By Reg Jones
June 24th, 2011 | EMPLOYMENT
Q: I have 2.5 years of credible service with the U.S Postal Service. I will be accepting a GS/GG job very shortly. Does the time count toward vacation or retirement time? What type of documentation do I need to provide when I’m hired in three weeks?
A: Yes, it counts. And the information about your prior employment will be included in your official personnel folder (OPF), which either will be forwarded to your new agency or given to you to do that.
June 23rd, 2011 | RETIREMENT
Q: What are the terminal leave provisions for the last pay period prior to retirement? Is it not possible to use one’s accumulated annual leave (either all or some) instead of receiving the annual leave payment after separation?
A: The federal government doesn’t have any terminal leave provisions. The only way you can take annual leave in any amount is if you apply for it and your request is approved by your supervisor.
June 23rd, 2011 | Special retirement supplement
Q: I am an air traffic controller with the DoD. I will reach 20 years of service at age 59 years and 2 months. As an air traffic controller, I will face mandatory retirement. 1) Since I will not be eligible for Social Security, are there benefit programs available to me to bridge the gap from mandatory retirement to Social Security? 2) Will my civil service government pension impact the amount I receive from Social Security? 3) I draw a military retirement pension; will this pension impact my Social Security benefits?
A: You will receive the special retirement supplement, which approximates the amount of Social Security benefit you earned while you were a FERS employee. That benefit continues to age 62, when you become eligible for a Social Security benefit. At age 62 your Social Security benefit will be recomputed to included all of your Social Security-covered employment. However, both your SRS and your Social Security benefit can be reduced or suspended if you have earnings from wages or self employment that exceed the Social Security earnings limit.
June 23rd, 2011 | Special retirement supplement
Q: I retired Sept. 29, 2010, under discontinued service as a National Guard Technician and am eligible for an immediate annuity. My military service was from September 1977 through April 1984 (6 ½ years) and my tech service time was from Aug. 11, 1985, through Sept. 29, 2010 (just over 25 years). My military time has been bought back. I was born in 1959 and was 51 years old and 3 months when I retired. Will I get the FERS supplement?
A: Yes, you’ll be eligible for the special retirement supplement when you reach your minimum retirement age, which is 56. Your SRS will be based solely on the years you were a FERS employee. The active duty time for which you paid a deposit will not be included.
June 23rd, 2011 | Uncategorized
Q: I asked my HR person if I could retire this September and this is the answer: “I’m sorry but you will not be able to retire in September of this year. What you could do is resign and request a deferred annuity from OPM. Your annuity commencement date would be 2/6/2016. Otherwise you will have to wait until 3/13/2012 for voluntary retirement or 2/6/2012 to become eligible for the MRA +10 option.” What is the difference in money and time for starting monthly checks between regular retirement and the MRA + 10 option?
A: While there is no difference in the time it takes OPM to provide you with a regular or MRA+10 retirement check, there is a dramatic difference in the amount you would receive. As a regular retiree, you’d receive the annuity you were entitled to based on your high-3 and years of service. As an MRA+10 retiree, that same annuity would be reduced by 5 percent for every year you were under age 62, unless you were at least age 60 when you retired and had at least 20 years of service. The only way to reduce or eliminate that penalty would be to retire and delay the receipt of your annuity to a later time.
June 23rd, 2011 | RETIREMENT
Q: I was employed as a stenographer/secretary at the FBI in New York City from February, 1967, through May, 1971, resigning to start a family. At the present time, I am a six year, seven month employee of the Township of Andover, in Newton, N.J., a municipality of the State of New Jersey. Is there a possibility that I could buy back my FBI employment time, to add to my New Jersey pension time? If you cannot provide an answer, would you direct me to the proper contact to find out this info?
A: First, a redeposit of retirement contributions can only be made by someone who is an employee of the federal government. Second, even if you returned to work for the federal government and redeposited that money, plus interest, it’s highly unlikely that it would be considered creditable by a state. However, that determination could only be made by your current employer.
June 22nd, 2011 | Disability retirement
Q: I am currently a retired CSRS offset employee who is on Social Security disability. My question is when you turn 62, does your disability payment change to regular social security or does it change at 66? I have been told conflicting information.
A: As long as you continue to be disabled, you’ll continue to receive a Social Security disability benefit. However, because you were covered by a retirement system where you didn’t pay Social Security taxes — CSRS — when you reach age 62, the windfall elimination provision will reduce the amount of your Social Security disability benefit if you have fewer than 30 years of substantial earnings under Social Security.
June 22nd, 2011 | RETIREMENT
Q: I am a retired naval officer and have been a civil servant for 15 years. When I ultimately retire from the civil service can I continue to receive my Navy retired pay as well as a civil service pension?
June 22nd, 2011 | RETIREMENT
Q: I served 11 years, 8 months as active duty in the USAF. I served from 1983-1995 and was honorably discharged. I joined the Army Reserve Nov. 6, 2009, and am currently still in the reserves. I have elected to take a position with Indian Health Services Hospital, and I have some questions about retirement. 1) I was told I would have to buy back my 11 years and 8 months within three years, otherwise interest would be added on. How much would I have to pay to buy my time? I was an E5 when I was discharged. 2) If I elect to stay in the Army Reserve, and serve my years to draw my retirement in the Army, may I draw both retirements? 3) My time in the reserve, as I understand, does not count toward my FERS retirement unless I am called to active duty, is that correct? And if so, do I have to buy that back as well?
