Ask The Experts: Retirement

By Reg Jones

Salary offset

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Q. Is an office closure that forces employees into a Discontinued Service Early Retirement considered voluntary or involuntary when the employee is rehired as a re-employed annuitant.  Namely, if involuntary, not subject to new Federal Salary offset.

A. If you choose to retire in the face of a reduction-of-force, your retirement is voluntary. If you are separated by a RIF, it’s involuntary. However, no matter which way you went, it would have no affect on the amount you’d have to contribute to the retirement fund if you were re-employed by the federal government. The higher contribution rate doesn’t apply to re-employed annuitants.

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Possible RIF’s effects on workers

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Q. I work at an airport as an air traffic controller for the FAA. The airport is not very busy with commercial traffic, and I am curious what the FAA would do with me if they shut down the air traffic control tower where I work at because of inactivity. If there were a reduction in force for air traffic controllers in the FAA, would they base it on our service computation date? Read the rest of this entry »

Retirement during a RIF

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Q. I noticed you can retire during a reduction in force at below the minimum retirement age with 25 years of service. However, I’ve also read that those people are not entitled to the special retirement supplement since they are below MRA. Can they be paid the supplement once they reach MRA, even though previously retired?

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RIF

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Q. Is there always a reduction in force after a Voluntary Early Retirement Authority/Voluntary Separation Incentive Pay?

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Retirement option

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Q. Is there a retirement plan for reductions in force known as five times in service + five years added to age with 25 years?

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Service computation date for RIF

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Q. I am retired military with 20+ years of active-duty service serving in a full-time competitive service position under FERS. Eleven months of my military time is counted as “creditable military service” since it was served in a qualifying campaign. My service computation date for leave was adjusted by 11 months for the creditable time. Should my SCD for reduction in force also be adjusted based on this time?

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RIF

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Q. I understand that employees already eligible for retirement will get no payout on a reduction in force. Many of us have a mix of (bought back) military and FERS, with only the combination rendering us eligible to retire. Can we take the RIF based on our FERS years, and then combine our FERS and military years into one retirement? I could not find that you’d already addressed this question.

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RIF

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Q. On Aug. 23, I was reduced in force into a position for which qualifications were waived, and it was a change to a lower grade. I have been unable to perform the duties of the new job because I do not have the basic qualifications and experience. Can I be involuntarily separated because I am unable to perform my new duties? I am a 68-year-old FERS employee with 34 years at the Defense Department.

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Re-employment

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Q. I am a retired civil servant with Defense Department. I served for more than 28 years. I retired in June 2012 under FERS with a Voluntary Separation Incentive Pay. I am considering re-employment with DoD.

1. Will I be given credit for my 28 years of service?

2. Will I be able to contribute to FERS and the Thrift Savings Plan again?

3. Will I receive eight hours of annual leave again?

4. Will I be protected from a reduction in force because I am receiving an annuity?

5. Is it best to cancel my annuity if I return to work?

6. Will my pay be based on my last pay amount (GS-13/3), or will I start over at a Step 1?

7. I will repay my VSIP, but will I need to repay any of my annual leave?

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USPS excessing and severance pay

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Q. The Postal Service is moving my job 83 miles away (out of the Office of Personnel Management’s “commuting area” definition). But USPS management is denying any claim for severance pay if anyone turns down these positions. Shouldn’t anyone at my installation who turns down these 1½-hour commuting jobs be entitled to severance pay? My particulars are: 45 years old with 15½ years of creditable FERS service.

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Severance pay and SRS with VERA or RIF?

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Q. I am a FERS employee. If my command is offering a Voluntary Early Retirement Authority and I retire at the any age and 25 years of service (I am 47 years old and have more than 25 years of service):

1. Will I get my special retirement supplement along with my retirement pay? Or will I not be entitled to the supplement?

2. If my command has a reduction in force instead, will I be able to get my severance pay plus voluntary retirement with my retirement plus the supplement until my MRA?

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Severance pay and disability retirement

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Q. I was removed from the Postal Service for nonperformance four months ago after a reassignment due to a reduction in force and 24 years of service. I had also applied for disability retirement after being assigned to that job and was just waiting for approval. A package for severance pay was offered to those of us affected by the RIF if termination was necessary. My disability application was recently approved, and I’m so relieved. What about that four months of agony, though? I was really depressed and wondering if that was how my career would end. I really wanted that reassignment to work out or I never would have settled for that job, and I would have taken the severance deal. Will that severance pay be calculated into my annuity by the Office of Personnel Management? It’s not my fault that health conditions would not allow me to do the reassignment.

