Staff Handbook: Benefits Program


The University offers a comprehensive program of benefits and services to help meet your needs throughout the various stages of your life. This overview is intended to be only a summary of the benefits available to you. Full details of each benefit are available in booklets and other documents issued by the University or its insurance carriers. For further information on the benefits outlined in this section, visit the Benefits section of the Office of Human Resources website or contact the Benefits Department of the Office of Human Resources by calling 833-852-2210 or by submitting an online inquiry.

Medical, dental, and vision coverage are available to both you and your eligible family members. Accrued sick days in addition to University-paid short-term and long-term disability coverage provide income protection when it is needed. The University of Pittsburgh also provides financial protection for your family in the event of your death with University-paid basic life insurance and accidental death and dismemberment (AD&D) coverage. Additional protection may be purchased through the offering of optional life insurance and AD&D coverage as well as spouse and dependent life insurance coverage. Four different flexible spending accounts allow you to reduce your taxable income. You may place monies into a pretax account for health care, dependent day care, parking, and mass transportation.

Planning for retirement is very important. The Retirement Programs provide you the opportunity to choose between two plans, the Contributory Tax-Deferred Annuity Plan or the Noncontributory Defined Benefit Pension Plan.

Finally, Long-Term Care is an option available to you and members of your family. This type of financial protection covers the cost of receiving care at home or in a facility when someone needs assistance with his or her activities of daily living due to an accident, illness, or advancing age.

Participating Guidelines

Orientation and enrollment sessions are conducted by the Office of Human Resources for all new hires. In addition, workshops are offered periodically by the Benefits Department for specific benefits. You may also arrange for a personal appointment to discuss benefit entitlement, eligibility, and other related matters.

Each plan year you will have an opportunity to enroll in or change your selection of benefit options. However, federal regulations impose restrictions on enrollment and limitations on making subsequent changes. These opportunities and restrictions are explained in the materials available from the Benefits Office. Your rights and obligations, and those of the University, are governed by the terms of each benefit plan and, in some cases, by contracts with insurance companies. The plans are based on current federal and state laws and are regulated by those laws. Any changes that occur within the laws or regulations may have an impact that would require modification of the plans. Benefits may be modified from time to time by the University at its discretion or as required by applicable law, and the University reserves the right to terminate or modify the benefits as may be necessary or appropriate.

Family Status Changes

Many of the University’s benefits are governed by Internal Revenue Code. As a result, there are rules that govern when you may change a benefit election throughout the year. Generally, you must have a family status change or life event. Examples include marriage or divorce, birth of a child, and a significant change in spouse coverage. You must notify the Benefits Department within 60 days of the life event; otherwise, the only opportunity you will have to make a change in coverage is during the annual open enrollment period.


Several medical plan options are available to you. The University currently offers a Health Maintenance Organization (HMO) plan design as well as several Preferred Provider Organization (PPO) plans. For each plan, the level of benefits will vary upon the network of providers you choose to use. You may also waive medical coverage by certifying that you have comparable medical coverage through another source.


The University offers coverage through a Dental Health Maintenance Organization (DHMO) or two options under a fee-for-service indemnity plan.


Vision coverage includes annual benefits for lenses, frames, and an eye examination.

Group Term Life Insurance


University paid group term life insurance is equal to one times your annual salary rounded to the next higher thousand, capped at the plan maximum of $50,000, but not less than $10,000.


Subject to certain proof of insurability requirements, you may purchase optional life insurance in amounts up to six times your annualized salary, rounded to the next higher $1,000, up to the plan maximum. You pay the full cost of optional life insurance according to an age-graded rate schedule.

Group Term Accidental Death and Dismemberment Insurance (AD&D)


University paid group term AD&D insurance is also equal to one times your annual salary rounded to the next higher thousand, capped at the plan maximum of $50,000, but not less than $10,000.


Optional AD&D insurance may be purchased in amounts up to six times your annualized salary, rounded to the next higher $1,000, up to the plan maximum. You are responsible for the full cost of optional AD&D insurance. The premium is a fixed rate for each $1,000 of coverage. It is not age graded.

Optional Dependent Group Term Life Insurance

You may elect to purchase group term life insurance to cover your eligible dependents. These dependents include your spouse and unmarried children under age 19, and unmarried children between the ages of 19 and 25 if they are enrolled as full-time students. You are responsible for the full premium cost that covers your spouse and/or any number of eligible dependent children.

Flexible Spending Accounts

The University offers several different flexible spending accounts to help meet your needs. Flexible spending accounts offered by the University are designed to reimburse you for specified expenses. You designate an amount of salary reduction contribution for the plan year on a pretax basis. This has the effect of reducing your taxable income. It is critical to be aware of the regulations for flexible spending accounts and plan your participation accordingly.

Health Care Spending Accounts

Participants may be reimbursed for a wide variety of health-related expenses not covered by medical, dental, or vision insurance. In general, these expenses include any item allowable as a medical deduction on your federal income tax return. Deductibles, co-payments, and amounts in excess of plan allowances or maximums may also be claimed. The same expenses cannot be claimed as a medical deduction on your federal income tax return. Health care expenses may be reimbursed to you through submission of a paper claim to a third-party administrator or through the use of a debit card known commonly as the “Benny Card.”

