FAQ

FAQ Categories

General

Annuity

Planning To Retire

Health Benefits

Disability

Questions & Answers

General

I am terminating employment with Cook County. What are my options with the pension fund?

You may be eligible for a refund or an annuity.  To review additional considerations, please visit our Understanding Your Options webpage.

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Where can I get information regarding my retirement plan choices?

You may request a copy of the Pension Booklet from the Fund office or from your department’s Human Resources department.  In addition you can navigate our website for information on your benefits.

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What type of plan is the pension plan?

Your pension plan is a 401(a) plan. The mandatory 8.5% employee contribution is made on a pre-tax basis.  This means that you do not pay income tax on your contribution.

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Can members borrow from their pension plan?

No. By law you are not allowed to borrow from or against your pension plan. Once you become an active contributing member of the pension plan, the only two actions that can be taken are a full refund (applicable provision apply) or annuity payments (provided that you have retired and fulfill the annuity eligibility requirements).

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Can members withdraw from their pension plan while working?

No.  Only members that have separated from service are allowed to withdraw their money.

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How do I submit a change of address?

The Fund can only permanently change the address of annuitants. If you are still an active employee, you must change your address with your payroll department or timekeeper.  Annuitants can download a change of address form and submit the completed change of address form in person, by mail or fax to the Fund.

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How do I find out if my current or previous employer is/was part of the reciprocal system?

The Reciprocal Funds are listed here: http://www.cookcountypension.com/retiree_benefits/reciprocal_systems.aspx

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I have 30 years of service and plan to continue working, can I stop contributing to the Fund?

Only members was 35 or more years of service can stop their contributions, though we recommend you discuss this option with a retirement counselor.  If you have contributed into the optional plan any excess contributions into the optional plan will be refunded at retirement, regular contributions are not refundable.

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How do I enroll into the pension plan?

Pursuant to Illinois Pension Code, you are automatically enrolled in the pension plan with an 8.5% payroll deduction.

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Annuity

My late spouse was a member. What benefits am I entitled to?

Provided that your spouse was either an actively employed member or a retired member at the date of their death, you may be entitled to a monthly annuity as well as health insurance benefits through the Fund. Please contact the Fund for further information.

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I just applied for retirement. How can I find out how much money I can expect?

You are encouraged to contact the Fund prior to terminating your employment. Our retirement counselors can walk you through your options and provide you an annuity estimate. Please contact us for further information.

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Why haven’t I received a pension check this month?

If you don't receive your check after 10 days, please contact us for a lost check form.  If you have not received your direct deposit, contact your bank for further assistance.

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Can I receive credit for my unused sick days?

If you were hired before June 1, 2014, you can purchase unused sick days within 30 days after you separate from employment with Cook County. To do so you will need a signed letter from your timekeeper with the number of unused sick days you have as of separation.

It is generally 22 days for each month of pension credit and you will be required to pay the 8.5% contribution on the sick days. When you bring your letter to our office a counselor will be able to tell you the cost to purchase sick days and the additional benefit you would receive.

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What is optional service credit? Can I pay for it?

The "Optional Plan," when active, provided members with the option to have an additional 3% withheld from their salary to provide an additional 1% annuity benefit for every year they contributed to the Fund. The plan was active from April 1986 to June 2005.  Payments can no longer be made.

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Planning To Retire

How do I enroll into the pension plan?

Annuity applications take 10-12 weeks from date of retirement to process.

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How long do I have before I’m eligible to receive an annuity?

In general, if you meet minimum criteria of having 10 years of service and at least 50 years of age, you are eligible for a monthly annuity.

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What documents do I need to apply for retirement?

We will need the following:

  • Copy of your proof of birth (birth certificate, passport, or naturalization certificate)
  • Copy of spouse’s proof of birth
  • Copy of marriage certificate or civil union certificate
  • Copy of divorce decree
  • Copy of spouse’s death certificate
  • Copy of Social Security Card for yourself and your spouse
  • Copy of Driver’s License or State ID for yourself and your spouse

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How far in advance should I complete my retirement annuity application?

It is generally best to complete your application 30-60 days prior to your retirement.  Note that we do not accept applications more than 90 days in advance of retirement.

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Can I purchase time spent in the military towards my pension?

The Cook County Pension Fund commends employees who protect our country through service in the United States Armed Forces.

In accordance with guidelines set forth in the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA) members of the Fund can purchase pension service credit for periods of service in the uniformed services during their Cook County or Forest Preserve District employment. Depending on the length of the member's period of service, he or she is entitled to take from one to ninety days following service before reporting back to work or applying for reemployment. This period of time will be treated as continuous service with the Cook County or Forest Preserve District for purposes of determining participation, vesting and accrual of pension benefits under the plan. Any payment to the plan described in this paragraph shall be made during the period beginning with the date of reemployment and whose duration is three times the period of the member's services in the uniformed services, such payment period not to exceed five years.

The Fund’s complete Military Service Policy can be found by clicking here (PDF) or can be requested by contacting the Fund at (312) 603-1200. Additional information is also available at http://www.dol.gov/elaws/userra.htm.
 

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Health Benefits

Will my health benefits change upon retirement?

Upon retirement, you can elect COBRA coverage to continue your participation in the County’s active employee health benefits plan for up to 18 months.  If eligible, you can elect instead to enroll into the retiree health benefits program offered by the Fund.  Please contact our office at health@countypension.com or (312) 603-1200 for more information.

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How do I cancel or make changes to my health benefits election?

