Teachers in Connecticut are part of the Teachers’ Retirement System, which provides state retirement benefits to retired teachers. This system also provides a disability allowance to teachers who can no longer teach due to disability. The disability can be either physical or mental, or a combination of the two. This system is administered by the Teachers’ Retirement Board (TRB). In recent years, this Board has been denying applications for a disability benefit requested by teachers who became disabled while they were teaching, if they applied after they left teaching, and after they stopped being an “active” member of the Teachers’ Retirement System. A groundbreaking court decision should put a stop to this unfair practice. This decision is Trudeau v. Connecticut Teachers’ Retirement Board, HHB-cv-21-6063214 (December 22, 2021). The court held that, as long as the teacher became disabled while actively teaching, then the teacher could file an application even if it is many years after that teacher stopped teaching.
Once a teacher stops work due to a disability, they will eventually stop being considered an active member of the Teachers’ Retirement System. If they have paid into the Teachers’ Retirement System, they are considered inactive members. The TRB, until the court decision, would not allow a former teacher to even apply for this benefit if the teacher did not apply while still an active member. This policy of the Board led to great hardship for some former teachers. A teacher, who leaves work due to a disability, may be hoping that she can recover and eventually go back to work. While undergoing rehabilitation or medical treatment, her status as an active member may lapse. According to the TRB, this meant that she would not be allowed to apply for benefits. It was the policy of the TRB to simply send the application for benefits back to the teacher and refuse to process it.
Many Connecticut teachers do not apply for TRB disability benefits because they are not aware of the benefits offered by the Connecticut teacher’s retirement system. When they are injured or become sick, they are immediately put on their town’s Long-Term Disability (LTD) plan. It is a mistake not to apply for TRB benefits. These LTD insurance plans generally end at age 65. The TRB benefits do not. Teachers also do not accrue service credits under the Connecticut teacher’s retirement system if they are not receiving disability benefits from the TRB. These credits are important when the teacher reaches retirement age. Teachers do not accrue credits if they are just on LTD insurance benefits.
Any teacher who is too disabled to teach should file a written application for disability benefits from the TRB. Do not let the TRB discourage you from filing that application. Do not let the information on the TRB’s website discourage you from applying.
Zimberlin Law LLC represented the teacher in Trudeau v. Connecticut Teachers’ Retirement Board. If you are a Connecticut teacher who has a disability and you can no longer teach, call Zimberlin Law LLC.