According to the Social Security Administration, most public-school teachers (like other government employees) do not pay taxes into the social security pension system. Instead, they participate in other government-run retirement programs such as the Teachers' Retirement System (TRS). Some of them may have also worked for a school district that paid into social security as well as TRS, and there are some circumstances where retirees are eligible for social security too, such as a spousal or widower's pension.
Determine your eligibility for social security benefits if you have paid into that system as well as the Teachers' Retirement System (TRS). Your latest social security annual statement will detail the credits you have earned and an estimate of the benefits you will receive. To qualify for a social security pension you must be 62 or older and have paid social security taxes for at least 40 quarters. If you are in the TRS program but your spouse gets a social security pension, you might be eligible for a spousal or widower benefit. This is calculated according to your age and the number of years of marriage to an eligible spouse. Any entitlement will be subject to the government pension offset (GPO), which takes into account dual eligibility for TRS and social security benefits.
Check with your employer's retirement department to find out specifically how you can collect your TRS benefits. Many government pension systems offer pre-retirement planning seminars and courses to ensure that members understand the benefits they will receive and how they apply for them. Your local chapter of the National Education Association (NEA) can be helpful. Also check with your local chapter of the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP), with which the National Retired Teachers' Association (NRTA) merged.
Contact the Social Security Administration (SSA) to apply for any pension benefits you are due. You may apply for your pension, providing you are at least 61 years and 9 months old. The application form is available for online completion at the SSA website, or you can go to any SSA office for assistance. At age 65, you may also apply for Medicare health benefits to supplement or replace the existing health insurance coverage you may have had.
Helen Harvey began her writing career in 1990 and has worked in journalism, writing, copy-editing and as a consultant. She has worked for world-class news sources including Reuters and the "Daily Express." She holds a Master of Arts in mass media communications from Cambridge University in the United Kingdom.