By Reg Jones
Q. I was once a Special Agent of the U.S. Secret Service (series 1811). I left in January 2007, so I have been away for more than three years. As I am seeking to return to the Secret Service, I have five questions:
1. I understand FERS employees who leave and take a refund of their retirement contributions (which I did) are prohibited by law from buying back that annuity when they return to work for the government. Is there a provision for contributing more than the standard percentage to “make up” the difference?
2. If not, I presume my pension annuity will be based upon only the time I serve upon my return (13+ years before I’m 57).
3. Will other benefits be affected by my absence (health insurance in retirement)?
4. I understand that the government “holds” sick time and certain other benefits for three years. Since I’ve been away more than three years, what benefits have I lost?
5. Am I still “reinstatement eligible?”
A. Since you left, the law changed. If you return to work for the government in a position covered by FERS, you may redeposit the amount you took out with interest and get credit for that time. If you are employed in a position that allows you to enroll in the Federal Employees Health Benefits and the Federal Employees’ Group Life Insurance programs, you may do so. If you were enrolled when you left and re-enroll immediately on your return, your years of coverage will be treated as if they were seamless. Any unused sick leave you had to your credit when you left will be reinstated. The three-year rule no longer applies. I’m in no position to answer your question about reinstatement eligibility. You’ll have to ask your future employer about that.