NRSA Postdoctoral Benefits and Leave

NRSA Benefits and Leave

The information below provides information on NRSA Postdoctoral Trainees (PDTs) benefits and leave policies including information on health insurance, sick leave, and behavioral and wellness services. Please note that your department or school administrator may have more specific instructions that you should follow. Some items on this list will not apply to everyone.

FY24 Changes to Postdoctoral Trainees (PDTs) Benefits & Stipends + Benefits FAQ's

The Office of the Vice Provost for Research is pleased to announce, effective July 1, 2023, the new minimum stipend levels for all postdoctoral researchers and fellows and the implementation of improved benefits packages.

For more information, please click the link below.

 FY 24 Postdoctoral Trainees (PDTs) Stipend & Benefits Changes

Penn Postdoc Benefits and Stipend FAQ

Benefits FAQ

Is enrollment required for ALL Postdocs?

Yes. You must participate by either enrolling or waiving benefits. Open Enrollment is April 24 – May 5, 2023.

If you are an NRSA Fellow, you will enroll through Gallagher Benefits Services (link to enroll will be sent to you by Gallagher).

I am a postdoc that is electing single coverage. Am I going to have to pay for insurance?

Yes. Postdocs electing single coverage will need to pay a modest monthly contribution that will be deducted from your paycheck. For the majority of plans, Penn is providing a reduced monthly contribution for postdocs. This change to the insurance options was necessary to create more equitable and affordable options for postdocs who need coverage for their spouses and dependents. It will also provide expanded benefits to all postdocs.

You can review the monthly contribution rates (aka enrollment rates) for NRSA Fellows here.

Am I an employee of the college?

Postdocs at Penn are considered trainees. Please see the Policy for Postdoctoral Trainees at the University of Pennsylvania.

How do I know if I’m eligible for the Penn Postdoc Benefits Plan or the Penn Postdoctoral Insurance Plan for NRSA Fellows?

Your eligibility is based on your funding source. If you are funded by an NRSA grant (typically T32 or F32 grants) you will participate in the Penn Postdoctoral Insurance Plan for NRSA Fellows administered by Gallagher. All other postdocs are typically eligible for the Penn Postdoc Benefits Plan. Exceptions to this eligibility rule are rare. If you are uncertain of your funding source, please contact your department or the school’s business administrator.

Will my deductible carry over?

If you are an NRSA Fellow and you re-enroll with Gallagher for medical insurance, your deductible will carry over. 

What happens to my benefits if funding for my postdoc position changes?

If your funding changes from NRSA to non-NRSA funding (or vice versa) you will need to switch benefits plans. You will be contacted by either Penn HR through Workday or Gallagher Benefits Services, depending on whether your support will be from NRSA or Non NRSA funds.

Do the new insurance options cover the J-1 visa requirements?


My PI used to pay for my monthly contribution to my insurance. Will I have to pay now?

If you have previously negotiated financial support for the cost of the postdoc monthly contribution to cover your dependents or spouse, continued financial support is at the discretion of the PI. Please contact your business administrator and PI to confirm.

I am a new postdoc with a start date after open enrollment. When will I enroll in my benefits?

If you start prior to July 1, 2023, you will enroll with Gallagher for coverage through June 30, 2023. You will also receive communications to your UPenn email address regarding enrollment through Penn for benefits starting July 1, 2023.

If you are an NRSA Fellow, you will enroll with Gallagher and your benefits will continue with Gallagher after July 1.  

Am I eligible for commuter benefits?

Due to the tax implications, NRSA are not eligible for commuter benefits. 

I have other questions about the benefits. Who do I contact? 

For NRSA Fellows contact the Gallagher Benefits Account Manager, Dane Pisano:

Stipend FAQ

What does “minimum stipend level” mean?

It means all postdocs have to be paid a minimum stipend amount based on their total postdoctoral years of experience. Postdocs and PIs can negotiate a higher stipend amount but the total stipend amount needs to meet or exceed the minimum stipend level established by Penn. Click here to see the new minimum stipend levels in effect as of July 1.

I was reappointed before April 1, 2023, will I switch to Penn minimum stipend level on July 1, 2023, even if it is at mid-appointment?

Yes. Your stipend will be adjusted to meet the new Penn minimum levels as of July 1.

I’m a postdoc with a reappointment date before July 1. Will I get my increase on my reappointment date? How much will it be?

Yes, if you have a reappointment date on reappointment date between April 1, 2023, and June 30, 2023, you will receive an increase on your reappointment date. Your increase will be based on your total years of postdoctoral experience and must meet the current NIH guidelines for minimum stipend level. On July 1, that stipend will be adjusted to meet the new Penn minimum stipend levels.

