Ask The Experts: Retirement

By Reg Jones

11 questions on military buyback

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Q. 1. How are the days of active-duty service calculated?

2. Is that a one-to-one credit added to years of service?

3. Can you buy it back after you retire and adjust the annuity accordingly?

4. Can you buy back portions of it?

5. Can you pay in installments?

6. What percentage of military pay per year would you get in retirement? For CSRS, it is roughly 2 percent based on high-3; would it be calculated on actual salary back then or adjusted for inflation?

7. Any chance for a retroactive payment once established?

8. Will I lose any benefits if I do this?

9. Can I do this if I was not in the military long enough to earn a pension?

10. How does Social Security fit into this picture?

11. Can I get all three (FERS/CSRS, Social Security, military/Defense Department) separately? What is the penalty for collecting multiple pensions if done separately?

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NTE position and VSIP eligibility

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Q. Would I be eligible for a Voluntary Separation Incentive Pay if offered? I am 57 and will have 33 years of service under CSRS in June. I took an NTE position in 2009 that ended in Sept 2011 and was unemployed from Sept. 30, 2011, to June 2012, when I was reinstated. Because I had the break in service — and since that break have been working less than three years continuously, would that make me ineligible for a buyout?

Also, is there a limit on how many times you can be turned down for a VSIP or any recourse after multiple times while others get approved for it?

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Military retirement + civilian retirement

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Q. I left active duty after 14 years and joined the reserves. Due to my specialty in certain investigations (CID agent), I was involuntary mobilized prior to obtaining a civilian (1811) job. I was mobilized for four continuous years, bringing my active-duty time to 18 years. Once off active duty, I was able to report for my first day of work as an 1811 in the GS. Since I was not eligible for active-duty retirement, I was able to use my 18 years for sick/vacation time. My unit is planning to mobilize this year (for a year), and my plan is to mobilize and hope to stay on until reaching 20 active-duty years, thereby clinching an active-duty retirement. If I buy the 18 years back now for the GS civilian job, and then I mobilize for two years, would I be eligible for the active-duty retirement since I will have reached 20 years?

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State taxes

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Q. I am going to be a retired CSRS employee. The Postal Service does not take state taxes out of the CSRS retirement check. How do I go about paying my state taxes?

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Disability retirement

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Q. I have 25 years of service with the Postal Service. I am extremely ill and have been told by my doctor that I would need to consider disability retirement. My base pay is $57,000 per year. Could you please tell me what my disability retirement will be?

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Survivor annuity

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Q. My husband passed away in 2004. He was retired when we married, and I am wondering if I am able to receive any benefits from his pension. We were married for 25 years. He was a postmaster and worked for the Postal Service for 30 years.

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Reserve + Postal Service retirement?

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Q. I’m 61 (born in 1952) and am retiring this year at age 62. Beginning in 1970, I served three years of active duty in the Navy, 10 years in the Reserve, 16 years of active-duty reserves. I retired to the fleet reserve in 1999, which delayed my retirement pay to age 60 (2012). I joined the Postal Service in 2001. At that time, I entered FERS and did military buyback. With my Navy and postal time, postal computation shows I have 30 years this year and am eligible to retire from the Postal Service. Will I be able to receive both Naval Reserve retirement and Postal Service retirement, or am I only eligible to collect Postal Service retirement?

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39 quarters

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Q. I am 61 years old and have been retired from the fire service. I have, according to Social Security, 39 units which were not earned at fire service. If correct, I need one unit to earn Social Security at age 62, and I need this unit also to be eligible for Medicare at age 65? Is there any other way to get this one quarter other than going to get a job for three months?

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CSRS actuarial reduction

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Q. I worked under CSRS from 1963 to 1984 and withdrew my contributions when I left. I returned to a term position in 2002 and was informed that I couldn’t elect CSRS, so I selected a FERS pension. I am 72 and still employed. When I retire, I will receive an actuarially reduced CSRS pension. Does the reduction computation continue each year into retirement? What is the reason (law or regulation) that this reduction is itself not reduced or eliminated if I retire at a more advanced age (and will receive the pension for fewer years)?