You can make changes to your health benefits plan during the annual Open Enrollment period in November.  These changes may include switching between plans, adding/dropping a dependent or re-enrolling after a suspension of coverage.  During the year, you can make changes within 30 days of a qualified change such as a death, marriage, divorce or loss of a dependent's other coverage.  Please refer to the Health Benefits Handbook for more information.

You may suspend coverage at any time during the year by filling out a Request to Suspend Coverage, which is available in the Health Benefits Forms and Applications section of our website. 

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When is Open Enrollment?

The open enrollment period lasts for the full month of November each year.  Any requested changes will be effective the following January 1.

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I am retired with health benefits through the Fund. What happens when I become eligible for Medicare?

The Fund provides supplemental health benefits that coordinate with Medicare Part A (hospital insurance) and Part B (medical insurance) coverage.  When you (or your spouse or dependent) become eligible for premium-free Medicare Part A, you must enroll in both Medicare Part A and Part B and notify the Fund of your enrollment.  Contact the Fund immediately and provide a copy of your Medicare card to quality for lower premiums.  DO NOT enroll into Medicare Part D (prescription drug coverage).  The Fund provides a prescription drug benefit that is equal to or better than Medicare Part D.  If you choose instead to enroll into Medicare Part D, you will lose eligibility for all health benefits offered by the Fund.

If you are 65 or older and are ineligible for premium-free Medicare Part A based on your work history or your spouse's work history, you must provide written certification from the Social Security Administration that you are ineligible.  You are not required to purchase Medicare Part B in this scenario.  You will be able to retain full non-Medicare health benefits coverage through the Fund.

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What happens if I become eligible for Medicare while I am still working?

If you are still working when you become eligible for Medicare, please contact the Cook County Department of Risk Management at (312) 603-6422 to discuss coordination of benefits.  In the event that you have already enrolled in Medicare Part A and Part B when you retire and sign up for supplementary health benefits through the Fund, you will need to provide your Medicare card or a letter from the Social Security Administration as proof of enrollment to qualify for lower premiums.

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When I reach 65, I will not have enough credits to receive Medicare. Will I still be able to obtain health benefits through the Fund?

Yes, if you are not eligible for Medicare, you will need to present a "letter of determination" to the Fund indicating that you are ineligible for Medicare.  The Fund will then allow you to retain full (non-Medicare) health benefits coverage.

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I have changed my address. Do I need to notify UnitedHealthcare and CVS/Caremark?

Please let us know right away if you have changed your address, and we will notify UnitedHealthcare and CVS/Caremark for you.

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If I get divorced, will my former spouse be entitled to health benefits coverage through the Fund?

Yes, in the case of divorce, a former spouse can choose to elect COBRA continuation coverage for medical and prescription drug benefits for up to 36 months.  The cost for COBRA continuation coverage is the full (unsubsidized) cost of benefits plus an additional 2%.

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If I die, will my spouse have health benefits coverage?

Generally, in the event of an annuitant member's death, the spouse is entitled to convert to surviving spouse coverage, either with or without eligible dependents (subject to eligibility requirements).

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How long can I cover my unmarried dependent child?

Coverage for an eligible unmarried dependent child will end on the last day of the month in which the child turns 26.

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Is there a limitation for disabled dependent children?

Children who are incapable of self-sustaining employment and are dependent upon the annuitant or other care providers for lifetime care and supervision due to disability occurring prior to reaching the "limiting age" (26) may be covered regardless of age.

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My ID card was lost or stolen. Should I contact the Fund?

If you need a new ID card, please contact the appropriate vendor partner:
 

Choice Plan 888-651-7313 www.myuhc.com
Choice Plus Plan 888-651-7313 www.myuhc.com
CVS/Caremark 888-752-7231 www.caremark.com
Guardian Dental 877-522-2524 www.guardianlife.com

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Does the Fund offer dental coverage?

Voluntary dental coverage is available through Guardian Dental.  The program is administered directly through Guardian; the Fund does not subsidize this benefit.  All costs are to be paid directly to Guardian.  If you choose to participate in this program, you will be solely responsible for all associated costs.  Contact Guardian at (877)522-2524 for more information or to enroll.

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Do I have to get my prescriptions filled at CVS/Caremark?

All maintenance prescriptions do have to be filled through CVS/Caremark, either at a CVS retail location or through Caremark’s mail supply service.  Maintenance drugs are prescriptions used to treat long-term or chronic conditions that typically require regular or daily use of medications (including, for example, high blood pressure and diabetes).  Non-maintenance prescriptions can be filled at any local retail store of your choice.

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How can I obtain more details about my medical, pharmacy and voluntary dental benefits?

The claims administrator for each plan is responsible for providing each covered individual with a certificate or booklet summarizing the benefits, including coverage, services, claims filing procedures, etc.  Contact UnitedHealthcare, CVS/Caremark, or Guardian Life directly for more information.

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I am not able to take a generic prescription. What are my options?

If your physician determines that there is a medical reason for you to take the brand name drug instead of an available generic drug, you may submit a co-pay exception request form to CVS/Caremark along with your attending physician’s statement for consideration.  Contact the Fund at health@countypension.com or (312) 603-1200 to obtain the form.

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I am able to take a generic prescription but I prefer a brand name. What are my options?

If a generic is available but the pharmacy dispenses the brand name drug at your request, you will pay the difference in cost between the brand name drug and the generic drug (in addition to the brand name drug co-payment).

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Disability

How is my pension benefit affected now that I'm on disability?

While you are on disability, pension contributions are made for you as though you are working, and you receive all pension credit as though you were working.

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