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A Publication for VRS Employers
February 2018 | Archives

In This Edition

  1. General Assembly Considers Bills Affecting VRS
  2. Online Retirement Is Coming: Attend Our Webinar to Get Ready
  3. America Saves Week: Promote VRS Retirement Savings Options and Resources to Your Employees
    1. Encourage Hybrid Retirement Plan Members to Take the ‘SmartStep’
    2. Remind Employees to Maximize Their 457 Contributions This Year
    3. Help Employees Boost Their Financial Know-How
  4. VRS Brings the Classroom to You: Learn More About Benefit Administration
  5. Security Best Practice: Members Should Claim myVRS Account
  6. In Case You Missed It (#ICYMI): Important VRS Reminders
    1. Are You Using the Correct Versions of VRS Forms?
    2. Don’t Miss a Message: Update Your Employer Contacts in myVRS Navigator
    3. Political Subdivisions and Schools: Notify VRS of VLDP and Local Program Disability Claims or Status Changes
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Your Turn to Ask Your Turn to Ask: What resources are available to assist me with learning how to use myVRS Navigator?

General Assembly Considers Bills Affecting VRS

The 2018 Virginia General Assembly remains in session through March 10. You can track all House and Senate bills affecting VRS policy and benefits by visiting our legislation webpage.


Online Retirement Is Coming: Attend Our Webinar to Get Ready

VRS has made numerous enhancements to myVRS in recent years, with the biggest change now planned for 2019 — online retirement. Starting this fall, the retirement certification process for employers moves online. Mark your calendars for 1-2 p.m. Thursday, March 22, for a webinar overview of the new retirement certification process.

The presentation will outline the changes as VRS moves from paper-based to online retirement processing, including new employer procedures for certification of all retirement applications in myVRS Navigator. This webinar is the first in a series of 2018 modernization updates VRS will provide to help prepare you and members for online retirement. Register today.

America Saves Week logo

America Saves Week: Promote VRS Retirement Savings Options and Resources to Your Employees

Most financial planning experts recommend that workers set at least 80 percent of their current earnings as a retirement income target. Saving early — and making it automatic — can go a long way toward meeting that goal.

America Saves Week, February 26 through March 3, focuses on automatic saving (payroll deduction) as the best and easiest way for employees to plan for a better retirement.

Plans such as the Commonwealth of Virginia 457 Deferred Compensation Plan, a 403(b) plan or another supplemental savings plan you may offer have advantages for employees:

  • Plan 1 and Plan 2 state employees hired on or after January 1, 2008, are enrolled automatically into the Commonwealth of Virginia 457 Plan upon employment, with an opportunity to opt out or increase the amounts deferred. State employees who elect the Optional Retirement Plan also are auto-enrolled.
  • Contributions are deducted automatically from employees’ paychecks, and employees may be eligible for an employer cash match.
  • Seventy-one political subdivisions and school divisions also offer the Commonwealth 457 Plan as a savings opportunity for employees. Encourage employees to save for retirement on a tax-deferred basis through convenient payroll deductions.
  • Roth (after-tax) contributions are a relatively new option offered within the Commonwealth 457 Plan. Employees pay taxes on those contributions now so they can enjoy tax-free withdrawals in retirement, as long as they meet certain requirements.
  • Employees can increase the amount they want to save at any time, subject to tax code and plan limits.
  • Except for Roth contributions, employees defer paying income taxes on contributions until the funds are withdrawn from the plan.

The Hybrid 457 Deferred Compensation Plan also offers additional pre-tax retirement savings opportunities for employees. Encourage them to increase their voluntary contributions to this plan and receive an employer match.

Visit www.americasavesweek.org to download the America Saves Week logo, posters, flyers, presentations and other resources to promote savings among your employees.

Encourage Hybrid Retirement Plan Members to Take the ‘SmartStep’

VRS and ICMA-RC have introduced a new SmartStep feature to make savings easier for Hybrid Retirement Plan members. SmartStep helps members save more for retirement with automatic, annual increases to their voluntary contributions.

How does it work? The member chooses an annual increase amount, from 0.5 percent to 3.5 percent, and which month the increase will occur: January, April, July or October. The member’s voluntary contribution will increase each year until it reaches the maximum of 4 percent.

How does a member start SmartStep? Members should log into Account Access and select their Hybrid 457 plan account. From the Contributions page, the member will enter an amount for SmartStep. Members also can use the Hybrid Member Paycheck Calculator to see the impact of contributions and other deductions on their paychecks.

Remind Employees to Maximize Their 457 Contributions This Year

Now is a good time to remind your Commonwealth of Virginia 457 Deferred Compensation Plan participants and Hybrid Retirement Plan members to increase their contribution amounts to build up their retirement savings. The annual limit includes any voluntary contributions hybrid plan members make to the Hybrid 457 Plan and another supplemental 457 plan, such as the Commonwealth 457 Plan. Any Roth after-tax or pre-tax contributions made to the Commonwealth 457 Plan also count toward the limit. Once the limit is reached, all contributions will stop, including the hybrid plan voluntary contribution and corresponding employer match if the limit is reached before the end of the calendar year.