Dependent Care Spending Accounts

You may be reimbursed for allowable day care expenses incurred for the care of eligible dependents to enable you to work outside the home. Generally, reimbursable dependent care expenses include charges for day care centers and some aspects of nursery schools or charges for individuals (other than your dependents or spouse) who provide care for your dependent(s) in or outside your home.

Parking Reimbursement Account

You may submit eligible expenses incurred for work-related parking. This includes parking in a non-University lot that is located near your workplace. The cost of University leases taken on a pretax basis does not qualify.

Mass Transportation Account

Expenses for qualified vanpools not operated by the University and other mass transit expenses for the purpose of commuting to and from work are eligible for reimbursement from this account.

Long-Term Care Insurance

Financial protection against the cost of receiving care at home or in a facility when someone needs assistance with his or her activities of daily living due to an accident, illness, or advancing age is provided with long-term care insurance. Regular and part-time staff with at least 50 percent effort are eligible for coverage. New hires may enroll as guaranteed issue. After 60 days, completion of a medical questionnaire is required. There are four plan options that offer different coverages and rates to meet your needs.

Short-Term Disability Benefit Program

The Short-Term Disability Benefit Program is available to active regular full-time and regular part-time classified staff members who work at least 50 percent effort. This plan works in conjunction with sick time accrual, medical leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), and Long-Term Disability Insurance. At no cost to you, this program lessens the financial burden you may incur from an extended non-work-related injury or illness. It specifically addresses absences from work because of your own disabled condition. Disabled means that you are unable to perform all the material duties of your job, not doing any work for payment, and under the regular and continuing care of a physician. Short-term disability insurance provides an income replacement of 60 percent of your weekly salary up to a maximum of $1,500 per week.

You are eligible for short-term disability benefits after you have completed six months of employment with the University, and you must be actively at work on the effective date of coverage. Once you have become eligible for coverage, you must satisfy a period of continuous disability before you are eligible to receive short-term disability benefit payments. This “elimination period” begins on the day you become disabled and lasts 30 calendar days. The amount of working days in this period will vary from 20 to 23, depending on the length of the month.

Short-term disability benefit payments begin after the “elimination period” and continue for the duration of your disability up to a maximum of 26 weeks (including the “elimination period”). If you are unable to return to work at the end of the short-term disability coverage period, you may be eligible for long-term disability coverage upon recommendation of your physician and approval of the insurance carrier. If your claim is approved, you would receive continued coverage throughout your disability.

You are required to use your accrued sick days up to a maximum of 12 weeks under the University’s policy for FMLA leave. This will require you to use up to a maximum of 60 sick days (if they are available) to cover the FMLA and short-term disability periods. If you are not eligible for an FMLA leave, you must still use your accrued sick days. You are not required to use accrued vacation days or personal holidays during your disability. However, if you wish, you may use these days in lieu of short-term disability benefit coverage. Short-term disability benefits are not paid for days during the period of disability used as sick days, vacation days or personal holidays.

Additional information concerning short-term disability benefits may be obtained from the Benefits Department of the Office of Human Resources.

As a condition for continuation of short-term disability benefits, you must apply for Social Security Disability Income during the fourth month of your disability. You will be contacted directly by the insurance carrier for short-term and long-term disability to assist you with this process.

Long-Term Disability Benefit Program

The Long-Term Disability Benefit Program provides partial income replacement, continuation of Contributory Tax-Deferred Annuity Program contributions, and continuation of certain University benefits in the event eligible staff become “disabled.” At no cost to you, coverage becomes effective the first of the month following a waiting period of eligible employment. An earlier effective date may be established if you were covered by a comparable plan by a preceding employer who meets the requirements of the Certificate of Previous Coverage. Long-term disability may not necessarily mean a total and permanent disability. During the period of disability, the insured must be under the regular care of a legally qualified physician.

If a claim is approved, long-term disability benefits begin on the first of the month following six months of total disability in an eight-month period. Long-term disability benefits will be reduced by disability benefits received from Social Security, workers’ compensation, and any other disability benefits payable under any plan for which contributions or payroll deductions are made by the University. Benefits continue to be paid consistent with a benefits duration schedule that is monitored on an ongoing basis to be in compliance with age discrimination regulations. If you exhaust your available disability benefits under the schedule at an age commensurate with the criteria for official University of Pittsburgh retirement status, you are entitled to the same benefits, programs, and services as are ordinarily provided when you are granted official retirement status.

Additional information concerning long-term disability benefits may be obtained from the Benefits Department of the Office of Human Resources.

Retirement Program

The University of Pittsburgh Retirement Program, established under the Internal Revenue Code, provides an opportunity for you to elect from two pension plan options: a Contributory Tax-Deferred Annuity Plan (TIAA/Vanguard) and a Noncontributory Defined Benefit Pension Plan. You may participate if you are employed as a regular full-time or regular part-time eligible staff member and are not covered by a separate collective bargaining agreement. After the initial enrollment election, a participant may terminate participation in the Noncontributory Defined Benefit Pension Plan and elect to be a participant in the Defined Contribution Program if he or she is eligible. This is referred to as a “Once In Career Change.”