Will all postdocs receive an increase on July 1?

If your stipend level prior to July 1 does not meet the Penn minimum stipend levels effective July 1 you will receive an increase to align you with the new minimum stipend level based on your years of postdoctoral experience.

If your stipend already meets the minimum requirements, it is at the discretion of the PI or faculty mentor for any additional increase.

My reappointment date is after July 1, will I get another increase on my reappointment date?

Yes. Your stipend will be adjusted on your reappointment date to account for the additional year of experience.

I have more than four years of experience, what will my stipend be?

For postdocs with more than four years of experience, any stipend increase is at the discretion of the PI or faculty mentor.

Am I eligible for the Penn merit plan?

Postdocs are not eligible for the Penn employee merit increase program. A faculty PI or mentor is allowed to increase the postdoc’s stipend for merit purposes. Those decisions are made at the discretion of the PI or faculty mentor.

Health Insurance - NRSA Postdoctoral Fellows

NRSA Postdoctoral Fellows (those primarily supported by T32 or F32 training grants) will continue to receive most of their benefits through the Postdoctoral Insurance Plan for NRSA Fellows in cooperation with Gallagher Benefit Services.

Medical Plan

NRSA Fellows are provided with the Aetna Open Access POS medical plan. For more details, review the medical plan here.

Atena Dental Plan

NRSA Fellows can choose from two dental options: The Aetna DMO plan or the Aetna PPO plan. For details, review the dental plan options and current rates here.

Atena Vision Plans

NRSA Fellows are provided with the Aetna PPO Vision. For details, review the dental plan options and current rates here.

Fertility Benefit

This benefit is included in the Postdoctoral Insurance Plan for NRSA Fellows. The cost of this service is based on the type of service and where it is performed. Coverage includes artificial insemination and ovulation induction limited to six courses of treatment per member lifetime. The lifetime maximum applies to all procedures covered by any of our plans except where prohibited by law.

To learn more about the fertility benefit provided by the Postdoctoral Insurance Plan for NRSA Fellows, please visit the Gallagher Benefit Services page and click on “Documents Library”, click on Medical
Insurance Plan POS Plan Benefit Summary, then scroll down to “Family Planning”.

Family Health Coverage

If the NRSA Fellow elects family coverage, those eligible family members may also be participants in the plan. To learn more about coverage and who is considered an eligible family member, please visit the plan website.

No Health Insurance

If PDTs elect to waive health insurance coverage through the University, PDTs must certify that they have alternate health insurance that provides at least comparable coverage. 

Life Insurance

Life and Accidental Death & Dismemberment Insurance (Life/AD&D) is also provided to Postdoctoral Trainees (PDTs) via Gallagher.

View information about the life and AD&D benefit. 

PDTs are required to log in to the Gallagher portal and complete the information required to identify a beneficiary.

Vacation and Mentor-Approved Flexibility of Observed Holidays and Winter Break

In any appointment year, a PDT may elect to take up to ten University business days as paid vacation days, on which days the PDT will continue to receive their stipend. PDTs are also entitled to the eight official holidays observed by the University and are eligible to take the University’s special winter vacation, during which time the University is typically closed. If a PDT wishes to work and/or perform research during an official holiday or special winter vacation, the postdoc can use the equivalent time as additional paid vacation days. PDTs forfeit any unused vacation days or holidays at the end of any appointment year. 


Sick Leave

Postdoctoral Trainees (PDTs) may continue to receive stipends for up to 15 University business days of sick leave per year. PDTs forfeit any unused sick leave at the end of the appointment year. Under exceptional circumstances, a period of leave due to illness or incapacity may be extended at the discretion of the mentor. Mentors may request for any extended absence medical documentation from a health care provider, to be provided to an appropriate administrative office consistent with confidentiality. Additional sick leave may be approved in the discretion of the mentor. 

New Child Leave

Postdoctoral Trainees (PDTs) are entitled to receive stipends for no more than 60 calendar days of leave per appointment year for adoption or birth of a child. Either parent is eligible. PDTs must discuss the use of new child leave in advance with the mentor. A mentor may not deny a request to use new child leave without the authorization of the appropriate administrative office. Unused sick leave or vacation days may be used, with approval, to extend the period of new child leave. Additional new child leave may be approved at the discretion of the mentor.


Unpaid Leave

Postdoctoral Trainees (PDTs) requesting extended periods of time away from their training experience, including leave in excess of available sick and/or parental leave, must obtain approval for a leave of absence without stipend continuation. Approval for such leave must be requested and approved by the mentor in advance. 

