Ask The Experts: Retirement

By Reg Jones

CSRS offset and Social Security

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Q. As a CSRS offset employee, I am aware that the CSRS benefit will be reduced at age 62. If I choose not to claim Social Security benefits at age 62 and wait until my full retirement age of 66, will my SS benefit increase as it would under standard SS practices? Read the rest of this entry »

Retirement date and leave

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Q. Can you please comment on any pros and cons to retiring Nov. 29, 2014? I will have a prior balance of 208 hours of annual leave and 192 hours in 2014 accumulated as of that date and do not want to forfeit the use-or-lose balance.

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VERA and COLA

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Q. How does the Voluntary Early Retirement Authority work for cost-of-living adjustments and Social Security?

Hypothetical situation: Person retires at age 52 years old with 30 years as a FERS civilian in 2014. S/he does not get any COLAs until age 62 in 2024. If this person’s annuity is $2,000 a month, then their annuity remains the same until age 62. Would his/her annuity be readjusted with COLAs to the year 2024? If the person’s minimum retirement age is 56 in 2018, would COLAs kick in and his annuity be readjusted?

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Disability retirement

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Q. I have been receiving a FERS disability retirement annuity since November 2007. I am 60 years old. What will happen when I am 62 years old? Will I be able to draw my retirement without a penalty?

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Social Security

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Q. My husband is a retired federal employee receiving a CSRS pension. I have been paying Social Security taxes based on my own employment earnings since before we were married.

1. As the wife of a federal employee who is receiving a federal pension, will I receive my full Social Security benefit when I reach retirement age?

2. If I outlive my husband, how much of his federal pension would I receive, and would I also continue to receive my full Social Security?

3. Will he receive Social Security benefits based on employment earnings in nonfederal jobs he held prior to and after his federal employment?

4. If, as a retired federal employee, he will never be eligible for Social Security benefits, should he be paying Social Security taxes — which he has in the past and is doing in nonfederal jobs?

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Best retirement date

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Q. I have read a number of articles noting the best dates to retire in 2014. For example, I have seen March 22 and Dec. 28. As a GS-13 FERS employee who will have about 32 years of service at age 61 as of Dec. 28, does it really make that much of a difference to wait until Dec. 28 versus March 22 (at which time I will already be 60) in terms of my FERS annuity? I have about 1,800 hours of sick leave, have been maximizing my Thrift Savings Plan contribution most of my career, and I was eligible for buyout this past October. I’m thinking it’s time to go in 2014.

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COLA

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Q. I was offered and took an early FERS retirement. I wasn’t in any special occupational group. I was an IT specialist. Will I receive the 1.5 percent cost-of-living adjustment, or do I have to wait until I’m 62.

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Disability retirement and SRS

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Q. I retired under the FERS disability provisions 16 years ago. I want to find out what portion of my monthly retirement benefit represents the special retirement supplement portion. At the time of my retirement, I had 16 years of creditable service. I am receiving about $1,900 per month, and I believe my calculation at age 62 would be times 1.1 percent. I will not be eligible for Social Security until age 62 and one month. Will I lose the supplement for one month?

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Recomputing disability retirement

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Q. I understand that they recompute your disability retirement at 62 years old. Does the amount one gets at 62 generally stay the same, go up or go down? What about cost-of-living adjustments under FERS? Do they recompute other agencies you also have worked before Postal Service time?

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Locality pay

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Q. If a civil servant moves after retirement into an area with a higher locality pay (i.e., the rest of U.S. to the Boston area), do their retirement benefits adjust to meet the need of living in the new area?

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FEHB

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 Q. Due to the Affordable Care Act, the numbers of people with increased health care risks will be able to get health insurance. The insurance companies are not restricted from charging as much as it takes to provide the coverage and make a great profit. Will these additional costs be passed on to those now covered by Federal Employees Health Benefits, including retirees? Also, the federal employees’ pay and retirees’ cost-of-living adjustments are frozen!

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Disability retirement

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Q. I am 46 years old and coming up on 23 years of federal law enforcement service. Under our retirement calendar, we must retire at age 57. I could retire voluntarily at 49 with 25 years of service. I am considering a disability retirement due to a recent injury that has left my body, which has had many prior on-the-job injuries, racked with pain, and I can no longer perform my job.

