Ask The Experts: Retirement

By Reg Jones

Service separation bonus and annuity computation

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Q. I have 14 years and 8 months of active Army service. In 1993, when Regan was initiating draw down of troops and instituted SSB (Service Separation Bonus),
I received a Service Separation Bonus in 1993′s drawdown of $40,000 before taxes and separated from the Army in Sept. 1993. In June 1995, I entered the federal service as a full time Civilian Government Employee working for the Army Material Command where I work today. At the end of this month, I will have 18 years and 9 months as a federal government worker. I am currently 56 years old.

Would it be more beneficial to add my active military service time to my federal government service time in order to receive a higher pension upon retirement? And if so, will I have to “pay back” the SSB I received in 1993? In general, my annuity would be based on the following formula: .01 x (your high-3) x (your years and full months of service). If I use this formula, then I would require a deposit, correct? Read the rest of this entry »

Leaving federal service

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Q. I am a federal employee (FERS employee from January 1988 to the present) who will likely be leaving federal employment for a private sector position in a different city. What happens to the following:
1. Can I either leave my money in the TSP account or roll it over; in any case, I am not touching the balance until I retire.
2. Am I correct that my retirement annuity freezes until I actually retire and that it would be based on the following calculation — years of service (.26) x the average of the high-3 annual salary?
3. Do I get a lump sum payout for annual leave?
4. Can I get my sick leave back if I return to federal service?
5. I know health care terminates after 30 days. But am I eligible to get any Federal health care after I retire from the private sector?

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Planning for retirement

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Q. I will be 62 the end of June this year. I am in FERS, would like to retire this year and am trying to make a sound decision regarding what date would be best.
1) I have 918 sick hours accumulated. Will they convert 100% into service time?
2) When trying to calculate how much I will get for retirement, is it based on basic pay or total pay with locality adjustment?
3) Is there any penalty if I retire at age 62 if I have less than 20 years of FERS service?
4) Is there any offset with Social Security? Read the rest of this entry »

FERS Pension after buyout

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Q. I worked for the federal government as a FERS employee for 14 years and then took a buyout and left my position. Will I receive my full pension at age 62 based on my high-3 at the time I left? Read the rest of this entry »

VERA pros and cons

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Q. I am a FERS employee working for the Department of Agriculture. I have been offered a job outside of the government and am trying to see the pros and cons of leaving. I am a FERS employee with a service computation date of Aug. 17, 1986, and am 46 years old. If I apply for Voluntary Early Retirement Authority, what would the disadvantages or advantages be?

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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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Annuity reduction

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Q. I turned 60 on May 17. As of this past November, I have 27 years as a fed. If I retired now, with less than 30 years, is there a penalty? How much?

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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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Deferred retirement

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Q. I resigned from federal service with 20 years as a WG-12 (age 45). I also had 26 years military (four active and 16 Guard). I was told that I could apply for a deferred retirement. Where can I find a calculator to see what my retirement would be when I reach age 62?

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FERS annuity

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Q. I am 57 with 22+ years of service with the Veterans Affairs Medical Center. I’d like to find out what my FERS balance is and what would be the best time to start an annuity. I served from 1989 to 2010 + two years active military bought back.

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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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High-3 and locality pay

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Q. I live in the Boston commuting area. My salary includes locality pay. My SF-52 shows basic pay and locality pay for a total adjusted basic pay. When factoring my high-3 average, is it based on my total adjusted basic pay, which includes the locality pay?

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High-3 from 2 agencies

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Q. I transferred from the Department of Homeland Security, where my high-3 salary was met as a GS-14 in a covered position, to a Defense Department position where I earn substantially less as a GS-13. Will my high-3 from DHS be used to compute my FERS annuity or the high-3 from DoD? Two different pay systems, USDA and DFAS. Does the Office of Personnel Management access each to determine high-3?

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VERA/VSIP

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Q. Would I be penalized if I am a FERS employee, 49 years old with 26 years of government service. I just got a GS-11 job, so I do not have a high-3 at that level. My high-3 is at the GS-7. My job is offering the Voluntary Early Retirement Authority/Voluntary Separation Incentive Pay. Can I go out with no penalties?

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FERS annuity calculation

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Q. When I was hired into civil service on May 8, 1989, human resources calculated my service computation date as Aug. 6, 1971, based upon some military time. (I was in the Air Force, serving from Dec. 3, 1969, until Sept. 4, 1987, receiving an honorable discharge.) Now that I am approaching FERS retirement, I need to accurately calculate an accurate service time.

My current salary (high-3) is approximately $89,450. I know that FERS retirement benefits are only one part (of three) that I will be eligible for — the others being Social Security and the Thrift Savings Plan, but those are much more straightforward to calculate.

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High-3

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Q. I am nearing 41 years and 10 months of CSRS service. I plan to continue working for another six years. I have been told that no service beyond 41-10 will count toward my high-3. If that is correct, it seems unfair, especially given zero raises in the past three years.

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FERS annuity

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Q. I am a dual status military technician. I was hired as a GS-13 in October 2009. I began an active-duty military tour in January 2012 and will return to GS-13 in July. Provided I buy back the time while on leave without pay for military duty on this tour (as well as buy back five years of active-duty time served prior to GS-13 employment), will I be eligible for any GS retirement benefits if I leave the GS-13 job in January 2015? I have contributed 10 percent into my civilian Thrift Savings Plan and received a 5 percent employer match while on GS status.

If so, what would they be based on (five years and three months of civil service + five years of prior active-duty service = 10 years and one month of credit?) When would I be eligible to receive it?

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CSRS Offset or FERS?

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Q. Getting ready to retire next year. Using the Office of Personnel Management retirement calculator. When choosing what retirement system, it keeps telling me CSRS offset for my start date Oct. 24, 1984. However, I have been in FERS all along.

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High-3

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Q. Will my high-3 (already met) computation for retirement purposes be affected if I accept a lower-grade job at another agency, say from Army to the Department of Homeland Security? Can an agency allow “saved pay” if I accept a lower-grade job?

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Military and federal retirement

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Q. I have 23½ years of honorable military service and am receiving a retirement check from Defense Finance and Accounting Services for 10 years.

If I enter federal service, do I have to stop my military retirement?

If I retire after 10 years of federal service, would I receive two retirements: one for military service and one from federal service? Or would I receive one retirement check based on the high-3?

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