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Military buyback

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Q. I am a 52-year-old veteran who works as a civilian for the Postal Service. I began my military career with 10 years of active-duty Army service and then honorably separated and went to work for the Postal Service. I bought back those 10 years at that time and joined the Army Reserve. I served eight years with the Postal Service full time and USAR duty as required. In 2002, my Reserve unit was called up in support of Operation Enduring Freedom/Operation Iraqi Freedom, and I remained an active-duty reservist until February 2012, when I qualified for lock-in. As required, the Postal Service held my job for me. Upon my return to the post office, I inquired about the process to make up the contributions to retirement and Thrift Savings Plan as outlined in the FERS guide and was told I could not because I was receiving reserved retirement pay, and that the time that I spent activated with the Reserve would not count toward postal retirement. Furthermore, the USPS wants to refund the money that I already paid to buy back my active duty service and not credit that time toward my USPS retirement. Is this correct? It does not appear to be under the following:

10 USC § 12741 – Retirement for service in an active status performed in the Selected Reserve of the Ready Reserve after eligibility for regular retirement

10 USC § 12736 – Service credited for retired pay benefits not excluded for other benefits.

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FERS redeposit and taxes

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Q. My wife left her government job a number of years ago and withdrew the money from her FERS account. She re-entered government service a few years ago. She then requested the redeposit amount required to bring her FERS account whole again. To make her FERS redeposit payment, she took a withdrawal from her IRA.

We received a 1099-R from her IRA firm showing the withdrawal and we will need to report on our taxes as income. Since the money went back into FERS, can I deduct that amount as if it were being rolled over into an IRA?

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Law enforcement special retirement coverage

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Q. I was hired as GS-9/11 1811 criminal investigator (primary position) and, after two years and 23 days, I was promoted into a supervisory position for nine years that was classified as a secondary position. Because I did not complete three years in a primary position first, I was told that I did not meet the requirements for special coverage. But I changed agencies and spent my last eight years in a “primary position,” so I have over 10 years in a primary position. I feel that I have completed the three-year requirement. Can I get the nine years of my secondary position covered?

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Annuity eligibility

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Q. I worked for the Postal Service from 1988 to 1999 and took my retirement money with me. Someone told me that they only gave me what I put in and I am entitled to the money they matched. Is that true? Am I entitled to any pension from the post office when I am old enough to retire for good?

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Defining ‘full time’

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Q. How does the government define full-time employee?

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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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Social Security + annuity

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Q. I am a federal employee under FERS. In 2011, I retired from federal service from the House of Representatives. I returned to federal service one month later. Because my retirement package was already computed, my income is split equally between my retirement annuity and my pay from the House of Representatives. The deposits are listed as US Treasury Civ Serv for my annuity and US House of R for my regular monthly salary. I turned 66 in November; thus I’m eligible for full Social Security retirement if I choose to draw it. I would like to continue working. Will I be able to receive full Social Security retirement with no offset to my annuity or monthly salary?

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Windfall elimination provision

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Q. If I continue to work at a Social Security-covered job past the age of 62, will the windfall elimination provision deduction be reduced?

I retired from the Postal Service as a CSRS employee in 2004. Prior to my Postal Service time, I had 12 years of substantial earnings in the private sector. Since my retirement in 2004, I have worked for 10 years in a job that pays Social Security deductions. So, as of now, at the age of 62, I have 22 years of substantial earnings.

I have contacted the Social Security Administration and been told to use the WEP detailed calculator to determine what my benefit would be if I made a Social Security claim. However, that did not answer my question. I realize that the longer I work, the greater the Social Security benefit will be. But, as I work longer, will the WEP deduction be reduced, too? Or is it permanently set at age 62?

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Contribution rate for reinstated employee

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Q. I started my career with the federal government in December 2010. If I am not mistaken, my retirement contribution is 1.2 percent. I left the federal government in June 2013. I will be reinstated hopefully in about a month. As a reinstated employee whose initial date of entering the federal workforce was in 2010, will I be abided by the new retirement contribution rate of 4.4 percent?

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VERA

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Q. I have worked for the Postal Service since 1985. I did not reach career status until January 1994, when I became postmaster in my Level 11 office, so the 8½ years prior do not count, unfortunately. I have worked here my entire career. In September, it will be reduced to a Level 2 and I will not be allowed to stay. I would like to take the Voluntary Early Retirement Authority being offered. Will I be penalized the customary 5 percent per year under 30 years? I am 55 and, as of Jan. 22, have 20 years of career service (this excludes my work prior to 1994). Also, will I be able to take advantage of the special retirement supplement?

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Re-employment after retirement

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Q. I am collecting my CSRS pension, having retired from the Postal Service in February 2011 after a combined 37+ years of service — nine years and seven months with the Air Force, and 30 years and two months with the Postal Service. I’ve worked for a private corporation for about a year and had no problem with working and collecting a pension.

But now I have an opportunity to get a job with the U.S. Census Bureau. Since it is a government agency, I figured there may be some conflicts regarding collecting a salary and a pension at the same time. But each person I’ve asked regarding a potential conflict, I’ve received a different answer, which is to say, nobody really knows the answer but everyone has an opinion.

Is there clarification that you can give to me regarding the possible conflict I may have? It may not be worth my while to take a position with the Census Bureau if my financial losses outweigh my financial gains.

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