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A Publication for VRS Employers
November 2018 | Archives

Your Turn to Ask Your Turn to Ask: An employee recently received a Zix secure message from VRS. What can you tell me about that?

speech bubbles dollar sign light bulb myVRS Financial Wellness

myVRS Financial Wellness Offers Free Mini-Courses on Timely Topics

Many Americans want to improve their money-management skills and increase their understanding of financial concepts as they plan for retirement. To help employees in the commonwealth improve those skills, the Virginia Retirement System now offers myVRS Financial Wellness, a free program available to all VRS members through their myVRS accounts. A variety of content also is available through the VRS website. Self-paced and easy to use, the program includes articles, videos, calculators, educational games, budgeting tools, webinars and mini-courses.

Getting started with mini-courses: A great way for members to get started with myVRS Financial Wellness is to take a short course on a financial topic that interests them. Mini-courses offer real-world instruction from experts, available to members from the comfort of their own homes. The courses include a pre-assessment to test their knowledge and a post-assessment to show their knowledge gain. As one example, VRS members who took the Using Credit Cards Responsibly course demonstrated a 107 percent knowledge gain upon completion. In another, members who took the Understanding Your Credit Report course boosted their knowledge by a third.

The courses also provide action plans to help keep the momentum going. Most courses take 30 minutes or less to complete, and cover a broad range of topics:

  • Financial Health Assessment – Assess your financial situation honestly and thoroughly.
  • Repaying Your Student Loans – Learn about the tools available to you as a student loan borrower, and strategies for making the repayment process easier.
  • Spending Smart and Creating a Budget – Create a customized budget based on your unique goals.
  • Understanding Your Credit Report – Learn how to obtain, read and interpret your credit report, including the factors that make up your credit score.
  • Using Banking and Checking Accounts – Explore the various forms of financial institutions, their unique features and the many products they offer.
  • Using Credit Cards Responsibly – Discover how to distinguish positive credit card use from negative.
  • Planning for Retirement – Craft a retirement plan that works for your unique situation.
  • Protecting Yourself from Identity Theft and Scams – Get up to speed on precautions you can take to protect your identity and how to manage your digital footprint.
  • Understanding Your Paycheck – Your paystub provides a useful snapshot of your earnings and benefits: wages/salary, taxes, medical benefit costs, retirement contributions and more.

Access to courses requires myVRS registration: To take courses, members will need to log in with their myVRS online account. So if they’ve not logged into myVRS recently, they should visit myVRS.

Encourage employees to claim their online myVRS accounts: VRS takes measures every day to keep members’ information secure, and they can help by registering for myVRS, completing the identity-verification steps and then establishing their own password-protected accounts. It’s a security best practice that will help prevent someone else from fraudulently attempting to claim their accounts.

myVRS logo laptop tablet phone

VRS Phases Out Automated Voice Response Line

As more self-service features become available in myVRS, VRS is retiring the Virginia Informational Phone System (VIPS) line, as of January 31, 2019.

Members who have called VRS’ automated voice response line (option 2) in the past to check their current contribution amount can now access this information using their myVRS account. myVRS offers secure access from the member’s smart phone, tablet or personal computer.

Members can log in or register at myVRS.varetire.org to view their employment and salary history, VRS account balance, their earliest unreduced or reduced retirement dates or check on the status of a refund. Additionally members have access to the Retirement Planner, Benefit Estimator and myVRS Financial Wellness. Retirees can access their benefit payment information and the direct deposit schedule in myVRS.

As a reminder, myVRS is available Monday through Saturday, 7 a.m.-11:30 p.m., and on Sunday, 8:30 a.m.-11:30 p.m.

Should members need to speak to a VRS representative, they may call 888-827-3847, Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m.-5 p.m.


How We Measure Up: VRS Releases Benchmark Results

Once a year, Cost Effectiveness Management (CEM), a benchmarking company, conducts a study comparing retirement systems in the U.S. and around the world, focusing on service and cost to their customers. How does VRS compare?

VRS delivers quality service: According to CEM, VRS delivers better customer service at a lower cost, compared to a group of 70 leading retirement systems in the U.S., Canada and other countries, and to a peer group of 12 state retirement systems in the U.S.

In the latest study for fiscal year 2017, VRS received a service score of 83 out of 100, which compares to a median score of 80 for the peer group. VRS has outperformed its peer group in every benchmarking comparison of service scores since 2008.

VRS keeps costs low: VRS’ total benefit administrative cost was $74 per active member and retiree. The cost was $24 below the peer average of $98.

CEM attributed VRS’ low administrative cost to lower transaction volumes per member, higher productivity and lower costs in office support, technology and project expenses as compared to other retirement systems.

VRS participates in the benchmarking comparison each year to identify opportunities to further improve service and reduce costs for members and retirees.

