Ask The Experts: Retirement

By Reg Jones

Alternate form of annuity

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Q. I am anticipating retiring Jan. 3 after almost 40 years of continuous service for the Veterans Affairs Department. I recall, many years ago, retirees electing withdrawal of their cumulative contributions to the retirement fund and receiving a minimum penalty in their annuity. I am unable to find anything online relating to this option and my human resources people say they’ve never heard of it. When did we lose this option?

On that subject, my earnings and leave do not reflect the total amount that I have contributed to the retirement fund, but only the amount contributed since conversion to the Defense Finance and Accounting Services. I’m told “they never figured out a way to convert the figures from the old system.” Other than searching through my attic for old E&L records, and adding the two figures, where can I find the amount of my total contribution?

Also, I’ve read where under Obamacare, congressmen and their staffs will no longer be under Federal Employees Health Benefits after January 2014 and will have to go under a state program. Is there any plan to move federal employees and retirees also?

A. You are referring to the alternative form of annuity. When it became law in 1986, it allowed a retiree to receive a tax-free payment of his contributions to the retirement system and accept a reduced annuity.

However, Public Law 103-66 eliminated this lump-sum option for everyone other than those employees who have a life expectancy of less than two years and who are not retiring on disability.

When you retire, the Office of Personnel Management will provide you with the exact amount of money you have contributed to the retirement fund. I’m not aware of any way you could get that figure now.

Finally, there is no plan to move federal employees to a state program or anywhere else, for that matter.

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