If you work for an employer such as a city, county, or town government, or a school system, or other entity that offers Virginia Retirement System Disability benefits, you may be able to retire on disability if you are not able to work.  If you are eligible to retire on VRS Disability, you may be qualified to receive a lifetime monthly benefit.  And, if you elect survivorship benefits, your monthly benefit can be transferred to a survivor if you pass away.

Retiring on VRS Disability:  What You Need To Know

  • If your medical impairments qualify you for VRS disability, there are no minimum requirements for you to be a certain age or for you to have worked a certain amount of time before you retire on disability.
  • You MUST apply for VRS disability within 90 days from your last day of working.
  • If you are on leave without pay, you MUST apply within 24 months of when you went on leave.

How To Apply For VRS Disability?

You can access the initial application for VRS Disability at www.varetire.org.

Do You Need Help Completing Your VRS Disability forms?

If you need help completing you VRS Disability forms, you may contact your employer’s Human Resources Office or the Virginia Retirement System at 1-888-827-3847.  However, because the application and other evidence are of utmost importance to your claim, we would recommend that you contact a lawyer who is experienced with VRS claims and can guide you in the application process.

How Is Disability Determined?

To be awarded disability benefits by the Virginia Retirement System, you MUST have a medical impairment that your doctors say is likely to be permanent.  Your medical condition can be from a:

  • Physical illness (physical illnesses include chronic conditions, like diabetes, that are not expected to improve).
  • Injury
  • Cognitive Condition (which is defined as a loss of or deterioration in intellectual capacity. As an example, an Alzheimer’s diagnosis would be a cognitive condition).

The Virginia Retirement System hires physicians to form an independent medical review board to determine whether disability applications should be approved or denied.  The VRS Medical Review Board is made up of board-certified physicians or other healthcare professionals.

After answering the questions above about whether you have a physical illness, injury or cognitive condition, the Medical Review Board will answer the following questions to decide if your claim should be approved:

  • Do they think your condition will be permanent?
  • Are you getting medical treatment for your condition currently?
  • Are you following your medical providers’ instructions?
  • Have you sent all your medical information and records to VRS?
  • Is there enough objective evidence in your medical records to support your disability?
  • Does your diagnosis prevent you from doing your job duties? Your employer will need to send a description of the job duties you had at the time of your disability.
  • Is an independent medical examination necessary? If so, you must attend this examination or your application for benefits may be denied.

What If I Have a Pre-Existing Condition?

If you had your condition before you became employed the position that covered you in VRS, your condition must have significantly worsened and prevented you from working for you to be considered for VRS Disability.

What If My Doctor Won’t Submit My Paperwork?

VRS decides whether to accept or deny your disability claim based on your medical records.  If your physician won’t submit his or her records and other information, you can make a direct request to your doctor for your medical records.  Once you’ve received the records from your doctor, include them with your application.  You will be responsible for paying costs for the medical records copying charges.

Does My Disability Have to Be Caused By My Job?

Absolutely not!  As you can see by the list above, you can be eligible for VRS if you have a physical condition that is not expected to improve and causes you not to be able to work.  Such physical conditions, like diabetes and Crohn’s disease would not be caused by your job.  But, VRS doesn’t require that disability be caused by the employee’s work.

However, there may be additional benefits available for employees whose disability WAS caused by their jobs.  If you have a work-related disability and the Medical Review Board determines approves your VRS disability claim, you are entitled to receive a refund of all of the payments you paid into VRS before your disability.  A work-related disability is defined as an illness or injury that occurred on the job and has been determined to be compensable under the Virginia Workers’ Compensation Act.   To be eligible for work-related VRS disability, confirmation that your workers’ comp claim has been approved will need to be submitted with your VRS application.

How Are My Benefits Paid?

In addition to a lifetime monthly benefit, under VRS Disability, you may ALSO be entitled to:

  • Continuing life insurance coverage, if you had life insurance coverage before retiring on disability;
  • Health insurance credit, which is a tax-free benefit that helps you pay a portion for your own health insurance plan.

If you receive Social Security Disability, your VRS disability benefits will be reduced depending on the amount you receive from Social Security.  VRS uses a formula to determine the amount of the reduction.

If your disability happened on the job and you receive workers’ compensation benefits in addition to your VRS disability, your VRS disability payments will be reduced depending on the amount you receive from workers’ comp.  Again, VRS uses a formula to determine the amount of the reduction.

What Happens If The VRS Review Board Denies Your Claim?

If VRS denies your request for retirement disability, you can appeal to the Circuit Court in the city or county where you live and challenge whether there is enough support in your case for the VRS decision.

Applying for VRS disability can be a complex and time consuming process.  The Ritchie Law Firm has successfully represented clients seeking VRS benefits.  Because the process can be so confusing, it is easy to make errors or leave out something which VRS thinks is important.  Making a mistake on the application or at the independent fact finding level can be disastrous for your claim.

The legal team at the Ritchie Law Firm has the experience to handle your VRS disability case and get you the benefits you are seeking.  Talk to us about your case.  We’ll talk to you for free with no strings attached.  There will be no pressure to hire us if you’d rather handle the case on your own.  But, most importantly, you’ll get the information you need to make sure your VRS disability claim is handled properly without costly mistakes.  Click here or call us today for a free case evaluation.

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