Ask The Experts: Retirement

By Reg Jones

Involuntary separation, health insurance and deferred retirement

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Q. I am 57 years and two months old. I am most likely going receive a sanction on my nursing license in late April or early May. I have 21 years and three months of service, including three years of military buyback time. I have carried federal health insurance since 1995. If I wait until the probable board sanction and I get terminated, will I still be able to defer retirement until age 60? Will I still be able to continue health insurance at age 60? Or would it be better to retire the day before the stated board of nursing action and avoid termination? Also, if I am terminated do I go to human resources and apply for deferred retirement, or do I do it through the Office of Personnel Management?

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Buyout eligibility

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Q. If a person qualifies for a buyout, does the position have to qualify for it?

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VERA and severance pay

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Q. I began working for the Defense Department in 1981. In 1993, I took a Voluntary Separation Incentive Pay. I received severance pay at that time. I came back to work in 1998. My adjusted service computation date is 1987. I have 26 years with DoD, and I am 52. If a Voluntary Early Retirement Authority is offered and I apply, provided I am approved, would I receive severance pay minus the amount I received in 1993 or none at all?

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Discontinued service retirement

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Q. I am a dual status military technician, who will be 57½ years of age at my mandatory retirement date and have 23 years federal service under FERS. Due to the MRD of July 31, 2016, I will be involuntarily separated from my federal job, and not make 25 creditable years of service. Can I get a FERS retirement without a reduced annuity?

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Military buyback refund

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Q. I was recently awarded a 40 percent military disability retirement retroactively back to 2005. I am a federal employee who previously paid more than $8,000 to buy back my military service time toward FERS retirement. Now that I am a military retiree, I am not eligible to buyback my military time. My human resources point of contact said the military buyback cannot be refunded until separation or FERS retirement. Can I receive a refund of the $8,000 military deposit prior to my FERS retirement?

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Pay for unused annual leave

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 Q. I am a former federal employee. I have been separated from my agency for 40 days. I received my clearance upon separation. At the time of my separation, I had 346 hours of unused annual leave. I have tried to get paid for my annual leave, but I am being given the run around by my agency’s Pay, Benefit, and Retirement Division. What are my options, and whom do I contact to get my money?

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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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Retirement eligibility

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Q. I’m a FERS employee with 26 years of combined service. I am 49 years old. If my research is correct, I’m eligible for immediate retirement annuities upon separation because I have 25 years of service and the separation would be for nondisciplinary or performance reasons.

Age is at least                  creditable service is at least

50                                        20 years

any age                               25 years

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Discontinued service retirement?

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Q. I have 18 years of federal service under FERS and am 51 years old. If my agency rates me unacceptable and removes me for inability to perform, would I be eligible for discontinued service retirement? Would my annuity be postponed until I reach an older age?

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FERS disability and other options

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Q. I retired on FERS disability in 2009 at the age of 46 with 17 years of service. I applied for FERS and went on various leave until approved. When I was approved, my position was eliminated from the agency within my state. I had been given a direct reassignment, which I declined due to the nature of the duties (similar to what I was disabling on) and the distance for transfer (130 miles away). Plus, the position had additional duties of driving for two hours daily — a duty I could not do (This was known for years within the agency). My separation papers reflected my original position as the disabling position, not the reassignment.

I went through one medical questionnaire two years ago, and I am now getting ready for the second one. The difference now is that I have a new doctor who has not yet been involved in such a questionnaire.  I assume all will get well because nothing has changed, and he is aware of my conditions.

1. If for this reason, I am removed from FERS disability, what are my options concerning retirement: discontinued, involuntary separation or nothing? I am age 50 but with the 17 years of service, can I convert to any other type of retirement, or must I wait until my minimum retirement age of 56?

2. If my doctor is not supportive and I submit the form without physician comments, what happens then?

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Buyout eligibility

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Q. I am 55 with almost 10 years in FERS and 31 years military, for which I haven’t made a deposit. If a reduction in force happens, would I be eligible for a buyout or severance pay?

