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May 3, 2012

June 15 deadline for staff early retirement plan

Pitt is offering a one-time-only voluntary early retirement program (VERP) for classified staff who are age 59 or older as of April 1 and have completed 10 years of continuous full- or part-time employment. Eligible participants for VERP include those who already are eligible under the University’s established retirement options.

Those employees not eligible include non-classified (union) staff, All Temps, temporary employees, faculty, faculty librarians, postdoctoral associates, postdoctoral scholars and research associates.

Under VERP provisions, eligible enrollees agree to retire on or before June 30, 2012, and relinquish permanently all opportunities to be re-employed by the University in any capacity.

Classified staff who meet the criteria at any of the five Pitt campuses are eligible to enroll, but must do so in writing by June 15. Informational packages with the required enrollment election form and program information have been mailed to the home address of all eligible staff members — about 650 or close to 9 percent of all classified staff — according to Human Resources officials.

Officials stressed that the plan is strictly voluntary, and encouraged eligible enrollees to obtain the information necessary to make an informed decision.

“You are encouraged to talk to your family members and your own personal advisers as you consider whether to participate in the VERP,” said Ron Frisch, associate vice chancellor of Human Resources.

Potential enrollees also are encouraged to attend one or more of the HR presentations hosted by the Benefits team, representatives from the University’s retirement partners (TIAA-CREF and Vanguard) and medical insurance providers.

(For the schedule of HR presentations, see calendar.)

However, Frisch said, “Because retirement and your financial planning is a personal decision, the hosts and representatives presenting at the informal presentations cannot and will not give you personal advice or make recommendations about what you should do personally. The decision is yours.”

Pitt Benefits personnel also will be available to answer questions and for one-on-one advising sessions by calling the Benefits office at 412/624-8160.

Eligible staff who choose not to participate in VERP still must indicate that on the election form. Forms must be returned by U.S. mail or in person to John Kozar, assistant vice chancellor for Benefits, Office of Human Resources, 320 Craig Hall, 200 S. Craig St., Pittsburgh 15260. Facsimiles will not be accepted.

If an eligible classified staff member fails to submit a selection by the June 15 deadline, he or she will not be permitted to participate in VERP.

Eligible staff will have a one-time only opportunity to change their election decision within seven days after the election form is signed and dated by submitting a replacement election form, available at the Benefits office.

While VERP mirrors the University’s established retirement packages, there are additional benefits. A chart comparing standard retirement provisions and VERP enhancements is included in the informational package.

Those enhancements (not offered in the standard options) include:

• A transition payment equal to six months of base pay minus tax withholdings, which will be paid in a lump sum by July 31.

• Retiree medical coverage for both the employee and the spouse/domestic partner, as well as eligible children, which begins immediately (rather than at age 62).

• No required contributions for University and spouse/domestic partner coverage up to age 65; children are covered up to age 26.

• Defined dollar benefit (DDB) monthly credits may be taken immediately, in lieu of the University’s pre-65 retiree medical coverage.

Regardless of whether pre-65 retiree medical coverage or DDB credits are chosen, there will be a one-time allotment of $6,500 to the retiree (and an additional $6,500 to an eligible spouse/domestic partner).

More details on DDB options are spelled out in the Q&A section in the informational package.

• Retiree life insurance at no cost starts immediately (rather than at age 62).

• Dental, vision and long-term coverage is available for purchase immediately (rather than at 62).

• Retiree education benefits are available immediately (rather than at age 62).

—Peter Hart

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