What are the allowable contribution amounts? The minimum amount employees can contribute to the Commonwealth 457 Plan is $10 per pay period. The maximum is up to 100 percent of includible compensation or the maximum listed below:

Deferred Compensation Plan Contribution Limits 2018
Annual deferral limit for participants younger than 50 $18,500
Pre-retirement Standard Catch-Up
(not to exceed participant’s catch-up credit)
($37,000 total)
Age 50+ Catch-Up Limit $6,000
($24,500 total)

Refer employees to the contributions page on the Commonwealth 457 Plan website for more information and guidance on how to change their contributions.

myVRS Financial Wellness Logo


Help Employees Boost Their Financial Know-How

Personal finance just got personal! VRS members who log into their myVRS accounts now have access to personalized and expanded content from the myVRS Financial Wellness program, powered by Enrich.

Using myVRS, members can delve into financial education resources tailored to their individual profiles, set personal goals and save financial plans. Members also will receive content recommendations, based on their retirement plan and age. Calculators, educational games and mini-courses focus on a variety of topics, including:

  • Managing debt
  • Home and real estate
  • Saving for goals
  • Credit cards
  • Insurance
  • Taxes

VRS is providing these resources to help members grow their knowledge and confidence in making day-to-day financial decisions, which will, in turn, aid them in preparing for retirement.

Watch a short video overview about myVRS Financial Wellness.


VRS Brings the Classroom to You: Learn More About Benefit Administration

There’s a lot to keep track of when it comes to coordinating VRS benefits, whether you’re new to your job in human resources or finance, or you’ve been at it a while.

Join VRS for updated instructor-led classes this year to learn more about the ins and outs of VRS benefit administration. Held throughout the state, these sessions present an opportunity for you to learn firsthand in a classroom setting and engage VRS staff on key benefit topics.

New to your job in human resources or finance? Not to worry, we’ve got you covered. The full-day Introduction to VRS course will give you a high-level overview of benefits VRS offers. Learn more about membership, purchase of prior service, various service and disability retirement benefits and death benefits so that you can counsel employees effectively.

Mix and match for a deeper dive into key VRS topics: If you’re an experienced VRS benefits administrator, then Coordinating VRS Benefits courses will help you dig deeper into the specifics of refunds, purchase of prior service, death benefits and service and disability retirement. Register for a variety of half-day sessions covering the topics that most interest you.

For more information and to register for a class near you, visit the Coordinating VRS Benefits Instructor-led Training page on the VRS website.

myVRS Security Padlock

Security Best Practice: Members Should Claim myVRS Account

An important but often overlooked way VRS members can help protect themselves from identity theft involving their VRS benefits is to set up their online myVRS account soon after they’re hired.

By registering for myVRS, completing the identity-verification steps and then establishing a password-protected account, members are helping prevent someone else from laying claim to the account fraudulently.

Even if the employee doesn’t plan to use myVRS immediately, taking ownership of the account is a smart defensive move. And once employees log into myVRS, they’ll find a growing library of tools and resources to assist them throughout their careers, including the new myVRS Financial Wellness program, the myVRS Retirement Planner and the myVRS Benefit Estimator.

So, as new hires are settling in, thank you for your assistance in providing this important security reminder to claim their myVRS accounts, and then encouraging them to explore the free retirement-planning resources designed with their needs in mind.

In Case You Missed It

In Case You Missed It: Important VRS Reminders

Because life gets busy, here’s a roundup of action items, reminders and tips featured in recent editions of Employer Update.

Are You Using the Correct Versions of VRS Forms?

Before you complete and send a form to VRS, take a quick moment to look at the revision date in the lower left-hand corner. VRS frequently updates its forms, so be sure to use the latest fillable VRS forms on the website.

VRS accepts faxes of all forms: Fax them to 804-786-9718. If you are on a deadline when faxing a document, please call or email to alert VRS of its pending arrival. Also, it’s helpful to use a cover sheet, particularly if you are sending the fax to a specific VRS staff member.

The latest versions of ICMA-RC forms can be accessed online:

Your security matters: VRS does not accept forms via email, which is not considered a secure form of communication.

Don’t Miss a Message: Update Your Employer Contacts in myVRS Navigator

As part of its myVRS Navigator Security Review, VRS encourages Security Administrators to routinely review your organization’s designated contacts. This helps to ensure designated contacts:

  • Have appropriate access to myVRS Navigator as employees join or leave your organization.
  • Will continue to receive important secure messages and benefit communications.
  • Are not sharing access credentials.
  • Can obtain VRS information based on their defined business role, including payroll processing, enrolling and maintaining new employees, and accessing information.

You should consider designating a secondary Security Administrator to ensure continuity in that role.

Also, it’s essential that you identify a Financial Officer communications contact. VRS will send that contact important communications this year regarding compliance with statements of the Governmental Accounting Standards Board (GASB).