Once the change in election has been made, the participant is not permitted to switch back to the retirement plan initially elected.

A participant may not change from the Defined Contribution Program to the Noncontributory Defined Benefit Pension Plan.

Contributory Tax-Deferred Annuity Plan

Booklets and other documents issued by TIAA and The Vanguard Group explain in detail the investment, annuity, or benefits provisions of the Contributory Tax-Deferred Annuity Plan. To speak with a counselor regarding specific investment or distribution options you may reach either vendor as follows:



The Vanguard Group


Information pertaining to your participation in these plans is available from the Benefits Department of the Office of Human Resources.

Retirement Income

Upon leaving the University, regardless of your age, you have options concerning retirement income, even if you have not attained the official retirement status age of 62 years.

Throughout your working years, options for participation in the University of Pittsburgh Retirement Program are intended to provide funds so that you will be able to select a retirement date compatible with your personal desires and circumstances. The structure of the program also gives you flexibility in determining when and how you will be able to access the funds. Retirement income is subject to Internal Revenue Service regulations applicable to various income options and the age at which the option begins.

Contributory Tax-Deferred Annuity Plan

When you separate from employment, regardless of your age and irrespective of official University retirement status, you may allow your accounts to stand in full or in part until a future time and continue to make deposits to the accounts, or access all or part of the accounts through a variety of cash and/or annuity options. If your participation is fully vested, the funds, including all contributions made by the University, remain in your account and are available to you. If your participation is subject to delayed vesting and you separate from employment prior to the vesting of the University’s contributions, only your portion of the funds remain in your account(s) with the carrier(s).

For detailed information and the necessary forms, contact TIAA at 1-800-842-2776 or The Vanguard Group at 1-800-523-1188.

Noncontributory Defined Benefit Pension Plan

Benefits may be available the month following the last day of work if you fulfill the age, service, and vesting requirements and did not enroll in one of the contributory tax-deferred plans. Under this plan, separation from employment at 65 years of age is considered to be normal retirement. Early retirement, at a reduced benefit, is permitted on or after age 55, with at least 10 years of service.

Contact the Benefits Department of the Office of Human Resources for booklets and other materials concerning the University of Pittsburgh’s Noncontributory Defined Benefit Plan.

Education Benefits

The University provides education benefits for credit courses to enable you to take advantage of resources available for learning and improving skills. Eligibility for the benefit does not guarantee admission to or retention in any academic program. The education benefit is applied to tuition only, and remains on your account irrespective of the grade received. All other charges and fees are your responsibility.


If your employment status is regular full-time, you are eligible for benefits beginning with the first term after successfully concluding an initial provisional period of employment with the University. However, benefits will be payable immediately when you complete the provisional period if the actual date falls within the first month of a term.

If certain dependency criteria are met, dependent children are eligible for education benefits to attend the University of Pittsburgh. Benefits for dependent children to attend another institution that were in effect prior to September 1, 1994, may be available if you fulfill service and salary criteria.

After you have been on the payroll for 12 consecutive months, your spouse or your same-sex registered domestic partner is eligible for education benefits. Review ER 06 Employee/Spouse/Dependent Scholarships for Staff (formerly 07-11-01).

If your employment status is regular part-time, you are eligible for education benefits for yourself only, according to the same criteria that exist for regular full-time status. However, the benefit available is prorated according to the percent of effort of your employment status.

Education Benefits for Staff on Approved Long-Term Disability, Retired Staff, Deceased Staff

Depending upon length of service, status, and enrollment immediately prior to official University of Pittsburgh retirement status, long-term disability claim, or death, you, your children, your spouse, or your registered domestic partner may receive the education benefits that were applicable when you were actively employed. Review ER 05 Effect of Separation on Eligibility for Staff Scholarship Benefits (formerly 07-11-02).

Tuition Exchange Scholarship Program

The University is a participant in the Tuition Exchange Scholarship Program. Prior to their freshman year, dependent children of regular full-time staff with at least one year of full-time service are eligible to apply for participation in the Tuition Exchange Scholarship Program. Member schools of the Tuition Exchange Scholarship Program may send dependent children, if the child is awarded a Tuition Exchange Scholarship, to any other school participating in the program at a significant tuition reduction or no tuition charge at all.

An application and further information concerning Tuition Exchange Scholarships can be accessed on the Financial Aid website. Review AC 69 Tuition Exchange Scholarship Program (formerly 09-03-01).

Falk School

The Falk School is a laboratory school operated by the School of Education and consists of classes for children in kindergarten through eighth grade. Children are admitted through the regular procedures of Falk School. An education benefit covering one-quarter tuition for Falk School is available to children of regular full-time faculty and staff of the University of Pittsburgh who have been on the payroll for 12 consecutive months. Review AC 69 Tuition Exchange Scholarship Program (formerly 09-03-01).