Ask The Experts: Retirement

By Reg Jones

Disability retirement and an international move

Bookmark and Share

Q: I am considering applying for disability due to a psychiatric condition. Does FERS disability retirement permit me to live outside of the United States while I receive my benefit? I would return for medical exams as required.

A: There is no bar to your living outside of the United States or its territories. You may also receive your disability annuity payments there, as long as you aren’t living in one of the blocked countries. Currently, the blocked countries are Cuba, Cambodia and North Korea.

Tags: ,

Unemployment and RIF

Bookmark and Share

Q: I am a federal employee under CSRS. I will be affected by a reduction in force by the postal service and will be offered a buyout if I leave by the end of May. Can I apply for unemployment compensation until I find another job outside the postal service?

A: If you aren’t eligible to retire when you leave, you may be entitled to unemployment compensation. If you are eligible to retire and do so, then it’s unlikely that you would be eligible. Since each state sets the criteria for unemployment compensation, once you have been separated, you’ll need to go your nearest public employment and claims office of your state employment security agency to file a claim.

Tags: , , ,

Special pay rate and locality adjustment

Bookmark and Share

Q: I am an employee at a VA hospital under the TCF program. I am a TCF intern, so I am on a special pay pate. With the elimination of the FCIP program that hired me, I have been converted to a permanent employee. Before the conversion I was getting paid an additional locality adjustment on top of my special pay rate, but now I am getting my special pay without the locality adjustment. Am I supposed to get an additional locality adjustment on top of my special pay, or should I only be receiving my special pay rate without the locality adjustment?

A: It’s possible that your special pay matches or exceeds the basic pay for your grade, including locality pay. If it does then you wouldn’t be entitled to any further adjustment. Check with your payroll office.

Tags: , ,

Part time employment

Bookmark and Share

Q: I have 20 years of full time service. I want to stay employed and plan to go part time. Will this have a serious negative impact on me?

A: How significant it will be depends on the number of part-time hours you work and how long you do that. Go to www.opm.gov/retire/pubs/handbook/C055.pdf and scroll down to the FERS section. There you’ll find the method used to compute an annuity that includes part-time service.

Tags: ,

Early retirement

Bookmark and Share

Q: I will turn 53 on June 10. My SCD is June 5, 1978. I have 33 years of federal service. I worked for the Air Force for the first 29 years. Then I was transferred to Defense Logistics Agency. We were told at that time that nothing would change. I have heard that the Air Force is submitting a survey in May asking how many federal Air Force employees would be interested in an early out. How might I get an offer for an early out? During the past years I missed out on two early outs, one because I had been transferred to DLA. I would like to retire.

A: You can’t do anything that would lead to an offer of early retirement. These offers are only made to those who would be affected by such things as reorganizations, realignments and downsizings. When an agency surveys its work force to see who would be interested in such an offer, it’s trying to determine if it can reduce it in the right places without having to resort to a reduction-in-force.

Tags: ,

Proration and CSRS

Bookmark and Share

Q: I am a CSRS employee. I worked part time for some of my career and when my retirement was estimated recently I was given a proration of 93 percent. I asked if 93 percent was a permanent value or if it changes if I work longer. I was told that the proration number is permanent. I’ve worked 33 years and anticipate that I will work at least 38. Can you confirm that my proration will stay at 93 percent?

A: No it doesn’t stay at 93 percent. Whoever told you that didn’t understand basic arithmetic. The proration is determined by dividing the actual hours you worked by the total full-time hours you could have worked. The proration factor is then rounded to the nearest percent. Obviously, the more full-time hours you work the smaller the proration factor will become.

Tags: , ,

Supplemental Social Security

Bookmark and Share

Q: I am 57 with 28 years of civilian service under FERS. I have been paying Social Security. If I retire under VERA, what is the formula used to figure out the supplemental Social Security or special annuity supplements and how would they be received?

A: You can get a rough estimate of what your special retirement supplement would be by suing the following formula:

Your most recent Social Security estimate x your total years of FERS service rounded up to the next higher year ÷ 40.

Tags: , ,

Retirement and temporary service

Bookmark and Share

Q: I am a FERS employee, and am planning to retire at minimum age (56) with 30 years. Now I am finding out that I will be eight months short of having the 30 years, because three years of my employment was temporary service, back in the early 80s. Is it possible for me to only buy back one of those three temp years or do I have to buy all or nothing?