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RIF

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Q. I am a GS-11 with the Department of the Air Force. My service computation date is July 2007. I was just notified that I may lose my position to another GS-11 whose position falls under a reduction in force. The issue I have is this employ was offered a GS-09 position which is sitting vacant in my section, which he declined to take. So I am now losing my position and am being told I will be moved into the GS-09 position while the RIF’ed employee takes my position. This makes me think I don’t have to take the bump to the GS-09 and can take someone else’s position and knock them down to the GS-09 position. I am an 0080 but was an 0083 prior to this.  There is an 0083 GS-11 position with a service computation date of 2009 which I would like to take instead. Am I eligible to bump that position and take it? Is that an option?

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Not offered VERA/VSIP

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Q. My agency sent out a Voluntary Early Retirement Authority/Voluntary Separation Incentive Pay form to inquire about interest. Some got it, while others did not. It seemed only personnel going anyway got the buyout. I was told the reason I did not get it was I did not qualify. At the time, I was 54 and had 21 years of service. Does this VERA/VSIP constitute a reduction in force or restructuring? If so, why would I not qualify?

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RIF and retirement age

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Q. Next November (2014), I will have 20 years of civil service but will not be the minimum retirement age; I will be 54. If there is a reduction in force next year, could the minimum age requirement be waived? I am retired military with 15 years (early retirement in 1994). I fall under FERS.

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RIF, deferred annuity and military buyback

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Q. I am a career employee with just over three years of civil service. I bought back 10 years of military service. If I am affected by a reduction in force before I reach five years of civil service, would I still be eligible for a deferred annuity when I’m 60? If I don’t qualify for FERS, does that mean I wasted the money spent for the military buyback?

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Forced retirement?

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Q. I am a Department of Army employee covered FERS and not under law enforcement, which has a mandatory retirement age. I am 57 years old, a career employee, a 10 percent disabled veteran with 38 years of service. I have also had top block ratings in all of my previous five ratings. My plan was to stay until age 62 because provisions under FERS for retiring after 62/20 years of service will maximize my benefits.

I am being told by management officials that I am going to be forced to retire because I would cause younger workers to be RIF’d from federal civil service. Most to the younger workers that I would RIF are retired Army lieutenant colonels and colonels who are already receiving more in military retirement than I would receive at 62.

Are there any provisions that allow for agency forced retirement of federal civil servants as part of an agency restructuring? I am aware of Voluntary Early Retirement Authority/Voluntary Separation Incentive Pay and discontinued service retirements, but I am at the top of my retention register and would bump military retirees out of jobs since we all perform essentially the same functions.

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Planning is key to a smooth transition

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When it comes to retirement, planning is everything.

If possible, it should begin at least one year ahead of the date you have set to retire. However, events can conspire to force a quick retirement decision, such as the offer of a “buyout” or a RIF. In those cases, use whatever time you have to plan ahead. Even a little time, wisely spent, can produce a big payoff.

Here’s a checklist for you to follow:

* Sign up for a preretirement counseling seminar at your agency. If your organization doesn’t have one at a convenient time (or offer one at all), consider enrolling in one offered by an outside firm. In some cases, your agency will pay for the course.

* Set up a meeting with an agency benefits counselor to go through your Official Personnel Folder and make sure it includes complete documentation of all of your federal employment (including any military service), the effective dates of each adjustment to your pay, and records of your health benefits and life insurance coverage, plus any designations of beneficiaries you may have filed.

* Verify when you will be eligible to retire and whether you will be able to carry your health and life insurance into retirement.

* Ask for an estimate of your retirement annuity. If you owe any deposits or redeposits to the retirement system, find out the effect on your annuity of making or not making them. If you decide that it’s worth it to make a deposit or redeposit, ask your counselor to show you how to do that.

* Ask for two copies of the necessary retirement forms. Fill one out for your benefits counselor and one for yourself. Your benefits counselor will review the forms and contact you to clear up any questions or problems that may arise.

Once the paperwork is done and you’ve confirmed your retirement date, you can relax.

Military nonretained

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Q. Why are dual-status technicians forced out by the action of military nonretaining by a commander? If an individual has 25 years in and this action is taken, is this not a form of age discrimination? My unit is going through a reduction in force and there is rumor this is what is going to happen to technicians who are 50 with 25 years or 25 years any service to cut back on full-time manning. Why would a career dual-technician be forced out because of serving their country?

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VERA/VSIP

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Q. I have over 14 years of civil service. I’m retired military (20 years). I’m almost 58 years old. I fall under FERS.

A while back, an email came down asking who would be interested in Voluntary Early Retirement Authority/Voluntary Separation Incentive Pay. I replied in the affirmative.

If they offer VERA/VSIP, my supervisor says he would not approve it for me, as he cannot afford to lose the position.

My plan was to retire at 60, but if they offered VERA/VSIP, I would go earlier. With talk of reductions in force being thrown into the mix, I’m concerned what course would be most beneficial for me. If RIF is enforced or if VERA/VSIP is offered, do they waive the 5 percent-per-year penalties for early retirement?

How do I find out how much penalty I would incur if they do not waive them? Should I buy back my military time? Keep it separate? Stay until 60?

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