Record of Paid and Unpaid Leave

All paid and unpaid leave must be approved in advance by the mentor; additional leave may be approved at the mentor’s discretion. Postdoctoral Trainees (PDTs) and mentors are responsible for keeping accurate records of paid and unpaid leave. Penn Workday is recommended for tracking your leave.

Employee Assistance Program

NRSA Postdoctoral Trainees (PDTs) are eligible to participate in the Gallagher-managed Employee Assistance Program (EAP).Gallagher-managed EAP services provide NRSA PDTs, and their families access to free, confidential, 24/7 counseling and referral services for personal and professional life issues from any location. EAP services are available by phone, email, webchat, video, and through face-to-face sessions. EAP counselors will connect you with the right experts at the right time: masters level clinicians, work/life specialists, medical bill negotiators, and financial and legal professionals.  In addition, NRSA PDTs and their family members can access free and confidential support on legal and financial topics. Receive 30 minutes of free legal consultation over the phone. The number of initial consultations per year on each new legal topic is unlimited. You can also receive 30 minutes of over-the-phone access to financial guidance about everything from managing current debt to making decisions about future purchases. To access the Employee Assistance Program you can call 1-888-238-6232, TTY: 711, or you can visit and enter the below information.
Username: Penn Postdoc Fellows
Password: EAP

Wellness & Behavioral Health Resources

NRSA Fellows are provided wellness and behavioral health services. To learn more about wellness services and programs provided by the Postdoctoral Insurance Plan for NRSA Fellows, please visit the Gallagher Benefit Services page and click on “Documents Library“. There you will find a list of services available to NRSA Fellows.

Penn Behavioral Health (PBH) serves as NRSA Fellows “preferred provider. PBH encompasses the Department of Psychiatry’s direct patient care programs, provided by nationally and internationally acclaimed faculty. More information can be found in the PBH FAQ Guide.

Penn also provides NRSA Fellows with access to Penn COBALT. Penn COBALT connects NRSA Fellows to curated mental health and wellness content, live groups, and individual virtual support. COBALT uses targeted assessments to streamline content and triage PDTs to the right level and type of support. With its embedded scheduling and telehealth capabilities, it provides HIPAA-compliant mental healthcare at a safe distance. The available resources include peers, resilience coaches, psychotherapists, and psychiatrists, as well as podcasts, articles, mindfulness sessions, and other group support.

Choose from a variety of options, including one-on-one appointments with doctors, licensed clinicians, or resilience coaches. Penn Cobalt can help with the following methods of treatment and more:

  • Topic specific discussions
  • Psychotherapy
  • Psychiatry
  • Coping First Aid (CFA)

The CFA program, hosted on Penn COBALT, serves as a resource for individuals who want to speak to someone for support but are not sure they want or need therapy. CFA coaches are trained to address a variety of concerns including those that are work-related, or other stressors, such as being new to Philadelphia, experiencing stress in the family, and much more. Coaches provide a listening ear, assess needs and concerns, and facilitate access to resources, including therapy and other psychological services, when necessary. CFA is free, has flexible scheduling, including during and outside of work hours, and is always confidential. 

Through Penn Cobalt, you can book your appointment online for a time that is available and convenient for you. Payment options vary by provider. Services may be free of charge, covered by insurance, or self-pay, and you may choose to filter by your specific payment preferences including scheduling with an EAP counselor. Penn Cobalt also provides helpful articles with personalized recommendations and revolving studio sessions with experts for you and/or your team focusing on topics like current events, staying active and healthy, and more.

Suicide & Crisis Lifeline: Call 988  OR  1-800-273-TALK (8255) – The Lifeline provides 24/7, free and confidential support for people in distress, prevention and crisis resources for you or your loved ones, and best practices for professionals in the United States.

Taxes & Withholdings

Following the revocation of an IRS Private Letter Ruling, the University has revised procedures regarding the withholding of taxes on stipends to ensure compliance with Federal, Pennsylvania, and Philadelphia taxing authorities. The IRS has deemed that stipends paid to National Research Service Award (NRSA) postdoctoral trainees continue to be considered non-compensatory and are therefore not “wages” for Federal income or FICA tax withholding purposes. Taxability for other payments such as one time payments for housing allowances or awards follow University guidelines.

Although no reporting or withholding is required for NRSA postdoctoral trainees, the individual must report and pay federal income tax on any payments in excess of tuition, fees, books, and certain other expenses. For additional information regarding an individual’s responsibility for reporting such payments, please consult IRS Publication 970: Tax Benefits for Education.

The interpretation and implementation of the tax laws are the domain of the IRS and the courts. NIH takes no position on what the status may be for a particular taxpayer, and it does not have the authority to dispense tax advice. Individuals should consult their local IRS office about the applicability of the law to their situation and for information on their tax obligations.