A: Depending on when that service was performed, it may not be possible. However, if it is — and you’ll have to check with your personnel office to find that out — you would have to make a deposit for the entire period of service. So, if you worked continuously for three years, you’d have to make a deposit that covered all three. On the other hand, if those three years were broken into discrete periods of employment, you could make a deposit for the one or ones you want.

Tags: , , ,

CSRS Offset and Social Security

Bookmark and Share

Q: I am a civil service employee with 17 years of service, 10 during CSRS years and seven during CSRS Offset years. I have 30 years of other Social Security wages. My High-3 years are in the Offset years. I draw full Social Security while working. I began this at 66. I am trying to make a retirement decision but I cannot get a clear understanding of how the offset impacts me. I have gotten retirement projections but they do not include any adjustment for Social Security. It appears too good to be true that I will not experience a reduction in either my retirement pay or Social Security. Can you advise me what adjustments I will need to make if any?

A: It is too good to be true. No matter how many years of substantial earnings you have under Social Security, your CSRS annuity will be offset by the amount of Social Security benefit you earned while covered by CSRS Offset. On the upside, that reduction will be replaced by an equal amount of your Social Security benefit. Any other Social Security benefit you are entitled to based on nongovernment employment will be in addition to that. The windfall elimination provision will only apply if you have fewer than 30 years of substantial earnings under Social Security. To see what constitutes substantial earning in each year, go to www.socialsecurity.gov/pubs/10045.html.

Tags: , , , ,

CSRS retirement

Bookmark and Share

Q: I’m a 49-year-old federal employee with 28 years of service. I am anticipating there will be early out/buyouts coming soon. While I believe I can take either, given my 28 years of service, I would take a significant penalty for being younger than 55. Has there ever been an instance where if an agency becomes desperate to reduce the number of employees through an early out/buyout and does not meet the quota, would they accept an offer from an employee? For instance, I would gladly go if I did not get hit with the age penalty. If I made them an offer explaining the benefits for them if they drop a high-grade CSRS employee, their health and retirement contribution savings and the ability to replace me with a lower graded employee would save them a lot of money. I’d even forgo the $25,000 as well. I would just request they treat me as if I were 55 with 34 years of service (the 28 I have now and the six years they’d penalize me for due to age). Do agencies have this latitude?

A: As a CSRS employee, the 2 percent reduction for every year you are younger than 55 is a matter of law. You cannot negotiate your way around it. Further, your agency cannot accept your offer to retire early and/or accept a buyout. Those opportunities are only available to employees who are in organizations and/or positions where a decrease in staff is needed.

Tags: , , ,

Medicare and Blue Cross Blue Shield

Bookmark and Share

Q: I am a retired postal employee under CSRS who has a monthly premium taken from my annuity for Blue Cross Blue Shield for myself and my spouse. I retired in 2002 with 35 years of service and have been receiving my annuity for just over nine years. My wife just turned 61 in March and does not work. I also just hit 40 quarters and am now eligible for Social Security, although reduced by the windfall elimination provision. I will be 65 in October and am aware that I must apply for Medicare 3 a month before. Since Medicare will become my primary insurance, can I keep Blue Cross Blue Shield to cover my wife? I’ve read as much as I can about this situation but I’m not sure about my spouse. It sounds like I can keep it, but I would like to know if that is true. I’ve checked OPM and Medicare but nothing there is clear cut.

A: You can keep your Federal Employees Health Benefits program coverage. And you can continue your wife’s coverage by staying in the self and family option of any FEHB plan.

 

Tags: , , , ,

Disability

Bookmark and Share

Q: I would like to know what, if any, percentage I would be entitled to for 20 percent hearing loss.

A: If your hearing loss is both job related and permanent, you can contact the Office of Workers Compensation, which can evaluate your situation. Your agency can tell you how to do that.

Tags:

CSRS and Medicare and Blue Cross and Blue Shield

Bookmark and Share

Q: With Medicare what will BCBS cover? If you cannot find a doctor who takes Medicare, will BCBS cover the doctor as it would have before signing up for Medicare?