A: To get credit for any periods of active duty — not reserve — service, you’ll have to make a deposit to the civilian retirement fund. To find out how much you would owe, complete Form RI-20-97, Estimated Earnings During Military Service, and mail it along with a copy of your DD-214, Report of Transfer or Discharge, to your military finance center. When the information comes back, take it to your payroll office, along with a copy of your DD-214 and a Standard Form 3108, Application to Make Deposit or Redeposit. The forms are available at www.opm.gov, click on Find Form(s). Your payroll office will determine the amount you owe and arrange a payment schedule if you decide to do that. No interest will be changed if you complete the deposit within the time frame. Making a deposit will have no affect on your entitlement to receive reserve retired pay.
June 22nd, 2011 | RETIREMENT
Q: I retired from the Army after 21 years as a Chief Warrant Officer 2, which was a reserve commission; the component I retired from was United States Army Reserve (USAR) and I currently receive a retirement pension/pay. I am currently a government employee. If I buy back my military time and apply it to my civilian time (FERS), do I forfeit my military retirement pay? I believe I am receiving reserve retired pay based on my discussion with DFAS.
A: If you are receiving reserve retired pay and make a deposit for any periods of active duty service, it will have no affect on you reserve retired pay.
June 22nd, 2011 | DOWNSIZING
Q: Civilians working for Air Force Materiel Command could be getting buyout and early retirement offers. Some may be eligible for packages of up to $25,000. Is this offer going to be provided to all the Air Force Commands? If so, when?
A: We haven’t heard anything. But as a guess, the likelihood is close to zero.
June 21st, 2011 | RETIREMENT
Q: Mr. Jones included something in his column appearing in the June 6 issue that has alarmed me and I’d like some clarification. Mr. Jones implies that military retired pay is somehow affected by the initiation of a federal civilian retirement annuity, except under “limited circumstances.” I am a federal employee and have been since 2007. After buying back my military academy time, I have retirement credit as of 2003. I am drawing military retired pay that I earned for service between 1983 and 2004. I plan to retire from federal civilian service in 2028. Under current rules, wouldn’t I be entitled to a FERS annuity for the 25 years of federal service from 2003 to 2028 with no affect on my military retirement pay? I have no intention of buying back any of the military service that counts for my military retirement.
A: Yes, you may receive both your military retired pay and your civilian annuity, each based on its own period of service and computed under its own rules. It’s only if you want to combine the two that you would have to make a deposit to the civilian retirement system and, in most cases, waive your military retired pay.
June 21st, 2011 | RETIREMENT
Q: I have a friend who is eligible for retirement but wants to continue to work part time for the federal government in the same area. How is their retirement calculated for part time work?
A: Tell your friend to go to www.opm.gov/retire/pubs/handbook/C055.pdf and scroll down to Subchapter 55B. Although this information originally only applied to FERS employees, thanks to a change in the law, it now also applies to those covered by CSRS.
June 21st, 2011 | LEAVE
Q: What are the rules concerning getting paid a lump sum for unused comp time (overtime credit) after retirement? Is there a limit on how many hours you can get paid for? Does the balance of annual leave have any effect on comp time balance?
A: Compensatory time must be used within 26 pay periods. If you retire and have any compensatory time remaining, it will be paid at the hourly overtime rate in effect when you earned it. Such a payment is not affected by any lump sum payment for unused annual leave to which you may be entitled.
June 21st, 2011 | RETIREMENT
Q: I was reading the June 6, 2011, Personal Advisor and in planning for retirement, item four, it was stated that if one received military retired pay that they needed to make an appointment with the retirement counselor. It was stated that “under limited circumstances you may be able to receive both (military retired pay and one’s retirement annuity). However, in most cases, you’ll have to waive military retires pay.” That certainly got my attention. I served in the Navy for 25 years before joining the VA as a physician in September 2000. My Navy retired pay is fairly substantial. I would not be happy to waive it to be able to receive an annuity on 11 years of service with the VA. What are the “limited circumstances” in which I might receive both my Navy retired pay and my FERS annuity?
A: You can only receive civilian service credit when receiving military retired pay if you were awarded the retired pay on account of a service-connected disability either incurred in combat with an enemy of the United States or caused by an instrumentality of war and incurred in the line of duty during a period of war. Even if your branch of service were to confirm that you meet the exception criteria, you would still have to make a deposit to the civilian retirement system to get credit for that time in your annuity computation.
June 21st, 2011 | Postponed retirement
Q: I am a 49-year-old FERS employee with 27 years of service and am currently eligible for a VERA & VSIP. I am considering resigning or retiring for another non-federal position to remain in my current location. I would like to lock in my retirement and benefits eligibility, yet avoid all the reduction of purchase power the early retirement with no COLA until age 62 will result in. What is my best option to accomplish this? Am I eligible for a postponed retirement through VERA, and will that enable my eligibility for my health care, LTC, and life insurance?
