Reciprocity allows VCERA members to move from one public agency in California to another without jeopardizing their earned retirement benefits. By establishing reciprocity between retirement systems, your total retirement benefits can increase, among other advantages. But to reap the benefits of reciprocity, you must follow certain rules.
Advantages of Reciprocity
The advantages of establishing reciprocity between VCERA and an eligible retirement system include:
- The age for determining your retirement contribution rate in the new system will be the same as your entry age in the first system. (VCERA has a fixed contribution rate, regardless of age, so this provision does not apply to VCERA rates unless you entered the first retirement system before August 2, 1974.)
- The service credit earned in the first system will contribute to meeting your vesting and retirement eligibility in the new system. This means you do not need to “start over” when transitioning between retirement systems. (Establishing reciprocity with the Judges’ Retirement System II may have some limitations. Contact VCERA for more information.)
- The highest salary earned in any public agency will be used by all reciprocal systems to determine your final average compensation when calculating your retirement benefits, unless limited reciprocity has been established under G.C. Section 31831.3. This could increase your benefit from the first system. (The final average compensation used is subject to each reciprocal system’s rules governing which pay items to include in “compensation earnable” or “pensionable compensation.”)
- If you were a member of the first reciprocal system prior to 2013, you may be eligible for a non-PEPRA benefit tier in the new system.
Rules of Reciprocity
To establish and maintain reciprocity, you must comply with the following rules. Violating any of them will break reciprocity, resulting in the loss of all reciprocal benefits.
- Membership in the new reciprocal system must occur within 180 days after leaving the previous reciprocal public agency; and
- Service between both systems cannot overlap; and
- Your accumulated contributions* may not be withdrawn from the reciprocal system; and
- You must retire from all reciprocal systems on the same day.
Qualifying Retirement Systems
Reciprocity can only be established between VCERA and other eligible retirement systems in California, including any other “1937 Act” (CERL) county system, the California Public Employees’ Retirement System (CalPERS), most agencies reciprocal with CalPERS, the California State Teachers’ Retirement System (CalSTRS), and the Judges’ Retirement System to a limited extent.