A: You’ll find the answers to your questions in your Blue Cross and Blue Shield Service Benefit Plan brochure. Read Section 4, Your costs for covered services, and, in particular, When you have the Original Medicare Plan (Part A, Part B, or both).

Tags: , ,

CSRS buyout

Bookmark and Share

Q: Is there any talk of a buyout in FY12 for CSRS employees? I would think our employers would want us off the books so as to concentrate on FERS.

A: No there isn’t any such talk, nor could there be unless the law is changed. Any offers of early retirement or buyouts would have to be made to all employees — CSRS and FERS alike — in the organizations, geographic areas, occupations and grades where reductions are needed.

 

Tags: , ,

Military buyback

Bookmark and Share

Q: I am considering buying back my military time. I am a federal employee under FERS and retired from the Naval Reserves in January 2010. If I buy back my time (which is about eight years of active duty), will it affect my military retirement at age 60? Also, what is the true advantage of buying back my time?

A: If you make a deposit for your period(s) of active duty service, those years will be included when determining your total years of civilian service and in your annuity computation. For most FERS employees that would mean an increase of 8 percent in their annuities. Making a deposit will have no affect on your reserve retired pay.

 

Tags: , , ,

CETA and Postal Service

Bookmark and Share

Q: I worked for a federally funded work project in 1975 and 1976 before coming to the Postal Service. I believe it was called CETA. Can that time be bought back or applied to my CSRS retirement?

A: No.

Tags: ,

Terminal leave check

Bookmark and Share

Q: I plan to retire from the Postal Service on May 31. I have 600 hours of annual leave and will receive a nice terminal leave check. Is there a way to have the terminal leave check deposited into my TSP account instead of coming directly to me after taxes have been withheld?

A: No, there isn’t. Lump-sum payments for unused annual leave aren’t made until after an employee has retired, and retirees can’t make deposits to the Thrift Savings Plan.

Tags: , ,

Sunset provision and rehired acquisition field annuitants

Bookmark and Share

Q: Section 4 of Public law 109-313 allows some rehired annuitants in acquisition-related positions to be rehired at full salary with no offset to their annuity. The law includes a sunset provision that this authority will end on Dec. 31, 2011. Has it been extended? Is it expected to be extended? How can I keep track of its status?

A: No, this provision hasn’t been extended, and we haven’t heard that any effort is being made to do so. To keep track of any proposed legislation, you have to rely on a variety of sources: the media, your congressional relations office, your members of Congress, and by typing in key words in the space provided, www.congress.gov.

 

Tags:

Social Security and government offset

Bookmark and Share

Q: I am a federal retiree receiving an annuity of $1,344 per month. My husband receives Social Security of $1,810 per month. How much Social Security would I receive upon his death based on these figures? I am aware of the government offset provision. I figured I would receive about $905 per month. $1,344 – 2/3rds = about $877. Subtracting $877 from $1,810 leaves about $905. Am I on the right track? Whenever I called Social Security (when you can get someone on the phone) I keep getting conflicting answers.

A: You are on the right track. Because you are receiving an annuity from a retirement system where you didn’t pay Social Security taxes, any spousal or survivor Social Security benefit to which you would be entitled will be reduced by $2 for every $3 you receive in your CSRS annuity. When you do the calculation, make sure that you are using the gross dollar figures for your annuity and your husband’s Social Security benefit, not the net figure after deductions have been taken out for such things as health benefits and taxes.

 

Tags: , , ,

Excess contributions to CSRS

Bookmark and Share

Q: With respect to the employee’s portion of contributions to the Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS), how are excess contributions (i.e., contributions for creditable service beyond 41 years and 11 months of creditable service) handled? It would seem logical that once an employee covered under the CSRS worked beyond 41 years and 11 months and has “capped out” at 80 percent on the service component of the Civil Service Retirement System Annuity computation, there should be no further employee deductions withheld and tendered into that system.

A: By law contributions continue to be taken from an employee’s pay even after reaching 41 years and 11 months, the point at which a CSRS annuity reaches the maximum of 80 percent. If no deposits or redeposits to the retirement fund are due when such an employee retires, he has one of two options: receive a refund of those contributions plus interest or use the refund to purchase additional annuity, which isn’t subject to the 80 percent limit.

Tags: , ,