Chart depicting cost per member/annuitant 

Get an Updated Look at Informational Actuarial Valuations Early Next Year

Although 2019 is not a contribution-rate-setting year for VRS, the plan actuary is presenting an information valuation to the VRS Board of Trustees this fall. The valuation provides valuable information regarding the pension and other post-employment benefit (OPEB) plans, their funded status and emerging trends in contribution rates. VRS will post the full reports (for state, teacher, SPORS, VaLORS and JRS) on the employer website when they are available. VRS also will mail the actuarial valuation reports for pensions and the health insurance credit to political subdivisions in early 2019. The valuation reports provide:

  • Employers with updated trends for contribution rates.
  • A detailed look at what drives increases or decreases in contribution rates.
  • Supporting information regarding the plan’s operation.
  • The individual pension and health insurance credit reports for political subdivisions, which include locality-specific information about the contribution rates and plan operations.

The reports will provide part of the information necessary to comply with the Governmental Accounting Standards Board Statements No. 67 and No. 68 for pensions and No. 74 and No. 75 for OPEB plans.

Pro tip: Be sure to bookmark the Financial Reporting page and refer to it for resources and links that will assist with financial reporting related to VRS-administered benefit plans. For your reference, the website includes current contribution rates for state employees and teachers as well as OPEB contribution rates.


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. Your notification ensures other VRS benefits continue.

For example, members on long-term disability continue to accrue VRS service credit and remain eligible for Group Life Insurance and the health insurance credit, if the employer participates in these programs.

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.

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. Refer to the Reporting Employees on Long-Term Disability With a Comparable Plan job aid PDF Icon for the steps you need to take in myVRS Navigator when reporting employees on long-term disability.

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).

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


Offer a Hybrid Retirement Plan 403(b) Option? Inform VRS of Employee Election Changes by December 10

School divisions that elected to provide the employer‐sponsored hybrid 403(b) option for Hybrid Retirement Plan members making voluntary contributions have a December 10 deadline to enter the employees’ elections in myVRS Navigator.

In myVRS Navigator, you will indicate which members have elected to participate in the employer-sponsored 403(b) and which members have elected to no longer participate. You can only perform this action between November 1 and December 10 each year.

No action is required for employees who wish to use the Hybrid 457 Deferred Compensation Plan or have previously made an election to use the 403(b) option for voluntary contributions, and wish to continue to do so.

View the process guide: For additional information, refer to the myVRS Navigator: Maintaining Employer-Sponsored Hybrid 403(b) Option Information Process Guide in the Commonwealth of Virginia Learning Center (VLC). You must log-in to access the process guide. Alternately, you can do a keyword search for “403(b)” once you’ve logged into VLC.

no fishing sign fish hook don't take the bait

Phishing: Tips to Help You and Your Employees Avoid Getting Hooked

Phishing is a major weapon in the cybercriminal’s arsenal. Are you up to speed on phishing and how it works?

Here’s a quick primer: Phishing occurs when a scammer sends a bogus email or text or sets up a copycat website to con you into sharing login information, passwords, account numbers or other personally identifiable information.

Phishing is an unfortunate fixture of the cyber landscape: Time and time again, phishing proves to be an incredibly effective way to steal money and information. The number of unique phishing sites detected in the first quarter of 2018 was up 46 percent from the last quarter of 2017, according to the Anti-Phishing Working Group’s most recent Phishing Activity Trends Report. Nearly all the traffic (92.4 percent, according to the Verizon 2018 Data Breach Investigations Report) to those bogus sites came from users who clicked links in scam emails.

Every time, every day: It’s clear why all of us must remain aware of our actions and think before we click. Remember to do these three things to avoid getting hooked by the next phishing scam:

  1. Never click on links or open attachments from unknown sources.
  2. Always read the email carefully and try to detect key signs of incorrect information.
  3. Pay close attention to the email address from the sender and hover over links embedded in the email to help you evaluate legitimacy of the source.

It’s relatively easy for professional cybercriminals to spoof email. They may create an email that appears to be sent by a friend, a familiar store, your bank or a business partner. Their malicious intent is to make you believe the email comes from a trusted source. But if something seems off and you are not expecting the email, it is always best to verify with the sender before opening an attachment.

Share important security information with your employees: The VRS Security Center offers fraud prevention and online safety tips. 


Remind Employees of Long-Term Care Benefits Through VLDP, VSDP

Long-term care may not be the first thing that pops into an employee’s mind when thinking about all the benefits that come with VRS membership. Long-term care provides benefits if an employee needs help with everyday life tasks because of a prolonged health problem or following a major illness or injury.

Without long-term care coverage, the cost of these services can quickly deplete savings or retirement income. At new hire orientations and in other HR updates, help educate employees about available plans and what they cover. After all, a loss of independence can affect people of all ages.

Virginia Local Disability Program (VLDP): Hybrid Retirement Plan members employed by a political subdivision or school division who participate in VLDP are covered automatically under the VLDP Long-Term Care Plan. There is no cost to employees for this coverage while they remain employed in a VLDP-covered position. Refer employees to the Virginia Local Disability Program (VLDP) Handbook for Members PDF Icon for more information.