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Unfair release?

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Q. A good friend of mine was recently fired/released from duty because he did not meet the stringent medical standards of the Pentagon Police Department. We fall under the Pentagon Force Protection Agency. He has failed several hearing tests over the past two years. His conversational hearing is fine, but he fails the low- or high-frequency portion of the rigid test. His own doctor has tested him and says he is perfectly fine for duty. But the agency did not accept the second opinion.

And one of his main concerns is that he was hired three years ago with the same hearing loss that he currently has. He is going through a lot of financial difficulty and personal trouble because of this situation. The agency has offered him a new administrative position but at a substantial pay reduction. Is he entitled to any compensation? Would hiring a lawyer be wise (although he can’t afford one right now)?

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Using annual leave before separation

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Q. I plan to leave my federal civilian position soon but would like to use all of my accrued annual leave at once (I have about 380 hours) and leave on the last day. Do I have a right to make this request for leave? Does it require supervisory approval?

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Postponed retirement and FEHB

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Q. I am a FERS employee and may have to postpone my retirement without suffering the age penalty. I am over 59 with 28 years of service. If I postpone my retirement until age 60 and do not carry the optional insurance that I will have to pay for plus 2 percent, would I still be eligible to restart my Blue Cross/Blue Shield coverage once my retirement begins. It will be almost six months that I will not have coverage. I have been enrolled in an insurance plan throughout my entire career. Also, if I am given separation papers involuntarily because of a transfer of function, could I resign and take an immediate retirement before 60 without penalty and also be eligible for the special retirement supplement?

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Resigning during furlough

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Q. I am a GS-15 with eight years of service. My entire office (including my senior manager) is on furlough. After the start of the furlough, I was offered and accepted a position in the private sector. My new employer understands the holding pattern federal employees are in and is being flexible on my start date in the new position. How do I resign during the furlough? Whom do I contact if I am prohibited from using my access to my federal information technology resources? Is there any advantage to waiting until the end of the furlough?

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Post office retirement options

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Q. I am age 66 in a Level 13 office as postmaster. My retirement date on Form 50 is Jan. 21, 2014, with 20 years of service. If I do nothing, I will be separated Sept. 30, 2014, with no problems. I don’t want to be offered a position which I won’t take and leave the post office with nothing.

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Social Security disability

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Q. I worked 20 years and one day with the Postal Service, stopping work in 2007. I worked a private job from 2007 through 2012. I have suffered leukemia since 1996. It became severe in 2012, which stopped my work. I am applying to Social Security to include my disability that is killing my mind function and limiting my life expectancy. I am 49 years old. If Social Security disability is awarded, what is available through FERS and how should I proceed?

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Deferred retirement

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Q. I was involuntarily separated by base closure and realignment in 1996 with 11 years of service. My minimum retirement age is 56. Can I begin my annuity at age 56 with a penalty?

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Termination before disability retirement and insurance

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Q. I have been with the Postal Service for 24 years, and I have an action for removal for nonperformance looming over me and a pending disability retirement application with the Office of Personnel Management. If I get terminated before OPM makes its decision, will that guarantee approval of disability retirement? What about insurance? If I get terminated, can I make some kind of arrangements to keep my health and life insurance? I must keep my health insurance with this medical condition and my family. I also need to hold on to my life insurance since my history is blotted.

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Deferred annuity

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Q. I was separated (resign or be fired) from the federal government in 2007 after more than 21 years of service. Twenty of those years were under FERS and the remainder were under CSRS. I was involuntarily converted to FERS in 1987. During 2007, I was not eligible for the MRA+10 retirement, but now I meet the requirements. I understand that I am eligible for an unreduced annuity at age 60. Can I wait until age 62 to receive a higher benefit amount? Do I get any credit for contributing to CSRS for one full year? How many months before I am eligible for any type of benefits from the Office of Personnel Management? Should I apply?

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