National Association of State Retirement Administrators

Analysis of Disability Benefits in Public Retirement Plans


Public retirement systems typically administer pension, disability, and survivor benefits in accordance with the plan sponsor’s public employee benefits policy. Just as pension benefits are intended to promote a high level of public service through the recruitment and retention of a professional workforce, so are disability benefits intended to achieve this same goal by providing retirement income security to public employees who are unable to work for an extended period. The provision of disability benefits is consistent with a sound public retirement plan design that promotes key stakeholder objectives; this is particularly true for those employees whose occupations involve hazardous or public safety duties.

Disability benefits for public employees have been modified at some systems in recent years, often resulting in a tiered structure, in which benefits vary based on the employee’s date of hire. Although the data compiled from approximately 100 statewide public retirement systems in the U.S. reflected in this Analysis includes some information on benefit levels under tiers that are now closed, this narrative, and most of the data, pertains to the benefits in place for employees hired today.

Date published

July 2019


Keith Brainard, Research Director
Alex Brown, Research Manager

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