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Death Benefits

If an employee dies while in State service, beneficiaries may receive death benefit payments from the Employees' Retirement System, the Social Security Administration, the Workers' Compensation Board and the M/C Survivors' Benefit Program. Detailed information is available from the Employees' Retirement System and agency personnel offices.

Employees' Retirement System Benefits

The Employees' Retirement System provides its members' beneficiaries with death benefits, the amount and type of which vary according to several factors, including cause of death, age, years of service, and tier membership. When death results from an accident occurring on the job (provided the accident did not result from the employee's negligence), a pension equal to one-half the employee's final average salary (or in some cases, the salary during the last year of active service) is paid to the spouse or certain other eligible beneficiaries as prescribed by law. No minimum period of service is required for eligibility. The benefit may be reduced by the amount of any Workers' Compensation benefit paid.

In the case of an employee whose death is not caused by a job-related accident, the Retirement System pays a lump sum to designated beneficiaries based on the employee's age, years of service, tier membership, and other factors. The first $50,000 of the Ordinary Death Benefit is paid in the form of group life insurance and, as such, is exempt from federal income tax. Formulas for computing the amount of death benefits are detailed in booklets on each retirement tier, available from the Retirement System.

Each employee files a designation of beneficiary upon joining the Retirement System. However, changing life circumstances may call for changes in the designation of a beneficiary. Members may check or change their beneficiary designations by writing to the Employees' Retirement System.

Social Security Survivors Benefits

The family of a deceased employee who is insured by Social Security may be eligible for monthly survivors benefits and an additional one-time lump-sum death payment (in 2000, this amount was $255). The amount of the monthly benefit is a percentage of the monthly amount the deceased worker would have received from Social Security had he or she lived to retire at age 65. Other factors also determine the amount payable to survivors, such as the number and age of dependents, and whether any dependent has a disability. As with all Social Security benefits, there is a limit (maximum family benefit) on the total amount of benefits that all members of one family may receive based on the earnings record of one worker. The survivor's own work earnings may also affect the amount received from Social Security. Contact any Social Security office for more detailed information.

Workers' Compensation Benefits

New York State employees are covered by Workers' Compensation insurance, which provides cash benefits and medical care for employees who become disabled because of job-related injuries or illnesses. If the employee dies from a compensable job-related injury or illness, the surviving spouse and dependents as defined by law are entitled to weekly cash benefits (subject to possible Social Security offsets). The amount is figured as two-thirds of the deceased employee's average weekly wage for the year before the compensable incident up to an established weekly maximum, regardless of how many dependents are involved. (In 2002, the maximum is $400 per week.) Funeral expenses are payable up to $6,000 in New York City and Rockland, Westchester, Nassau and Suffolk Counties. In all other counties the amount is $5,000.

M/C Survivors' Benefit Program

Beneficiaries of M/C employees qualify for a benefit that, when added to the Retirement System's Ordinary Death Benefit, equals one year's salary. The maximum of the two benefits combined may not exceed the lesser of the annual salary or $50,000 or, if the benefit payable is reduced due to the member's age, five times the Ordinary Death Benefit (payable through the Retirement System) for which the employee is eligible.

The M/C Survivors' Benefit Program is authorized by Section 154-a of the Civil Service Law and is administered by the Employees' Retirement System. To qualify, an employee must meet a length of service requirement and die before the effective date of retirement. Questions concerning specifics of this program may be directed to the Survivors' Benefit Program, Employees' Retirement System. (See Directory.)

Accidental Death Benefit

A $50,000 accidental death benefit is provided to the survivors or the estate of M/C employees who die as a result of accidental on-the-job injuries, and for whom death benefits have been paid pursuant to the Workers' Compensation Law. This benefit is in addition to, and does not replace, other State death benefits now provided.

In addition, a special fund has been established to provide the children of employees for whom such benefits have been paid with full tuition, up to the amount charged by the State University of New York, to attend any accredited college or university in New York State. This benefit is authorized by Section 154-c of the Civil Service Law and is administered by individual agencies and the Governor's Office of Employee Relations.

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Updated: September 10, 2010