Virginia Sickness and Disability Program (VSDP): State employees in VRS Plan 1, VRS Plan 2 or the hybrid plan; the State Police Officers’ Retirement System (SPORS); or the Virginia Law Officers’ Retirement System (VaLORS) who participate in VSDP are covered under the VSDP Long-Term Care Plan at no additional cost. Encourage employees to review the Virginia Sickness and Disability Program (VSDP) Handbook for State Employees PDF Icon.

Both long-term care plans assist with the cost of:

  • Care in a nursing home or hospice
  • Assisted living facility
  • Community-based care
  • Home healthcare services
  • Informal care-giving
  • Alternative or transitional care

Note: If your agency opted out of VLDP, you may offer different benefits to employees. If you’re unsure whether you participate in VLDP or a comparable program, consult myVRS Navigator or review your archives for past resolutions.


Announcements  Announcements

Get an early start on planning when you sign up to participate in America Saves Week: Motivate employees to save by participating in America Saves Week, February 25 to March 2, 2019. When you sign up, you receive:

  • The America Saves Week participation badge to share on your website and in materials.
  • Recognition as a listed participant organization on americasavesweek.org.
  • Helpful emails and toolkits from America Saves Week staff to help you plan successful activities.

GASB Statement No. 75 data available: Most VRS employers will be required to implement provisions of Governmental Accounting Standards Board (GASB) Statement No. 75 as part of financial reporting for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2018. Refer to VRS’ Financial Reporting pages for resources to assist with your reporting.

Annual MBPs provide a checkup on retirement planning: Member Benefit Profiles for 2018 are now available to Plan 1 and Plan 2 members in their myVRS accounts. The MBP is a member’s annual benefit statement, which is based on information reported by an employer to VRS as of June 30. It provides information on the member’s account balance, retirement eligibility and eligibility for other benefits, such as group life insurance and the health insurance credit. MBPs are currently not available for Hybrid Retirement Plan members. However, myVRS now offers additional services for hybrid plan members. Hybrid members may view their defined benefit and defined contribution account balances from the myVRS homepage, and access the goal-based Retirement Planner and Benefit Estimator, available to all members in myVRS.

Encourage voluntary contributions: Hybrid plan members may increase their voluntary contribution elections (up to 4 percent of their creditable compensation each month) on a quarterly basis. The next quarterly deadline is December 17 at 4 p.m. Hybrid members can use a paycheck calculator to see the impact of contributions and other deductions on their take-home pay and choose a percentage that works for them.

Order VRS Publications.

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.

Are you new to administering VRS benefits? Let us know so our employer representative team can introduce themselves to you and assist you with locating resources, manuals and training opportunities.


 Employer Training & Events

All your training needs, covered in one place: In addition to instructor-led training, VRS offers a comprehensive educational program to help employers understand VRS benefits, perform necessary business responsibilities and counsel employees:

VRS has scheduled the following webinars, each of which explores a single topic in depth:

Title Description Date/Time
Refunds and Distributions Get up to speed on employee eligibility requirements for taking a refund or a distribution from their VRS accounts. November 28, 2-3 p.m.
Purchase of Prior Service Learn more about the purchase of service process and key actions required in myVRS Navigator. December 19, 10-11 a.m.


Member Education  Member Education & Events

Retirement counseling and education: VRS will partner with New College Institute to present a retirement education and counseling event November 27-29 for the southwest region of Virginia. Registration is required for all sessions listed below:

For Plan 1 and Plan 2 members: Classroom and webinar courses are posted on the VRS website as they are scheduled. Plan 1 and Plan 2 members may register through our Education and Counseling pages for new offerings. VRS now offers one-on-one member counseling appointments at regional locations. Members can book appointments online (space is limited; first come, first served).

For Hybrid Retirement Plan members: 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 and individual appointments are available. Also, VRS now offers one-on-one member counseling appointments at regional locations. Hybrid members can book appointments online (space is limited; first come, first served).


Form Updates  Form Updates

The Request for Income Tax Withholding (VRS-15)PDF Icon was updated to add a check box for retirees to alert VRS that their mailing address listed on the form has changed. Also, VRS updated the federal calculation worksheet on page 2 and expanded the instructions, placing the state worksheet on page 3.  

Are you using the right form? 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. If you downloaded the form some time ago and photocopy it when you need it, chances are the form is not current. VRS frequently updates its forms. To ensure faster processing of retirement and other forms, be sure to use the latest fillable VRS forms.


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.


Financial ReportingFinancial 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

An employee recently received a Zix secure message from VRS. What can you tell me about that?

VRS has long followed the security best practice of encrypting all the emails it sends. However, about 10 percent of email providers do not accept or send encrypted messages. To comply with state standards, VRS is now using the Zix Corporation secure message center to deliver emails to recipients lacking encryption service through their normal email provider. Those recipients receive a VRS-branded email with instructions on how to view the secure message. The URL for the secure VRS message portal is “mymessages.varetire.org.” Recipients of VRS email messages secured by Zix undergo a one-time registration process to access the secure site.

The majority of VRS members and employers will not interact with Zix because their email provider automatically encrypts and translates all email for them.


Have a question?

Contact the Employer Support Team or 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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