Current government retirees turn sick days into pension dollars

By Ben VanMetre | Dec 12, 2013


The pensions that government workers receive in Illinois are often based upon more years of service than these employees actually worked. That’s because, among many other perks, government workers can apply unused sick days to their pensionable service credit.

In the Teachers’ Retirement System, or TRS, Illinois’ largest state pension fund, a 55 year-old teacher who worked 33 years can use two years of banked sick days to bump up her retirement benefits to a 35-year pension.

In TRS, this perk maxes out at 340 unused sick days, or two years of service credit. And it’s extremely popular among TRS members. Consider the following statistics:

  • There are more than 98,000 current TRS retirees

  • The average regular service credit among TRS retirees is more than 24 years

  • The average total creditable service among TRS retirees is more than 27 years

  • Nearly 87,000 TRS retirees used at least some banked sick leave toward their service credit

  • Of the TRS employees with sick leave service, the average sick leave service credit is one year

  • More than 54,000 TRS retirees used at least one year of sick leave toward service credit

  • More than 8,000 TRS retirees used two years of sick leave toward service credit

Supporters of the pension legislation passed by the Illinois General Assembly and signed by Gov. Quinn last week tout the fact that the bill gets rid of this type of pension abuse. But the truth is this perk is still available to current government workers and retirees.

That’s because Senate Bill 1 only addresses the sick day pension abuse for new hires, which means any potential savings will likely not be experienced for decades.

Benjamin VanMetre serves as the senior budget and tax policy analyst at the Illinois Policy Institute. 

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