Political Subdivisions and Schools: Notify VRS of VLDP and Local Program Disability Claims or Status Changes

Whether you provide the Virginia Local Disability Program (VLDP) or a comparable disability plan to your Hybrid Retirement Plan members, it’s essential to notify VRS when an employee has a long-term disability claim or change in disability status so that other VRS benefits can continue.

The process for reporting employees on long-term disability has changed, depending on whether you offer VLDP or provide a comparable disability program.

If you offer the Virginia Local Disability Program: The program’s third-party administrator will submit information to VRS when an employee has a long-term disability claim or change in disability status. Your Employment Processor will need to take the following steps in myVRS Navigator:

  1. If the member is on a less-than-12-month contract, then you must change the contract to 12 months. The start date of the contract should be the same as the long-term disability.
  2. Change the status in the Employment Status field from Active to Leave Without Pay (LWOP).
  3. Change the Group Life Insurance End Date to the last day of the month in which the long-term disability began. (Please note this addition to guidance provided in the January 2018 issue of Employer Update.)

If you provide a comparable disability program: You are responsible for notifying VRS about new long-term disability claims or changes to a member’s disability status. VRS has updated its Reporting Employees on Long-Term Disability With a Comparable Plan job aid PDF Icon to reflect a change in the order of steps you need to take in myVRS Navigator when reporting employees on long-term disability.

Once the long-term disability claim ends, change the Employment Status to Active or Separated.




Tax Withholding, Health Premium Changes Affect Retiree Benefit Payments: You may get calls from retirees who notice an increase in the net amount of their retirement benefit due to recent changes in federal tax law, a reduction in FICA tax withholding or a decrease in the Advantage 65 Medicare supplement. Retirees affected by these changes will receive a benefit statement update by mail.

VRS Publishes 2017 Comprehensive and Popular Annual Financial Reports: VRS’ 2017 Comprehensive Annual Financial Report (CAFR) PDF Icon is now available for download. Its companion, the Popular Annual Financial Report (PAFR) PDF Icon, presents an easy-to-read summary and overview of key VRS financial, investment and statistical highlights.

Go Mobile With the New VRS DCP App: Connecting your employees with the defined contribution components of their retirement plan is easier than ever with the VRS DCP mobile app. Search for VRS DCP in Google Play or the App Store.

LODA Training Now Available in Commonwealth of Virginia Learning Center: Employers are required by law to train employees who are eligible for Line of Duty Act (LODA) benefits. The first training must happen within 30 days of being hired and then every two years thereafter. The LODA Overview for Participants satisfies this training requirement. You can direct individual employees to www.valoda.org to view the recorded presentation. For employers that have access to the Commonwealth of Virginia Learning Center, participants also may access the LODA training there. Employees must log in to access the training.

Keep Your EZ Link Account Up to Date: To ensure you get important communications from ICMA-RC, keep your EZLink account information up to date, especially email addresses. Be sure to log in periodically. Your account will be deactivated after 12 months of inactivity.

New to administering VRS benefits? Regardless of your title, if you help administer any of the VRS benefits provided to employees and are new to your position, we want to hear from you. Take a few minutes to introduce yourself to VRS. Our team can give you the tools and expertise you need as you get up to speed on all things VRS.

Order VRS Publications.


  Employer Training & Events

VRS offers a comprehensive educational program to help employers understand VRS benefits, perform necessary business responsibilities and counsel employees. Training is available via e-learning courses, webinars, process guides and instructor-led sessions.

Current Training


  Member Education & Events

Classroom and webinar courses are posted on the VRS website as they are scheduled. Plan 1 and Plan 2 members may register from our Education and Counseling pages for new offerings.

Several hybrid plan educational resources are available. Hybrid plan members can register for a group seminar or a one-on-one consultation to learn more about the hybrid plan defined benefit and defined contribution components as well as other VRS benefits. Hybrid plan seminars are available in various regions across Virginia.


Financial Reporting

Be sure to bookmark the employers’ Financial Reporting section, where you can find resources and links to assist with financial reporting related to VRS-administered benefit plans.


Your Turn to Ask Your Turn to Ask

Q: What resources are available to assist me with learning how to use myVRS Navigator?

To help you use myVRS Navigator, VRS offers e-courses, process guides and job aids, available in the Virginia Learning Center (VLC). You can access training materials from VRS’ Employer Training webpage.

VRS’ Employer Manual includes three chapters that will help you with the following processes in myVRS Navigator:

  • Enroll and Maintain Employees
  • Contribution Confirmation and Payment Scheduling
  • Purchase of Prior Service Credit

If you are new to your position and help administer VRS benefits to employees, submit VRS’ online introduction form and one of our Employer Representatives will direct you to a variety of training opportunities, manuals and other resources.


Have a question?

Email the Employer Support Team or contact your Employer Representative.

Important Email Notice: Do not send personal or confidential information, such as a Social Security number, by email. VRS will send only non-confidential replies.

Copyright © 2018 Virginia Retirement System

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