Most MSRS pension plans provide disability protection. This is an important benefit since it will pay you disability benefits for your lifetime, or until you are no longer disabled. Your age at the time of your disability is not a factor.

The definition of disability and eligibility varies by pension plan.

Disability definition & qualifications

Total and permanent disability
The General Plan offers total and permanent disability coverage. State law defines "total and permanent disability" as the inability to engage in any substantial gainful activity as a result of an existing, medically proven physical or mental impairment that is expected to continue for at least one year. Two medical professionals must be able to diagnose the disability.

Qualifying for disability benefits
If hired before July 1, 2010, you must have three years of service. If hired after June 30, 2010, you must have at least five years of service.

Occupational disability
Minnesota state law defines a disability as a physical or psychological condition lasting at least one year that prevents a member from performing normal job duties required by the position.

Two types of disability

Occupational disability
Minnesota state law defines a disability as a physical or psychological condition lasting at least one year that prevents a member from performing normal job duties required by the position.

Two types of disability

To qualify for disability benefits, you must meet the definition of disability and have five years of service. The governor may grant you a disability benefit (based on medical records) if you are no longer able to perform your judicial duties. Minnesota state law defines a disability as the permanent inability to continue to perform functions of a judge by reason of physical or psychological impairment resulting from sickness or injury.

How we calculate the disability benefit
As a disabled judge, you are entitled to full salary for one year after the disability date, but not beyond age 70. During the one-year period, retirement deductions continue. You earn service credit and increase your high-five average salary. MSRS disability benefits start after the year of paid salary. 

If you have ended your employment, the disability must have occurred while employed in a MSRS covered position.

We calculate your disability benefit the same way we calculate your retirement benefit, with one exception: we do not apply a reduction in benefit if you are under normal retirement age (age 65 or 66, depending on date of hire).

Survivor coverage with a disability benefit
When you apply for a disability benefit just before the end of your one year of full salary, you can choose the Single-Life benefit, a Joint-and-Survivor benefit (100, 75, or 50 percent with or without the bounce-back feature) or the Life Income 15-year certain option. For more detail, see Retirement Benefit Options.

If you did not select a Joint-and-Survivor option and die, any balance in your retirement account is refunded, in the following order, to: your beneficiary, spouse, children, parents, estate. Generally, your account balance is gone after approximately two to three years of receiving benefits.

If you die while receiving full salary for the one-year period, your surviving spouse is eligible for a monthly benefit equal to 60% of the full retirement benefit earned at date of death, but not less than 25% of your high-five salary. If the spouse is over age 60, then they are eligible for the 100% Joint-and-Survivor option. If there is no spouse but there is a dependent child or children, then payment continues until age 18, or until age 22 if your child is a full-time student.

For more information, call MSRS at 651-296-2761 or 800-657-5757.

As a member of the Unclassified Plan, you have total and permanent disability protection. The benefit is based on your age and your account value at the time you begin to collect monthly benefits. Contact MSRS for more details regarding disability eligibility and benefits.

Minnesota state law defines a total and permanent disability as the inability to engage in any substantial, gainful activity because of a medical or mental illness that is expected to last at least one year.

If you are eligible to convert to the General Plan, it will likely provide higher monthly disability benefits.

How to apply for a disability benefit

Four forms must be completed and returned to MSRS. Go to Disability Forms & Documents to download the appropriate plan forms.

  1. Application for MSRS Disability Benefit - completed by you
  2. Medical Statement - completed by a practicing, licensed physician (MD)
  3. Medical Statement - completed by another medical professional
  4. Employer Certification - completed by your employing department

Exception: Judges - Contact your employer for information on how to apply for a disability benefit.



All four forms described above must be received by MSRS in good order within 18 months of ending employment. Forms received after the deadline cannot be accepted and will result in a denied application for disability benefit.

If approved for disability, the benefit may be payable up to 180 days retroactive prior to the day our office receives the completed application.

You cannot apply for a disability benefit until after the last day you're physically on the job. After that date, apply for a benefit immediately. We recommend that you not wait for your sick leave or vacation to run out.


Review of your disability request

The forms you submit are reviewed by MSRS' medical consultant who makes recommendations to the MSRS Executive Director about the extent of your disability.

  • If your disability application is approved, your benefit will begin after you receive payment for all your accumulated overtime, vacation and sick leave hours. Your disability benefit will end in the month that you die unless you selected survivor coverage.
  • If your disability application is denied, you may appeal the decision to the MSRS Executive Director.


Ongoing disability reviews

To continue disability benefits, ongoing reviews are required by Minnesota State law. MSRS will notify you when a review is required.

  • Review of medical condition: Once a year for the first five years; after that, once every three years until you reach normal retirement age.
  • Earnings review: Annually for length of coverage under disability benefit.



Disability Forms & Documents