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Employers and Occupational Health Advisers must look at ways of helping members to remain in or return to work, e.g. consider rehabilitation/re deployment and consider other workplace adjustments, before concluding that ill health retirement may be appropriate.
Where a member is under NPA and applies for ill health benefits the ill health application form STSS: (INC) and medical evidence form STSS: (MED) should be completed and returned to SPPA. Both forms must be submitted together. It is possible for the member to supply more than one STSS (Med) if they think it is appropriate, but this is not necessary.
In order for the application to be valid, the declaration on the application form must be signed and dated by the applicant and the certification must be completed by the employer.
All applications and supporting medical evidence will be assessed by the Medical Advisors (MA) appointed by Scottish Ministers.
Ill health benefits can be granted by the Scottish Ministers if they are satisfied that the applicant has become permanently incapable of any teaching until NPA (age 60, 65 or SPA).
There are 2 different levels of benefits that can be awarded:
- Total Incapacity Benefits (TIB); and
- Partial Incapacity Benefits (PIB).
TIB will be awarded if the member is assessed as being permanently incapable of teaching and other employment (the member's ability to carry out any work has been permanently impaired by more than 90%).
PIB will be awarded if the member is assessed as being permanently incapable of teaching but capable of other employment.
If the member is awarded TIB their pension will be enhanced, based on half prospective service up to their NPA but if they receive PIB it will not be enhanced and will be based on what they have accrued to the date of leaving. Provided the member applies within 24 months of leaving pensionable employment on grounds of incapacity, the application will be considered under the TIB criteria. If the member has been on a period of sick leave, maternity, paternity or adoption leave, or a career break which immediately followed a period of pensionable employment, the application must be made before the sick leave or period of absence ends.If the member does not apply for ill health benefits within these timescales, an application for ill health benefits can still be made but the service used will not be enhanced and the Preserved (or past) member has to meet the TIB criteria i.e. the preserved member must be unable to undertake any employment and be permanently impaired by more than 90%.
Benefits cannot be awarded to a member who has been barred for misconduct or who is under investigation by the Scottish Ministers with a view to barring. If, after the investigation is complete, the member is not subsequently barred, then an application will be considered.
The member must not have applied for phased retirement, premature retirement or actuarially reduced benefits in respect of the same period of employment. However, if phased retirement, premature retirement benefits or actuarially reduced benefits have been awarded in respect of an earlier period of service and the member subsequently taken up further employment in pensionable teaching service and later suffers a subsequent breakdown in health, the member is eligible to apply for ill health benefits.
In all circumstances the member must have completed the appropriate qualifying periods.
The Application Process
An application for ill health benefits must be submitted to SPPA through the employer, unless the applicant left teaching employment more than 24 months ago. In such case, the form should be submitted direct to SPPA.Where the medical evidence form has been completed by a specialist or GP, it should be sent to your Occupational Health Adviser, along with any supporting reports or correspondence. The application must be assessed by the employer for completeness.
When a condition is severe enough to warrant ill health retirement, whether this be a psychiatric or physical complaint, it is not unreasonable to expect that the applicant should have had the benefit of a specialist opinion. It would greatly help in the consideration of the application, if the medical information is provided by a specialist. If this is not possible, or the applicant has not been referred to a specialist, then the form should be completed by the applicant's GP or the employer's occupational health physician. Copies of all specialist reports or hospital correspondence relating to the present illness(s) should, however, be included.
All applications for ill health retirement will be considered on the basis of the medical information submitted with the application. It will not be possible for SPPA to obtain any reports on the applicant's behalf. Please note SPPA do not pay for any reports.
After referral to Medical Advisers (MA)
The employer and the member will be notified by letter of the SPPA's decision. Where the application has been accepted, and the member is still actively teaching then the employer should arrange for this to cease with immediate effect. Details of the member's pensionable service should be supplied from the date you last made your annual return to the last day of pensionable service.
Where the application is rejected members have the right to appeal against this decision and should follow the appeal process, details of which are sent to the member on rejection.
Commutation: If the member is seriously ill and having followed this application process, the MA concludes that life expectancy is less than a year, the member may request that the retirement pension be converted to a lump sum payment if the member requests it. This would be equal to five times the annual pension. Short service incapacity grant – Where a teacher is under 70 and has to leave pensionable employment through ill-health but does not have sufficient service to qualify for ill health benefits, a short service incapacity grant may become payable. To be entitled to this, the member must have at least one year of pensionable employment to their credit. As with an ill health application both forms should be completed. An application cannot be processed until both forms are received in SPPA.
Re-employment: where a member has been accepted as unfit for teaching and subsequently returns to teaching for even 1 day after the award of ill health benefits this will result in the immediate cessation of pension payments. You must be satisfied that a person who has retired for reasons of ill health is medically fit to resume teaching.
Returning to STSS employment after retiring due to ill health
Ill health benefits are awarded because the member has been found to be permanently unable to do their own job.If the member has been awarded PIB and return to STSS employment their benefits may be reduced, this is known as abatement.
If the member is awarded TIB they may rejoin the STSS and give up their benefits, providing they obtain a medical certificate from a medical practitioner.
Members are advised to contact SPPA directly about the effects of re-employment whilst in receipt of ill health benefits.