Ask The Experts: Retirement

By Reg Jones

Return after LWOP

Bookmark and Share

Q. If a person is in a voluntary LWOP for a period of time and then returns to active service, is the service time necessary to meet retirement qualifications affected? For instance, if a person went on LWOP for three months does that time need to be made up in order to meet a minimum service requirement?

A. No, it doesn’t. You can be on LWOP for up to six months in a calendar year without it affecting your creditable years of service.

Tags: ,

Leave for school

Bookmark and Share

Q. I have been working for the government more than 20 years. Can I take leave without pay to go back to school full-time for nine months?

A. You can request LWOP. However, the decision to grant it is in your supervisor’s hands, as guided by agency policy. If what you study would increase your value to the agency, the chances of LWOP being granted would be greater than if it didn’t.

Tags:

Leave without pay

Bookmark and Share

Q. How much leave without pay in a calendar year can a United States Postal Service employee use without affecting the time going to their retirement? Read the rest of this entry »

Buying back LWOP

Bookmark and Share

Q. I am a CSRS-offset employee planning to retire at the end of the year and trying to get all my ducks in a row.

While working for the Postal Service as an Army Reservist, I was on leave without pay for two months and six days in 1984, and four months and 19 days in 1994. I thought I would have to pay this time back in order to receive retirement credit. However, in the 2014 CSRS Retirement Planning Guide published by FEDweek, on page 40, I read, “A total of six months of LWOP (including furlough days) in any calendar year is considered to be creditable service. In other words, for calculating your length of service, it’s treated as if you had never been on leave. Further, you don’t have to make a deposit to get credit for that time.”

Does this mean I will be credited my time on LWOP for service and retirement? Read the rest of this entry »

Leave without pay

Bookmark and Share

Q. Must you use all of your annual and sick leave before going on leave without pay?

Read the rest of this entry »

Buying back LWOP for annuity calculation

Bookmark and Share

Q. At 19, I was recruited and placed into a civilian Defense Department position as a cooperative education student. I would be placed on leave without pay during periods when I was attending college and not working. This continued for five years. My start date was June 1980 and I finished my degree in August 1985. My service computation date is April 1982. Is there an option to buy those LWOP periods to bring my SCD to 1980?

Read the rest of this entry »

LWOP and promotion

Bookmark and Share

Q. 1. Does management have a right to use leave without pay as a basis of a “black eye” and keep an employee from being promoted even though the employee has exceptional rating for more than three years?

2. Can management require a probationary period of one year prior to promotion if the employee is qualified and filling a GS-5,6,7 position as a GS-5 where the employee was promised to be promoted once accepting the position in front of witnesses?

The employee needed to be on LWOP due to excessive use of leave taking care of a family member’s medical issues, and the family member eventually died following treatments.

The agency never offered advanced annual leave or advanced sick leave or Family Medical Leave Act to this employee.

Read the rest of this entry »

Leave without pay

Bookmark and Share

Q. How does leave without pay affect your retirement status within the Postal Service?

Read the rest of this entry »

The importance of your high-3

Bookmark and Share

Whoopee! You just got a 1 percent pay raise, the first increase in several years. It may not sound like much, but in the long run it will pay off. That’s because once you meet the age and service requirement to retire, it’s your length of service and high-3 that will determine what your annuity will be.

Your high-3 is an average of your highest rates of basic pay over any three consecutive years of creditable civilian service, with each pay rate weighted by the length of time it was received. That three-year period starts and ends on the dates that produce the highest average pay. Therefore, the counting doesn’t have to start on Jan. 1 or any particular date.

For most of you, your highest three years of basic pay will be the ones that immediately precede the day on which you retire. All you need to be do to find the starting date for your high-3 calculation is to subtract three years from the date you plan to retire plus a day.

If you are a CSRS, CSRS Offset or FERS employee with a CSRS component in your annuity, periods of service that are creditable in determining your length of service but not in your annuity computation can still be used in determining your high-3. That includes, for example, periods of non-deduction service on or after Oct. 1, 1982, for which you didn’t make a deposit or CSRS service that ended on or after Oct. 1, 1990, for which you took a refund of your retirement contributions and failed to make a redeposit.

The rules are different if you are covered by FERS. If a period of service isn’t creditable for determining your length of service, it can’t be used in computing your high-3. On the other hand, service that is creditable includes time under FERS when retirement deductions were taken and not refunded; non-deduction service (such as temporary or intermittent) performed before Jan. 1, 1989, but only if a deposit is made for that time; service under CSRS Offset, if the CSRS deductions weren’t refunded after you transferred to FERS; and periods of military service for which a deposit has been made.

Your high-3 won’t be affected if you had to take leave without pay, unless it exceeded six months in a calendar year. Any LWOP beyond that will cause your three-year period to be extended. So, for example, if you had taken nine months of LWOP in a calendar year, your high-3 period would be three years and three months long, to account for those three months of excess LWOP. The six-month limitation on LWOP doesn’t apply if you were called to active military duty.

The FERS formula for calculating your annuity is simple: It’s 1 percent of your high-3 average salary for each year of service, or 1.1 percent if you retire at age 62 or later with at least 20 years of service.

