part-time, provisional, temporary, temporary provisional, seasonal or intermittent employees.

Membership Status

Membership status is defined in two ways in the retirement law: "member-in-service," and "member-inactive."

Any member who is regularly employed in the performance of his or her duties is considered a member-in-service. Member-in-service status will continue until death or until separation becomes effective by reason of retirement, resignation, failure of re-election or re-appointment, or removal or discharge from office or position.

Members-in-service become members-inactive when they:

  • retire and receive a retirement allowance; or
  • when their employment has been terminated and they are entitled to any present or potential retirement allowance or a return of accumulated deductions; or
  • when they are on an authorized leave of absence without pay for a reason other than retirement board duties or mental or physical incapacity from duty which extends for more than a year; or
  • upon the expiration of their term if they are elected officials who are not re-elected.

Dual Membership

  • What if I am employed by more than one governmental unit?

Special rules apply if you are concurrently employed by two or more governmental units which have established contributory retirement systems subject to the provisions of Chapter 32.  You may, subject to the boards’ rules, become a member of each system, with appropriate deductions being taken from each payroll. Depending on a variety of factors, you may be eligible to receive a retirement allowance from each system, or a retirement allowance comprised of the years and regular compensation you have earned from both systems together.  

  • When may my service for two different retirement systems be combined together into one retirement allowance?

When a person is a dual member of two or more different retirement systems, and has received regular compensation from two or more systems concurrently on or after January 1, 2010, the retirement board will need to conduct a special analysis to determine whether the member will be eligible to combine the salary and service from the two or more different systems together, or whether a member will need to retire separately from each system. This will depend upon a number of factors, including the length of time the concurrent service lasted, the amount the member was paid in each system, and whether the years in question will be the five years immediately preceding a member’s superannuation retirement allowance becoming effective.  

  • If I am eligible to have an allowance combining the years and salary of two or more different systems, will my total benefit be twice as large as that received by someone employed by one governmental unit?

No. If you are eligible for the combined type of allowance, available, as noted above, in extremely limited circumstances, the total benefit received from such dual membership cannot exceed the amount you would have received had your total regular compensation been received from a single governmental unit. You cannot be credited with more than one year of creditable service during any one calendar year.

For example, an eligible employee who has membership in two systems, with six months of service in one system and 12 months of service in another system, and the service is concurrent, will be credited with 12 months of service, not 18. The boards of the systems involved will determine how much creditable service shall be allowed by each board, subject to the approval of PERAC.

  • What if I do not meet the requirements, and cannot have dual membership service combined when I retire?

If that is the case, provided you are vested in one of the retirement systems, then you would be entitled to be retired from the two retirement systems separately, or would be entitled to retire from one of the systems and get your money returned to you from the system in which you had the lesser amount of money.

  • Can I retire from one governmental unit but continue to be employed by another governmental unit?

You may terminate your service and apply for a retirement allowance in one system and continue in a second. However, no pension or retirement allowance shall become effective on account of your service in the first system until the date that you terminate service in the second.

  • Dual Membership: Disability Retirement from One System

If you are eligible to receive a disability retirement from one system, your disability pension or retirement allowance will not become effective until you terminate your service from the second system. Until such termination, you will be required to waive the receipt of your disability benefit.

  • Are there special provisions for dual members after January 1, 2010?

As noted above, in 2009 a different calculation formula for certain dual members was established as part of pension reform.  This special calculation will be utilized only if certain specific conditions are met.  A person has to have received regular compensation from two or more systems on or after January 1, 2010; the dual membership period has to have lasted beyond 60 days; and the dual membership has to have occurred in the 5 years of creditable service immediately preceding a members’ superannuation retirement under Section 5 of Chapter 32.  Other limitations and exceptions to this dual membership provision apply.  Please consult with your retirement board for further information.

Transfer of Service and Deductions

  • What effect does transferring have on creditable service and accumulated total deductions?

Career Changes
Career changes of public employees may entail a transfer from a job presently held to a new job in a different governmental unit within a different retirement system. The accumulated total deductions and corresponding creditable service of members involved in such a change must be transferred from the former retirement system to the new retirement system, except in certain circumstances involving concurrent service on or after January 1, 2010.

Retirement After a Transfer of Service
When members who have transferred receive a retirement allowance, the entire amount will be paid by the retirement system from which they retire. The retirement system of which he or she was formerly a member will reimburse the current retirement system for the portion of the retirement allowance that is based on his or her previous service. Of note, in circumstances involving dual members who had concurrent service on or after January 1, 2010, such a transfer will not take place.   

Statements of Service

  • Must I furnish my retirement board with information about any past public sector employment?

Yes. Within one year of becoming a member of a public employee retirement system, (whether you have been restored or reinstated to public service or you have transferred or re-established membership), you must file a detailed statement of all the public service that you have rendered for which you wish to claim credit.

  • Will my retirement board verify my prior service?

Yes. Within six months of receipt of your statement of service, your retirement board will review and verify all the service that you claim.

Creditable Service
If the retirement board determines that you are entitled to creditable service for which you have not yet made make-up payments, the retirement board will inform you in writing of your right to purchase all or part of such service. If you elect to purchase the service, you will be required to pay interest on the amount repaid. If you purchase the service within one year of reinstatement or re-entry into service, the interest rate will be buyback interest (one half of the assumed actuarial interest rate for the System). If the payment is not made within that time, the interest rate will be the full amount of the System's assumed actuarial interest. Your Retirement Board may allow you to enter into an installment payment plan.

NOTE: Generally, the rate of assumed actuarial interest is between 7.75% and 8.50%, depending on the funding mechanism the Retirement Boards has adopted.

Board Review at Retirement
At the time you retire, your retirement board is charged with the responsibility of again reviewing your statement of service and again informing you in writing of your right to purchase service.

Date published: July 1, 2015

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