By Reg Jones
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.
Q. I was employed in federal law enforcement with 6(c) status for 19 years under FERS. My agency closed my post of duty and gave me no option other than to move 300 miles or leave the agency. Due to family reasons, I resigned. A few years later, I returned to federal law enforcement, but not with 6(c) status. I now have over 25 years of total federal service. I was informed that if an agency closes a duty location and can only relocate a person outside the commuting area, and a person leaves 6(c) status, those years (6(c)) are still computed. Is that correct?
Q. I am 51 years old with 19 years of 6(c) coverage plus one year of federal non-6(c) coverage. Am I eligible for an early-out?
Q. What would my retirement benefit percentage be if I retire at 20 years as a law enforcement officer but I am only 43? Four years of military bought back. Started in the Federal Bureau of Prisons at age 22 in 1993. Will have 20 years on Sept. 19 and will turn 43 a few days later. Served in the Army from age 18 to 22, 1989-1993. Can I do this? Presumably with a decreased benefit.
Q. I am 47 years old and have 23 years of covered federal law enforcement time and one year of uncovered, non-LEO time. I want to retire when I reach 49 years of age when I have 25 years of total service. Does the 20 at age 50 or 25 years at any time retirement scenario apply? Or does the “25 at any age” require 25 years of covered service?
Q. I’ve been an employee for more than 30 years. However, four of my permanent years were taken away from the law enforcement 20-year retirement. So I have 18.5 years of LE retirement. My age is 60. Is there talk of an early-out for National Park Service employees? I need to wait for the LE retirement to kick in as I would get almost twice as much in retirement.
Q. I am an 1811, GS-13, Step 9, federal law enforcement officer. I was activated, under Title 10 for 13 months in 2012. I deployed to Afghanistan. I am eligible to retire from my federal employment. How does the Office of Personnel Management calculate my high-3 for retirement purposes, if one of my high-3 years would have been during the time I was deployed?
Q. I work for a law enforcement department that has LEO and when I am eligible to retire, I will be 51 years old but I will only have 17 years of LEO although I will have 25 years under the Virginia Retirement System. Will I qualify for any kind of LEO benefit?
Q. If you have 14 years law enforcement (6c coverage) and switch to nonlaw enforcement and retire with 30 years at the minimum retirement age, would you calculate the rate at 1.7 percent x 14 years and 1 percent for the remaining 16 years, or do you lose all of the law enforcement benefits?
Q. I have a CSRS law enforcement retirement. I am 63 and have been retired for 13 years. I married under recent same sex Defense of Marriage Act ruling. Is there any way I can elect to sign up for reduced survivor benefits for my spouse, say 5 percent to 10 percent, to preserve her federal health benefits should I predecease her? A retired postal worker said such an option exists and would also require me to make a “reduced” survivor benefit deposit, as well.
Q. I am a law enforcement specialist with the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center at the Cheltenham facility. I have more than 20 years in federal law enforcement between the Federal Protective Service and the U.S. Park Police. My current position is a 6(c) covered position. Am I required to retire at age 57?