By Reg Jones
Q. I was required to retire from a federal law enforcement position in 2011 after 22 years (GS-13, step 10) due to reaching the maximum age. I may have an opportunity to work with another agency in a permanent position at the GS-12 level. What are the ramifications on my retirement and health benefits? Also, what if this were a re-employed annuitant position?
November 25th, 2013 | annuity reduction Creditable service: FERS Earnings test EMPLOYMENT FERS annuity computation law enforcement Minimum retirement age PAY RETIREMENT service computation date SOCIAL SECURITY Special retirement supplement
Q. I am a law enforcement officer, born 1967. My 6(c) service computation date is Nov. 1, 1989, and I plan to continue to work as a 6(c) until Dec. 31, 2014 (but not retire, simply change jobs/agency). I would like to continue working as a FERS regular employee until Dec. 31, 2020, when my youngest is out of college. If I change from 6(c) to regular FERS either now or at the end of 2014, do I mess up my ability to retire with the 6(c) computation of my 20 “good years,” or lose the ability to retire before minimum retirement age on an unreduced annuity, or give up the ability to avoid wage earnings testing against my special retirement supplement prior to my MRA?
Q. I am a law enforcement officer who retired after 27 years at age 51. I am receiving the special retirement supplement, which I should receive fully until age 56 despite any additional income. I started a private-sector position immediately upon my retirement. They are taking full Social Security deductions from my pay. It seems to me that I have “topped out” on Social Security based on my service. Should I still have Social Security deducted? If so, will I receive any benefit from this when file my taxes next year?
Q. I am in a law enforcement position with 20 years as of September. I’m age 47. I’m looking at transferring to another federal agency that is not law enforcement. Would I be able to retire at the age of 50 from that agency if I choose, or will I be able to stay there after the age of 57?
Q. I was employed as a primary law enforcement (6(c) covered position) for 14 years. I paid 1.7 percent into FERS during that time. I left that position and went to a noncovered position, which is a regular FERS retirement 1 percent. When I spoke to human resources, nobody could give me an answer to what happens to the 0.7 percent, which was taken out for 14 years. Granted, I was told that the 0.7 percent would be held until retirement in case I decided to go back to 6(c) covered position, and I would be credited the time and money toward that retirement. Now that I’m getting close to retirement, I’ll have 33 years at age 56 in four years. How does the 0.7 percent figure into the retirement? Since I “overfunded” my FERS “regular” retirement by 0.7 percent for 14 years, would I receive a lump-sum check for 0.7 percent, as an overage payment into the retirement system? Receive credit in time? Or just plain lose it?
Q. I am looking at retiring in about a year. At that time, I will be 53 with 26 years of 6(c) coverage under FERS. I know I can retire right now, but will I be penalized for not waiting until I am 57 (mandatory retirement age)? Also, I understand I can earn as much as I can after retirement, but until what age? I had an officer tell me it was 57 and another said it was 62, the age when regular Social Security benefits are paid. I also believe that the Social Security benefits at 62 would be reduced but by how much?
Q. I am a retired federal employee on CSRS Offset. Law enforcement with mandatory retirement at age 57. My wife is older than I am and is drawing on her own Social Security. Until I am 62, all of the money is CSRS. When I turn 62, I will start to draw Social Security and my CSRS annuity will be reduced. Would my wife then be able to draw the spouse one-half amount of my Social Security (or whichever is the larger amount between us), or is there any language in which she would be restricted from my Social Security due to the fact that it is tied to my CSRS amount? She is having to sign up for Medicare because she is 65. We pay a lot of money for our federal health insurance. They will take $104. This would protect us with the Blue Cross secondary. Do you recommend signing up for Medicare even though it will decrease her benefits with Blue Cross health insurance?
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)?
Q. I was appointed in 1992 at age 43 to my current position, an approved “secondary” law enforcement position within the judicial branch. I just completed my 21st year in the position and am retiring in January. Despite being in an approved law enforcement position, I am not in the LE retirement plan but rather regular FERS. Because the agency decided to hire me when I was beyond 37 years old, can they now say that because I was over 37 at time of appointment, I am not eligible for law enforcement retirement?
Q. I will be retiring with 26 years of law enforcement 6(c) service plus four years of military time that I have bought back. Once I begin my annuity, what will be the premium cost to remain in my federal health insurance plan? Will I continue paying only the employee share, or will I now be responsible for both the employee and government share of my plan?
Q. I am a CSRS federal law enforcement retiree (age 50 with 20 years of service). Other than having paid into FICA taxes, I never paid into Social Security like present FERS employees. When I turn 65, am I eligible for both Medicare parts A and B? If not, how do you suggest I proceed to supplement my coverage?
October 11th, 2013 | annuity reduction Creditable service: FERS Earnings test EMPLOYMENT FERS annuity computation law enforcement mandatory retirement PAY RETIREMENT SOCIAL SECURITY Special retirement supplement
Q. I am in FERS in a law enforcement officer position. I was born in 1970. I joined my agency when I was 30 (Feb. 1, 2001) so I am eligible to retire when I have 20 years of service and turn 50 (Feb. 1, 2021). The mandatory retirement age is 57. If I were to retire at age 50, can I receive the special retirement supplement then, or do I need to wait until I turn 57 (what would have been my mandatory retirement age). If I receive the supplement at any point prior to age 57, what is the formula to figure out what the reduction would be? Any other factors to consider?
Q. I am a 45-year-old 1811 with 19 years 6(c) and one year as an immigration inspector prior to them being covered. I also have four years in the military. When I reach 20 years 6(c) (25 years total government time) at the age of 46, will I be eligible to retire and collect right away?
