Disability Retirement Benefit
If you become seriously disabled before you retire or reach age 65 (whichever is earlier), you may be eligible for a disability retirement benefit under the Clergy Pension Plan.
Your physician, your bishop, and Liberty Mutual*, which has been designated as The Church Pension Fund Medical Board for the Clergy Pension Plan, must agree that your disability is total and continuing and that you are unable to work. Your case may be reviewed annually until you reach age 65. If your condition improves after one year to the point where you can return to work part-time, you may be eligible to receive a reduced disability retirement benefit, subject to the approval of your bishop and Liberty Mutual. If your condition has not improved by the time you reach age 65, normal retirement benefits will commence and continue for life.
How Your Disability Benefit Is Determined
The disability retirement benefit is calculated using the Normal Retirement formula which is based on your Highest Average Compensation (HAC) and Credited Service (CS), provided you are eligible. It also may provide an enhanced benefit to supplement the basic disability retirement benefit until age 65. Please note that the disability retirement benefit is payable only to you, not to your surviving spouse. See Survivor’s Benefits for information on the benefits available to eligible surviving spouses.
Basic Disability Benefit
- If you are active when you become disabled, the basic disability benefit is determined by the formula for Normal Retirement, based on your Highest Average Compensation (HAC) and Credited Service (CS) projected to age 65.
- If you are inactive and vested when you become disabled, the basic disability benefit is based on your HAC and CS earned up to the date you stopped being an active participant in the Clergy Pension Plan.
If you are still receiving a disability retirement benefit at the time you reach age 65, your disability retirement benefit will be reclassified as a normal retirement benefit. At that time, you will be allowed to select a payment option for your surviving spouse, and the amount of your normal retirement benefit will be adjusted based on the payment option you select.
If you are an active participant at the time of your disability, you may be eligible to receive a disability enhancement. If you qualify, the basic disability benefit plus the enhancement generally will equal 70% of your total compensation prior to the onset of disability. When you reach age 65, the disability enhancement will cease.
If you are receiving a basic disability benefit from the Clergy Pension Plan, you may also receive a monthly “bridge benefit” to help cover the cost of medical expenses. This monthly bridge benefit equals $17.50 times the number of years of earned plus projected CS. The bridge benefit is paid until you become Medicare-eligible at age 65 or earlier, if you become eligible for Medicare before reaching age 65.
The Rev. M. Runner was injured in an accident at age 56, with 20 years CS and HAC of $50,000. He was an active participant in the Clergy Pension Plan at the time of his accident. His physician has determined that he has a total and continuing disability and will no longer be able to work. His bishop and Liberty Mutual have agreed with his diagnosis.
Because he was an active participant at the time he became disabled, Father Runner will receive nine (9) additional years of CS, as if he was an active participant to age 65, meaning that a total of 29 years of CS will be used to determine his basic disability benefit. Let’s assume that his HAC of $50,000 is also his current income and that he does not become eligible for Medicare before age 65.
Father Runner's disability retirement benefit will be calculated as follows.
First, his annual basic disability benefit is calculated using the formula for normal retirement:
$50,000 x 1.6% x 29 = $23,200
$10,000 x 1.15% x 29 = $3,335
Annual Basic Disability Benefit (including projected Credited Service) = $26,535
The annual basic disability benefit is adjusted as follows:
|Before age 65||Age 65 and above|
|Step 1 - Annual Basic Benefit||$26,535||$26,535|
|Step 2 - Annual Disability Enhancement|
|Step 3 - Annual Bridge Benefit|
Annual bridge benefit
|Annual disability retirement benefit||$41,000||$26,535|
The process of applying for Social Security disability benefits can be daunting and confusing. To assist with this process, the Church Pension Fund has contracted with Allsup to help you apply for benefits, at no cost to you, once you have been approved by Liberty Mutual to receive a disability retirement benefit. Access to Allsup is also available to assist your spouse and dependent children.
Applying for Disability Retirement
To apply for this benefit, you or your designated representative should call Client Services at (866) 802-6333, Monday through Friday, 8:30AM - 8:00PM ET (excluding holidays). If you believe that you have been denied a benefit that you are due under the Clergy Pension Plan, you have the option to file an appeal. Download information on the claims and appeals process.
The information on this page relates only to clergy who are canonically resident in the United States. If you are canonically resident in a non-domestic diocese, please contact Client Services for details about your benefit.
*The Liberty Mutual Assurance Company of Boston (Liberty Mutual)