Ask The Experts: Retirement

By Reg Jones

Leaving federal service

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Q. I plan on leaving federal service with the VA after 15 years of employment, having worked various jobs at GS-7 and GS-5 levels. I will be 48 years old upon my voluntary leave. Can I collect my VA pension immediately or do I have to wait till I reach a certain age to collect a monthly pension? And if I can collect my VA pension now, can I continue to pay for health insurance via monthly deduction from the pension amount? Read the rest of this entry »

Removing a spouse from family coverage

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Q. I presently have self-and-family health insurance through Blue Cross-Blue Shield. I will retain family coverage for the children but want to drop my wife from coverage. Can I legally do this? She is eligible for Medicare due to disability. I am not retired.

A. No, you can’t. There are only two enrollment categories in the FEHB program: self and self-and-family. You are enrolled in the latter, which means that all your eligible family members are included.

Surviors benefits and continued health insurance

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Q. I am currently enrolled in an insurance program that will pay out excellent benefits should I die before my spouse. I am getting ready to retire under CSRS Offset. How much of a reduced survivor benefit do I need to take to ensure my wife maintains her health benefits? Read the rest of this entry »

Medicare Part A and Part B

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Q. I will turn 65 in July of this year. I’m retired through the CSRS. Should I enroll in Medicare Parts A and B? I’m enrolled in Blue Cross Blue Shield in the federal health insurance program and plan on keeping my insurance. If I take Parts A and B, how much would they cost?
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CSRS service and Medicare Part A fees

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Q. I have been CSRS with no broken service since 1978. I worked a few part time jobs when I was young, so I have only a few quarters of Social Security. When I turn 65 in a few years, I want to sign up for Medicare Part A and B. I know I will have to pay for Part B, but will my 36 years of CSRS be enough for me to get free Medicare Part A? Read the rest of this entry »

FEHB re-enrollment after disability

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Q. I have been approved for Federal Retirement Disability after having applied for it almost 15 months ago. I am receiving interim payments. I was separated from my federal position before I applied and could not afford to pay for COBRA benefits during the time I waited to be approved. When could I anticipate receiving my health insurance benefits back? How will they calculate my portion of the health insurance premium? Read the rest of this entry »

FEHB provider and premiums wrong

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Q. I retired from the U.S. post office in January. I changed my FEHB provider during the 2013 open season, but according to the retirement booklet that OPM sent me in February and my 4/1/14 first full annuity statement, it still shows me as having my old coverage. Will (or should) they automatically correct this? I called OPM about this mistake and was told that it is my responsibility to correct this error by submitting proof of switching providers? Is this correct? Read the rest of this entry »

FERS retirement

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Q. This is a two part question. I’m a FERS employee with a minimum retirement age of 56 1/2.
I would like to retire at my MRA if possible but want to make sure I understand the penalties and rules. First, I will be about 1 1/2 years short of 30 years with the government at age 56 1/2. It’s my understanding that I can still retire at that age but can postpone receiving an annuity to avoid the 5 percent per year penalty if I don’t take benefits until age 60. Is this correct?

Second, if I decide to postpone taking the annuity until age 60, I won’t be eligible to receive health care benefits until that time. I would need to find alternative health care during that gap between age 56 1/2 and 60. But would I be able to re-enroll again at age 60 with no issues?
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Medicare deductions from annuities

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Q. Will Medicare continue to be deducted until an employee is age 65, or do deductions stop once they retire (at age 59 or 60)? Read the rest of this entry »

FEHB and deferred retirement

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Q. I started work in an letter of authorization appointment in June 2004. In January 2005, I was hired under a TERM contract not-to-exceed four years. I completed that term and a second one. At the end of that period, my only option to continue was to return to an L/A appointment. Because I was coming from a position with benefits (FEHB and FERS), I was able to keep them in the L/A appointment. The L/A appointment rules are changing (all the time, it seems), and at this point I don’t know if my L/A appointment can be renewed.

