By Reg Jones
Q. In 2014, when the Affordable Care Act goes into effect, will federal retirees be forced to change their present medical plan? I have been retired since 2000. I am enrolled in the Kaiser Plan and I want to know whether I will be forced to give it up. If I am allowed to stay enrolled in Kaiser, will I be charged a higher monthly payment to stay in this program? I have established doctors who have been assigned to me for quite a few years and I am concerned that I will lose them.
Q. I am a FERS retiree who postponed the receipt of my annuity. I want to start my annuity at age 62. With my current job, I have health benefits that I would like to continue until age 65. Must I elect for health insurance when I start the annuity, or can I pick up health insurance at age 65, at which time I would choose health insurance for both my husband and myself.
Q. I am a FERS employee who will be retiring under early retirement rules for air traffic control. I will turn 55 in April 2014 and plan to retire Jan. 4, 2014. Everything I read says that if I retire in the year I turn 55, there will be no early withdrawal penalty for my Thrift Savings Plan. My human resources specialist says I must retire after I turn 55 — after my birthday in April. Which is correct?
I also understand the advantages of retiring close to the end of the month, ideally the last day. However, Jan. 4 works better for me. I understand that I basically won’t be getting any pay until the annuity begins Feb. 1. My HR specialist tells me that my benefits, health, life, dental, etc., will not be in effect from the time I leave service (Jan. 4) until my annuity begins (Feb. 1), so basically no benefits in the month of January. I haven’t read this anywhere. Is it true?
Q. I am 49 and will shortly leave federal service, temporarily (I hope). I have 19 years of service and have always been an FEHB subscriber. When I return to federal service in my 50s, will I need to have an additional five years of FEHB-covered service before retiring with FEHB benefits? That is, does the consecutive five-year rule refer to (a) five years before retirement or (b) five consecutive years when one is eligible to subscribe to FEHB? For example, could I return to federal service at age 54 (as an FEHB subscriber) and then retire at my MRA (age 56) while carrying FEHB benefits into retirement?
Q. My mother is a survivor of a retiree and has full medical coverage. She is 92 and in relatively good health, taking no medication to speak of and enjoying her daily routines. Her monthly medical insurance for Horizon Major Medical is now $451.66. Is this above or below what would be considered average for single seniors?
Q. I am a 43-year-old attorney considering leaving federal service for the private sector. I have 9½ years of service, have been enrolled in FEHB for that entire time and am deciding whether any benefit would vest or accrue to me if I stay 10 full years rather than leaving a few months short of that. My human resources specialist says that if I have 10 years of service when I resign, then I would be eligible to apply for an early retirement annuity at age 57 (MRA+10, I think) and re-enroll in FEHB at that age. Is he correct? My primary concern is not the early annuity option but whether I would be eligible to re-enroll in FEHB upon retirement.
Q. I am 64 and have worked for the Transportation Security Administration for 2½ years. I would like to retire when I reach 65 next year when Medicare becomes available to me. But my wife is one year younger. Is there a COBRA system so she can be covered for the one year before her Medicare kicks in?
Q. I have just retired from federal government (age 67) and have Blue Cross/Blue Shield insurance. I signed up for Medicare Part A at 65, and am trying to decide whether to sign up for Part B. (I gather I have eight months from time of retirement.)
I gather many doctors do not take Medicare, but if they do, I understand that they are governed by Medicare rules and payment schedules, whether or not the patient has signed up for Medicare. Is this correct?
I have read that the insurance company cannot pay more than the Medicare payment schedule allows, but if Medicare does not cover a procedure and the doctor/facility participates in Medicare, is the doctor allowed to provide the service and, if so, will BC/BS, as primary insurer, be able and willing to pay if Medicare would not?
If neither the doctor nor the patient is enrolled in Medicare, will BC/BS, as primary insurer, provide any coverage?
Q. Besides form OPM 2809, what supporting papers do I need to re-enroll 31 days before the loss of Federal Employees Health Benefits coverage? My wife will not get her SF-50 to show employment separation and loss of FEHB until after separation April 20. I called and emailed the Office of Personnel Management, but no response.
Q. I was hired as a term employee Dec. 18, 2006, and am now being laid off along with 370 more term employees. I called FERS and they said because of my age, I keep my health insurance and life insurance. The qualifications were five years of service and having FERS, which I do, but I was wondering if that applies to term or temp employees also. I have worked for the Anniston Army Depot, Ala., for six years and three months. The depot is processing us out this week. My birth date is Jan. 5, 1951.
Q. Can a retired employee quit his Federal Employees Health Benefits in retirement for, say, Tricare for Life and Medicare if retired military, and later opt to switch back to FEHB?
Q. I am a recent retiree and have to decide whether to obtain Medicare Part B coverage. I have, and intend to keep, my Blue Cross coverage. I am trying to determine whether I should opt for Medicare Part B for my wife and I, even though I have Blue Cross. The Medicare Part B monthly payments would range about $150 for each of us.