Q. I plan on retiring in 1½ years with 25 years as a federal law enforcement officer. I will be 48 and will receive the full special retirement supplement until I reach my minimum retirement age, which is 56 years and four months. After that, will my annuity affect the SRS? If so, how? In other words, will my annuity be calculated as earnings when it comes to the SRS?
Q. I’m a law enforcement officer and will be subject to mandatory retirement on Jan. 31, 2014. Is there any recourse to not using annual use-or-lose leave by the Jan. 11 cutoff and extending it until Jan. 31, thus cashing out the 240 hours plus what I’m earning in 2013 (approximately 448)?
Q. I am a Customs and Border Protection officer. I was hired in August 2003. I am under the CBP officers enhanced retirement, which took effect in July 2008. According to my leave and earnings statement, it says my “Retirement 6C date” is Aug. 24, 2003, which is the date I was hired. Does this mean that my enhanced retirement benefits will be calculated from that date? I thought it would start from the July 2008 date. Can you clarify?
Q. I was hired March 3, 1985, in a law enforcement position. When I was hired, I was covered under CSRS. I am now under FERS. Why?
Q. I am 46 years old with 22 years in a 6(c) covered position. My agency removed me for failing to maintain my TS clearance (not for cause), which I continue to appeal via Merit Systems Protection Board. If I fail to be reinstated, can I work in the private sector and wait until age 50 to apply/receive my FERS special retirement? If no, can I resume federal employment and at age 50 apply/receive my FERS special retirement? Where can I find these guidelines? Is it an agency head approval situation?
September 29th, 2013 | COLA Creditable service: FERS Deferred retirement DOWNSIZING Early retirement EMPLOYMENT FERS annuity computation HEALTH INSURANCE law enforcement LIFE INSURANCE Minimum retirement age Reductions in force RETIREMENT SOCIAL SECURITY Special retirement supplement
In my last two columns, I described the procedures agencies are required to use when they conduct a reduction in force. In this column, I’ll focus on the options available to employees who are eligible to retire when facing a RIF.
If you have the right combination of age and service, you’ll be able to retire on an immediate annuity, even if you aren’t directly targeted by a RIF. Here are the rules, which are different for personnel under the Civil Service Retirement System and the Federal Employees Retirement System.
The immediate retirement rules are different for special category employees, such as law enforcement officers, firefighters and air traffic controllers. If you are covered by CSRS, you can retire at age 50 with 20 years of service; if you are covered by FERS, you can retire at age 50 with 20 years of service or at any age with 25.
If you aren’t eligible for immediate retirement, a general RIF notice won’t qualify you for early retirement. You’ll need a specific notice, which must identify your position as one that will be affected and that you will be separated from it on a specific date.
Rather than issue specific RIF notices, your agency may first authorize early retirements under Voluntary Early Retirement Authority or encourage retirements by offering buyouts to employees occupying certain positions under the Voluntary Separation Incentive Program.
Note: If offered a VSIP, you don’t need to be eligible to retire. You only need to be willing to leave and do so.
Whether offered a VERA, a VSIP or both, you’ll be eligible for early retirement if you meet the age and service requirements, which are the same for CSRS and FERS.
Special retirement supplement
If you are a FERS retiree, you’ll receive a special retirement supplement if you retire after your MRA with 30 years of service, at age 60 with 20 years, or on early voluntary or involuntary retirement beginning at your MRA. If you are a special category retiree, you will receive the SRS regardless of your age.
The SRS approximates the amount of the Social Security benefit you earned while covered by FERS. It is paid until age 62 when you become eligible for a Social Security benefit. The amount you receive in your SRS is fixed. It won’t be increased by any cost-of-living adjustments while you are receiving it. However, it will be reduced or suspended if you’ve reached your MRA and have earnings from wages or self-employment that exceed the annual Social Security earnings limit. In 2013, that limit is $15,120.
COLAs on retirement annuities
The rules governing COLAs for CSRS and FERS retirees are different. If you are a CSRS retiree, you are entitled to receive them annually regardless of the age at which you retire. The same is true if you are a special category retiree under FERS. On the other hand, if you are a regular FERS retiree, you won’t receive one until you reach age 62.
FYI: When the consumer price index is 2 percent or less, FERS retirees receive the same COLA as their CSRS counterparts. However, between 2 and 3 percent, they receive 2 percent, and at 3 percent or more, they receive the CPI minus 1 percent.
Even if you aren’t eligible to retire now, you may still be able to receive an annuity later on. For example, if you had at least five years of service when you left, you could apply for a deferred retirement at age 62. If you were a FERS employee who had 20 or more years of service, you could apply at age 60. In either case, your annuity would be based on your years of service and highest three years of average basic pay on the day you left. Note: FERS employees applying for a deferred retirement aren’t eligible for the special retirement supplement.
Health and life insurance
You must be covered under the Federal Employees Health Benefits program and/or the Federal Employees’ Group Life Insurance program for the five consecutive years immediately preceding your retirement (or from your first opportunity to enroll) to carry that coverage into retirement. (Coverage under Tricare also counts toward the five-year requirement, as long as you were enrolled in the FEHB program when you retired.)
Fortunately, the Office of Personnel Management has some flexibility. If you haven’t met the requirement to continue your coverage but are currently enrolled, you may be eligible for a pre-approved waiver.
A final note: If you are a FERS employee who is eligible to carry your FEHB or FEGLI coverage into retirement but you postpone the receipt of your annuity to a later date, you can re-enroll in those programs when your annuity begins. On the other hand, if you leave government and apply for a deferred annuity, you can’t re-enroll in either program.
Q. I am 42 and have 11 years of covered law enforcement time. Can I leave for a state position and collect half at age 45? This is what I was told.