Will the following years that will count into my federal total time in service, once on disability retirement, continue until my 57th or 62nd birthday under normal retirement age limits?  Does this mean that it would add 10 years of credit to my total time in at age 57? Wouldn’t that put my percentage of my high-3 average at or above 50 percent since I believe we are credited at the rate of 1.1 percent per year? Adding in the special Social Security annuity that we start receiving upon retirement from federal law enforcement, is this completely taken out of our monthly payment for the disability retirement during the first year? Or is that Social Security disability that I must apply for as part of the disability retirement process that is taken out for the first year? Are they the same thing or two different Social Security payments?

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Disability retirement, MRA and annuity calculation

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Q. I have been on disability retirement from the Postal Service since October 1988. I am 56 years old (57 in March) and would like to inquire as to my options to retire under MRA. Also, can I receive a ballpark estimate of how much I would get (monthly/yearly) and all other pertinent information? I believe that I read on the Office of Personnel Management’s Web page that it would be 1 percent of my high-3 income while at the post office, but I am not sure how to do this calculation. If this is an option for me to retire now, what would be the necessary steps to get this accomplished?

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FERS and Social Security disability

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Q. I have been hearing impaired all my life. My audiograms (hearing tests) throughout the years have shown a progressive decrease in my hearing. My recent last audiogram showed that my hearing is so bad I automatically meet the qualifications for Social Security Disability Insurance. I have worked in a federal prison for nine years and have feared for my safety for quite a while, but am the sole bread winner of my family and need the money to survive.

As a requirement for FERS disability retirement, I’m supposed to apply for SSDI also. On one hand, I automatically qualify, but on the other hand, since I’m still working, I’ll be turned down? I need both FERS and SSDI benefits to survive financially. I don’t have enough sick and annual leave to stop working and wait it out, to where I won’t be working and be approved for my SSDI. What are my options?

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LEO retirement recalculation

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 Q. I retired on disability in 2008 in a 6(c) (law enforcement) position. I would have been eligible to retire this year (at age 52) had I not become disabled. When will my retirement be recalculated since I fall under the age 57 mandatory retirement?

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Special retirement supplement and COLA

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Q. On May 21, you answered a question: “As a rule, FERS retirees don’t receive cost-of-living increases on their special retirement supplements, nor do they receive them on their annuities until they reach age 62. Note: Special category employees, such as law enforcement officers and firefighters, and disability retirees receive COLAs regardless of the age at which they retire.”

My statement for Jan. 1, 2014, reflects a partial COLA (retired March 31, 2013) on the annuity but not on the SRS. Do special category employees such as law enforcement officers get COLAs on the SRS?

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Disability retirement and locality pay

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 Q. I am a FERS employee being considered for the 60/40 disability retirement. When calculating the amount the person receives based on the high-3 average, is locality pay included? Also, if locality pay is included, is the disability payment adjusted if the person moves to a different locality?

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Spousal annuity cost

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Q. The cost for the full spousal annuity is 10 percent of the retirement income. As the retirement income increases with cost-of-living adjustments, does the spousal annuity cost increase?

Example: Year 1 retirement income: $50,000; spousal annuity cost: $5,000

Year 20 retirement income: $65,000; spousal annuity cost: $6,500

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Locality pay and NAF-to-GS transition

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Q. In August 2006, I was hired as a marketing/outreach/sponsorship director (nonappropriated funds). My responsibilities grew to include a supervisory role of the graphics department (two employees).

In August 2012, I had the opportunity to apply — and was selected for — public affairs specialist (1035-9). I am now the deputy public affairs officer. I was told that, with an NAF-to-GS transition, my pay would rise only to the next step. My concern is that the human resources office included locality pay as part of the equation in determining my GS pay. I didn’t receive locality pay at NAF and the cost-of-living adjustment was frozen. My annual pay at NAF was $53,000. My basic pay now is $44,333 but adding $9,217 in locality boosts the total to $53,550.

When I questioned the HR person, she said that was the way the rules were set up. Yet, the job announcement listed the salary for position at $50,000 to $65,000. This still doesn’t make sense to me. Can you help me understand the effect of locality pay on determining salary for NAF who transition to GS?

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FERS retirement options

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Q. I am looking at retiring in September 2014 at age 57 years and five months. I will have 34 years in FERS and a little less than a year of sick leave to convert. I have $359,000 in my Thrift Savings Plan account. I am single, never married. What are my best options? I am located in an isolated area and am unable to attend any retirement seminars, especially now with the budget issues.

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