Q. I am retired military. I am 65 years old now. Do I have to pay for Medicare Part B even though no expense now?
Q. I will complete nine years of civil service as of August, as well as 22 years of military service. If I apply for Voluntary Separation Incentive Pay, what, if anything, can I expect to receive?
Q. I am a letter carrier, age 52, started in 1985 and have 28 years of creditable service.
If I understand what I’ve gleaned from the posts here and the Postal Service were to offer me a Voluntary Early Retirement Authority this year,
1. Would I begin my annuity immediately?
2. Would I have no reductions in calculations of my annuity? (average high-3 x 1 percent x 28)
3. Would I receive credit for half of my sick leave and all of my annual leave? (How are these applied?)
4. Would I receive the special retirement supplement beginning at age 56 (my minimum retirement age), and receive it until I reach age 62?
5. Would I be able to continue carrying my current health and life insurance at non-USPS rates? (I couldn’t find how long these could be carried. Until death?)
6. Could I begin receiving Social Security as early as age 62?
7. Any withdrawal from my Thrift Savings Plan prior to age 59½ would be penalized 10 percent as per Internal Revenue Service regulations? (Can I continue to contribute to TSP after retirement?)
8. As a FERS annuitant, is there no limit to what I can earn after separation from the Postal Service as it pertains to my annuity payment?
9. At age 56 (my MRA), the special retirement supplement from Social Security would begin and would be subject to yearly income limits. Would supplement payments be reduced by approximately $1 for every $2 I earned above that year’s Social Security income limit?
10. At age 65, I’d be eligible for Medicare parts A and B? (Would this affect my health insurance coverage through Federal Employees Health Benefits?)
11. Would there be cost-of-living increases at any point for my annuity?
12. Is there a date during the year that maximizes the benefits of retirement?
Did I get this right, and are there any other things I should know before considering a VERA if it is offered?
Tags: 401(k), annual leave, annuity, cost-of-living adjustment, creditable service, early withdrawal penalty, enrollment, FEHB, high-3, income, IRA, IRS, LIFE INSURANCE, lump sum, Medicare Part A, Medicare Part B, minimum retirement age, Postal Service, sick leave, SOCIAL SECURITY, special retirement supplement, TSP, VERA
Q. I am going to retire Jan. 1, 2014, and I realize that my modified adjusted gross income will cause my Medicare Part B premium to at least double. But once I retire, my income will go down. Does the Medicare Part B premium get adjusted annually? Or is it set for life as of your retirement date?
Q. My husband worked for a Veterans Affairs medical center for seven years, then left federal employment for eight years. He is 63 and receiving a deferred annuity. He may be returning to federal employment. When he returns, is there a certain amount of time he must be re-employed to be able to retire and carry his health benefits into retirement?
A. If your husband was re-employed, he’d be able to enroll in the FEHB program during the next open season. He would then have to be enrolled for five years to continue that coverage when he once again retired.
Q. I am 65 years old and am employed full time by the federal government. I will continue my federal employment for several years. I am covered under Federal Employees Health Benefits and pay for Blue Cross/Blue Shield insurance. If I decline Part B now and decide to take it later, will I be subject to the Medicare Premium penalty?
A. Yes, you can decline Part B while you are still employed without penalty. When you are no longer employed, you’ll have an eight-month window in which to enroll, penalty-free, which begins the first full month after you retire.
Q. I am trying to figure my calculations under FERS disability retirement and Social Security. I am receiving Medicare under Social Security Administration without monetary benefits because of workers’ compensation. Would you please calculate a high-3 of $54,000; and Social Security entitlement of $1,700 monthly on a 60% and a 40%. What would be the separate amounts received from both? Also, do I have to fill out both forms, SF 3112 and a SF 3107 for immediate retirement? I am requesting approval of disability retirement.
A. I can’t do your homework for you. What I can do is give you the formulas you’ll need to get the answers you want. For the first 12 months, you’d receive 60 percent of your high-3 minus 100 percent of any Social Security benefit disability benefit. For all remaining years and until age 62, you’d receive 40 percent of your high-3 minus 60 percent of your Social Security disability benefit.
You’ll need to fill out a Standard Form 3112, Documentation in Support of Disability Retirement, and, at the same time, file for Social Security disability benefits. If you don’t, the Office of Personnel Management won’t review your application for disability retirement.
Q. I would appreciate a clarification of eligibility for Federal Employees Health Benefits under postponed retirement. I selected a postponed retirement and have recently begun receiving benefits. I may, at some point, want to sign up for FEHB as a FERS retiree. In my situation, in my last government position (as an appointee), I had continuous coverage under my wife’s FEHB as a part of a family plan. Since I left the government position, I have continued to be covered under my wife’s FEHB family plan. As I understand it, postponed retirees who were enrolled at the time they left government can re-enroll once they start benefits. In my case: Am I eligible for benefits even though I was not enrolled myself but was covered under my wife’s plan? Given that I am still covered under my wife’s plan, can I, if it makes sense, enroll myself in an FEHB plan?
A. Yes, but only if your wife switches to self-only at the same time during an open season or if she passes on before you while you are still covered by her self and family enrollment.