When an active member dies for reasons unrelated to employment (i.e., nonservice-connected), the benefits payable to a beneficiary depend on the member’s years of retirement service credit at the time of death. Benefits may include:
- Lump-sum benefit: The “basic death benefit” consists of a one-time payment of the contributions and interest in the member’s retirement account, plus one month of salary for each completed year of retirement service, up to six months’ salary. (Salary is based on the average monthly compensation over the last 12 months of employment. Service credit excludes prior public service purchases.)
A surviving spouse may be eligible to elect one of the following two options in lieu of the basic death benefit.
- Monthly retirement benefit: If a member is vested in VCERA (i.e., having at least five years of eligible service credit, including reciprocal service), a surviving spouse may elect a lifetime retirement benefit equal to 60% of the monthly benefit the member would have been entitled to if he or she had retired with a nonservice-connected disability as of the date of death.
If there is no surviving spouse or partner, the monthly benefit may be payable to the member’s minor children until age 18 (continuing through age 21 if they remain unmarried and regularly enrolled as full-time students in an accredited school).
- Combined benefit: If a surviving spouse is eligible for a monthly retirement benefit, he or she may instead elect to receive a combined benefit consisting of a one-time payment equal to one month of salary for each completed year of the decedent’s retirement service, up to six months’ salary, plus the monthly benefit described above, reduced by the actuarial equivalent of the lump-sum payment.