A: Because you have at least 25 years of service, you would be eligible to retire under the Voluntary Early Retirement Authority. Further, there would be no age reduction penalty for doing so. You would also be eligible for the special retirement supplement when you reach your MRA, unless you were earning more through wages or self employment than the annual Social Security earnings limit. In 2011 that limit is $14,160. As a retiree, you would be able to continue your coverage under the FEHB, FEGLI and LTC programs.
June 19th, 2011 | Uncategorized
In my June 6 column, I talked about the importance of planning ahead if you want your retirement application to have a better chance of speeding through the process and getting you on the annuity roll. However, what you do to smooth your way into retirement is only part of the process. In this column, I’ll talk about how your agency processes your retirement application.
It’s your human resources office’s responsibility to review your retirement application to make sure you are eligible to retire on the date you have set and determine whether you are eligible to continue your health and life insurance coverage into retirement. If there are any errors in your work record, you’ll have to work with HR on correcting them. If there are any impediments, you may have to reconsider your plans for retirement.
If everything comes up aces during the review, HR will prepare a Certified Summary of Federal Service, which lists your verified federal civilian and military service. Reviewing it gives you one last chance to check your record for accuracy and to make any changes.
Don’t take this last opportunity to take your paperwork for granted or just skim over it. You’d be amazed at the number of times employees suddenly remember that they briefly worked for the federal government while in high school or college and find out that the time is creditable when determining their length of service and, with a deposit to the retirement fund, in their annuity computation. If you do want to make a deposit, you’ll have time to do it.
Concurrent with your review of the Certified Summary of Federal Service, HR will:
- Certify your Federal Employees Group Life Insurance coverage to the Office of Personnel Management, if you are eligible to continue coverage.
- Transfer your Federal Employees’ Health Benefits Program enrollment to OPM, if you are eligible to continue coverage.
- Forward any designations of beneficiary from your official personnel record.
- Process the personnel action needed to separate you for retirement.
- Complete and certify the HR portion of your retirement application.
- Forward your retirement application and related records to your agency payroll office.
The payroll office is responsible for determining and authorizing how much money you will get in your final salary check. It will also authorize any lump-sum payment you are due for unused annual leave and, if you have been approved for a buyout, it will authorize that payment.
The payroll office will then certify and close out your Individual Retirement Record, which is the official record that includes your current service, pay rates and unused sick leave credit for retirement purposes. It will certify your annual basic pay for life insurance purposes, if you are carrying any into retirement.
Finally, the payroll office will forward your retirement package to OPM’s Retirement Operations Center in Boyers, Pa., and notify you in writing when that happens. This notice will include the register number, the transmittal and mailing dates, and your payroll office number.
Until you receive that notice, refer any questions you have about the status of your retirement application to your agency HR office. After you receive the notice, you’ll have to check with OPM on the status of your case.
While OPM has set a 30-day standard for agencies to complete the processing of a retirement case, there is no guarantee that agencies will. Depending on the nature of your case or the workload in your agency’s HR and payroll offices, it may take more or less time.
In my next column, I’ll tell you how OPM processes your retirement application, and how long you might have to wait before you get your first annuity check.
June 17th, 2011 | Early retirement
Q: What is the status of VERA/VSIP being offered in September and December 2011? Has it been approved? When will we know if we are eligible to receive the incentive and retire?
A: We haven’t heard a thing. Nor are we likely to hear anything before you do.
June 17th, 2011 | RETIREMENT
Q: I know there is a military time buy back process so military time can apply toward civilian retirement. If I have federal time, can I apply that toward a military retirement if I join the military? Or does it only go one way?
A: No, you can’t apply your federal civilian time toward a military retirement. It only goes one way.
June 17th, 2011 | Uncategorized
Q: I am sure that you have answered this question before — it seems so basic to me — but I could not find a comparable Q&A on your site. Here goes: I have 11 years, 2 months, 20 days of active Air Force service, no Guard or reserve (retired from Guard but I believe it’s irrelevant; no active time other than for training). I have been tentatively hired by DECA as a GS 4 (awaiting clearance paperwork). I don’t know anything about federal retirement plans, as I am not in one yet. How will the “buyback” of my time work? Is there someplace I can go to online, a manual or guideline, to educate myself on this?
A: You can make a deposit for your period of active duty service and get credit for that time in determining your length of civilian service and in your civilian annuity computation. If you complete the deposit within two years after you come on board, you won’t be charged any interest. You’ll need to complete a copy of form RI-20-97, Estimated Earnings During Military Service, and mail it to your military finance center with a copy of your DD Form 214, Report of Transfer or Discharge. When they get back to you, take that letter, a copy of your DD-214 and Standard Form 3108, Application to Make Deposit or Redeposit, to your local payroll office and request an estimate of the deposit required. They can arrange a payment schedule or you can deposit the amount in a lump sum. You can get copies of the RI and Standard Forms from your personnel office or download them at www.opm.gov, click on Find Form(s).