Ask The Experts: Retirement

By Reg Jones

Involuntary relocation

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Q. I am a GS-15 in the Department of the Air Force in San Antonio. My parent office in D.C. is relocating all field representatives (there are nine of us) back to the National Capital Region. I am 57½ years old and have more than 13 years of service. I know I am always eligible for MRA + 10 retirement, but do I have other options? If I can retire and not lose the 5 percent per year, I would seriously consider this. There is also a Voluntary Early Retirement Authority window still open to me, I believe.

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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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Discontinued service retirement?

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Q. I am a Postal Service employee in maintenance as an electrical technician. I have 23 years of service at age 56. Our office is going through an accelerated plant closing. I received a letter of involuntary reassignment (no date given) in May. There are no ET jobs within 50 miles of our office (limit on excessing under American Postal Workers Union contract). Under the contract, I can be forced into a lower-level job, (window clerk, city carrier, custodian) up to 50 miles away with saved grade and retreat rights. Can I qualify for a discontinued service retirement? If not, what do I need to qualify? I would like to retire without penalty. Otherwise, I need to work until I am age 60. Are there any other options I don’t know about?

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Paygrade

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Q. I am a GS-9 and filling a GS-7 position that has not been filled. I have been informed that due to the agency downsizing, my GS-9 position will be eliminated. What are my options? Am I entitled to a GS-9 save-pay if I am offered the GS-7 position?

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Reassignment vs. discontinued service retirement

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Q. I received a notice of directed reassignment outside my commuting area and must respond indicating my intention to accept or decline the reassignment. I’ve been advised that I am eligible for a discontinued service retirement without an age penalty but also believe that an early-out/buyout will be offered by my organization within the next few months. I’m prepared to accept the reassignment to wait and see if an early-out/buyout is offered. I want to make sure that I would remain able to later decline the reassignment and still take the discontinued service retirement if the early out/buyout isn’t approved before I’m required to report to the new duty station. If I accept the reassignment, would I still be able to change my mind and take a discontinued service retirement if there is no early-out/buyout offer?

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Management-directed reassignment and discontinued service retirement

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Q. Our organization is going through a transfer of function and half of our staff is being relocated to a new office outside the commuting area. Management is first asking for volunteers and, if staffing levels are not reached through that process, they will begin going down the list of our staff based on service computation date reassign employees to the new office.

According to the agreement reached by the employees union and management, the volunteer window is open for 45 days. An employee may rescind their request for voluntary reassignment prior to the close of the window without penalty. However, if an employee volunteers to be reassigned, then rescinds their request after the close of the 45-day window, that employee gives up their position (seniority) on the list and management may invoke its right to involuntarily reassign that employee, without regard to that employee’s SCD.

I am 46 years old with 26 years of service. I had planned on leaving service in the next three or four years prior to all of this happening, knowing I will not be eligible for retirement. I am 17th on the list of 22 employees to be reassigned to the new location, so that’s not likely to happen. However, if I volunteer to be reassigned to the new office then rescind my request to volunteer after the close of the window, is there anything that would preclude me from taking a discontinued service retirement?

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