The CSRS formula is more involved: It’s 1.5 percent of your high-3 for your first five years of service, plus 1.75 percent of your high-3 for your second five years, plus 2 percent of your high-3 for all remaining years. If you are a FERS employee who will have a CSRS component in your annuity, you figure each period of service separately and add the results. The formulas are different for special category employees, such as law enforcement officers, firefighters and air traffic controllers.)

Leave without pay and seniority date

Bookmark and Share

Q. If an employee is on leave-without-pay status, does this affect their seniority date?

Read the rest of this entry »

Unused sick leave

Bookmark and Share

Q. I am 61 years old. I will have 30 years with the Postal Service on April 9. I have 735 hours of unused sick leave on the books. I am on workers’ compensation, still a USPS employee and on leave without pay. Can I retire (NOT disability retirement) right now and use my unused sick leave hours to reach to my full 30-year retirement date of April 9?

Read the rest of this entry »

Leave without pay

Bookmark and Share

Q. I read on your site that leave without pay under six months in a calendar year counts as creditable service.  But I also read where it doesn’t count toward the retirement calculation.

I am CSRS but only have 19 years of law enforcement officer status as of June 10, 2014. Can I take a few months of LWOP in 2014 and 2015 and have this time count toward my 20-year LEO retirement computation if the LWOP is under six months in 2014 and under six months in 2015? Will the LWOP time under six months in each of these years count toward my 20-year LEO status and thus allow me to retire July 1, 2015, with the 20 years LEO at 2.5 percent plus the years prior to LEO at 2 percent?

Read the rest of this entry »

LWOP status

Bookmark and Share

Q. I was injured on duty as a government employee and forced to take leave without pay. I am told that I have 12 months of LWOP status before they can remove me from my position. I have been called into work on the clock several times during the past six months or so. Does my LWOP status date change each time I come in on the clock or does is remain the same? Usually, I was there about 2 hours for a meeting involving union talks in attempts to remove me because of my disability. Before I began LWOP status, I generally worked two hours of limited duty due to my work injury.

Read the rest of this entry »

LWOP-US and creditable service

Bookmark and Share

Q. While a civilian employee with the Veterans Health Administration, my Army Reserve unit was activated and I stayed on leave without pay for more than four years while on active duty. I then returned to my civilian VHA job.

I recently read that my LWOP status counts as half time toward retirement.

1. Is that true?

2. Would that mean I only have to buy back two of my four active-duty years to make it count toward civilian retirement?

Read the rest of this entry »

Resignation by mail?

Bookmark and Share

Q. I am a federal firefighter on emergency leave due to an ill family member. Because my department did not approve my leave without pay for a second time within the year (the first one was approved for six months), my department is requiring that I return to Hawaii (I am in Los Angeles caring for my father).

Why can’t I just resign by mail? Flying to Hawaii just to sign a couple of forms seems ridiculous to me — especially when it will cost me over $1,000 to do so, in addition to leaving my father alone without care. Can’t the forms just be mailed to me?  They said they were going to fire me if I didn’t fly there to resign.

Read the rest of this entry »

Annual leave

Bookmark and Share

Q. I have been on sick leave most of the year. I have 205 hours of use-or-lose annual leave. Is my agency required to carry this over since I was unable to use the annual?

Read the rest of this entry »

VSIP and leave without pay

Bookmark and Share

Q. My office has requested the Voluntary Early Retirement Authority/Voluntary Separation Incentive Pay. With the government shutdown, there has been a delay in the approval process. My position is one within the organization that has been approved for VSIP once the authority is received. I am a FERS employee, over 50, with 26 years of creditable service. I plan to exercise the early-out authority once received, after Jan. 1, 2014, so that I will receive 100 percent sick leave credit toward my annuity.

In the meantime, I applied for and have been offered a position in the private sector. They would like to establish a start date for early January. If the VERA/VSIP takes longer than my agency expects and delays the date I project for retirement, do regulations allow for me to request leave without pay until my retirement paperwork can be processed?

Read the rest of this entry »

Earning leave while on workers’ comp

Bookmark and Share

Q. I have an occupational illness. It was not originally accepted, and my employer had me on leave without pay due to an inability for find work within my restrictions. The Office of Workers’ Compensation Programs has since accepted my claim, and my employer has found work for me. Now that my claim has been accepted and back compensation has been approved for that time, was I supposed to earn leave during the 10 months I was off and on OWCP due to employer inability to find work within my restrictions?

Read the rest of this entry »

Forced leave without pay

Bookmark and Share

Q. Is it legal for an employee to be forced to take leave without pay before using his or her annual or sick leave for being late for work? Supervisors are not allowing the use of sick or annual hours for being late.

Read the rest of this entry »

Leave of absence

Bookmark and Share

Q. I am 17-year 1811 and would like to take a personal leave of absence for up to six months. I have also bought back my 11 years of military service. Can I request leave without pay for up to 12 weeks without using my balance of annual and/or sick leave? Is there language where the Office of Personnel Management or my agency, Customs and Border Protection, talks about a leave of absence in lieu of  LWOP? I have looked and cannot find how to start the process.

Read the rest of this entry »