Though I’ve never been a permanent federal employee, at the end of this appointment, I will have nine years, and one and a half months of full time FERS, plus 10 months at 3/8 time. I will be 52.

I understand that as a general rule FEHB benefits cannot be picked up in the case of a deferred retirement, but I’m wondering if there is an exception because neither myself nor my employer are wanting me to stop working, there just isn’t a way to keep me working. (Well, there is a possibility I could work under a service contract act but would not have federal benefits.) Read the rest of this entry »

FEHB health benefits

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Q. I worked for the federal government for 18 years under the FERS plan. I was enrolled in the FEHB program for the entire length of my employment. I resigned in my 40s. I am now 57 and have been rehired as a government employee, and I have enrolled in the FEHB program once again. I am past my minimum retirement age at this point. If I retire in the next few years, am I eligible to keep my health benefits even though I will not have worked five years since I was re-employed?
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Medicare

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Q. I’m enrolled in the Federal Employees Health Benefits program. It seems taking Part A of Medicare, which is free, can’t hurt. Is that true? How would taking Part B of Medicare help or hurt? I now also cover my wife and three children.

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Medicare

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Q. Does my wife have to sign up for Medicare? If so, when does she have to sign up? And, if my wife does not sign up for Medicare, will she incur any penalty?

Scenario: I am a working FERS employee and my wife still works. She is not a government employee. I have self-and-family Federal Employees Health Benefits coverage. I am not yet age 65. My wife will turn 65 this year.

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Medicare

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Q. I am retiring next month. I am over 70. I have Blue Cross/Blue Shield. If I get Medicare parts A and B, do I still need BC/BS?

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Insurance premium and tax deduction

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Q. I am retired and collect an annuity from the government. I also pay a monthly premium for insurance. Is the premium deductible along with any other out-of-pocket costs that I can claim on my income taxes?

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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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FEHB premiums after retirement

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Q. I am planning my retirement. Once I retire, do I have to pick up the full amount for my health insurance, or does the government still contribute toward the premium?

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Deferred annuity and FEHB

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Q. I am 57 years and two months old. I have 21 years of federal service (FERS), including two years and 11 months of military buyback time. I am considering early retirement. I have maintained Federal Employees Health Benefits since I started 18 or so years ago. The human resources experts here are telling me that if I defer my retirement to age 60 (which I am eligible) that I can never again receive FEHB. I cannot find that statement anywhere. I have seen a local in-service slide presentation that you can defer retirement until age 60 or 62 and pick up health insurance at that time. Can you tell me what is correct in this scenario?

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Re-employment after retirement

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Q. I retired, I believe, under the MRA + 10 program, at the end of my member’s term. I have a total of 13 + years with the House of Representatives. I get a small annuity. I may have an opportunity to return to full-time service with the Department of Homeland Security. How will that affect my retirement? I assume the annuity would go away but am not sure how the health care would be handled. And I have been retired almost five years now. Will this new position accrue along with my previous 13 (since they were with the House and not GS)?

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Social Security and FEHB with FERS annuity

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Q. I will be 70 years old in October 2015. I understand if I wait to collect Social Security benefits until that time, my monthly benefit will approximate $3,030. As of August 2010, I started working for the federal government as a GS-13. I plan on retiring under FERS in September 2015, at which time I will have completed 60 months of continuous civilian service. I understand that my monthly FERS annuity will approximate $500. Is there any offset to either Social Security or FERS monthly annuity benefits based on receiving both of these benefits simultaneously?

Assuming continuation of excellent health, I will likely also have additional income at that time. Should I anticipate restrictions on the amount of active or passive additional income that I can earn or any offset to either social security or FERS annuity?

A second question involves health benefits after retirement. I understand that after completing 60 months of civilian service, I can retain current Blue Cross/Blue Shield health benefits with the exception that I must pay both the employee and employer premiums myself. The real benefit is having access to this coverage under group rate available to the government.

Where would I look to find comparative benefit information for Blue Cross/Blue Shield after retirement with those typical benefits through Medicare and those benefits through the Affordable Care Act?

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