Ask The Experts: Retirement

By Reg Jones

Within-grade increase, step increase and timing

Bookmark and Share

Q. I just had a within-grade increase but was told that I was also submitted for a quality step increase. My WIGI are due at the end of November. If I get a QSI midyear, would that then change when my WIGIs are given?

Read the rest of this entry »

Within-grade increases

Bookmark and Share

Q. I’m a GS-13/Step 10. What happens in within-grade increases when I go beyond the 156-week automatic step increase period?

Read the rest of this entry »

Terminal leave payments

Bookmark and Share

Q. The following is from the U.S. Postal Service Employment and Labor Relations Manual:

512.732 Entitlement Amounts
Separating employees may receive lump-sum terminal leave payments as follows:

Nonbargaining Unit Employees. Nonbargaining unit employees may receive a lump-sum leave payment for accumulated annual leave carried over from the previous year; accrued annual leave for the year in which they separate, including amounts over the carryover maximum; any unused donated leave; and for full-time and part-time regular employees, holidays that fall within the terminal leave period.
I retired Oct. 31 with an annual leave balance of 576 hours, for which I received a lump-sum payment.

That balance, if used, would have carried me into February 2014. Shouldn’t I have also been paid for all the holidays between my retirement date and the time my annual leave would have been exhausted?

Read the rest of this entry »

High-3

Bookmark and Share

Q. I am a CSRS employee planning to retire in 2015. I’ll retire in May or September, depending on when a full year at my highest step will be included in my high-3.  September 2015 is the month of my 56th birthday, as well as the anniversary of my 38th year of federal service. I’ll receive my final within-grade increase in May 2014, after having been three years at the previous step. As far as high-3 is concerned, will one full year at the highest step be included in the high-3 on the anniversary of the WIGI in May, or on the anniversary of my entry on duty with the federal government?

Read the rest of this entry »

Service computation date

Bookmark and Share

Q. I recently received six months of credit for a Veterans Affairs Department internship I did in 1990-91, added to my service computation date. My federal job began in March 2008, but my SCD is now September 2007. I know that periods of nondeduction service performed on or after Jan. 1, 1989, aren’t creditable for retirement purposes. So what value, if any, does it have for my SCD to now be six months greater than my retirement SCD?

Read the rest of this entry »

Military buyback

Bookmark and Share

 Q. I’ve been a federal employee since 2010. I recently paid off my military buyback. I’m eligible for retirement through the Army Reserve. My human resources person just told me that if I retire from the Reserve, all the buyback time I have toward my civilian retirement (leave accrual, step increases, etc.), I lose all of that. In other words, I should not have bought back my military time because I cannot receive military reserve retirement and apply that time to my federal civilian service. Is that true? If so, can I get back the money I put into the military buyback?

Read the rest of this entry »

Rehire and grade, step

Bookmark and Share

Q. I am a former federal employee who left government service after 23 years. I have held competitive and excepted service positions. I work as a federal contractor and have held this position for 15 months. I was recently offered a federal job, and the human resources department told me that they could only rehire me at the grade and step level I was at when I left (GS-13/Step 2). However, my current contracting job pays more than that, and I thought they could rehire me at a higher step rate to match what I am making, but the federal agency said they cannot offer any more money since I left at a GS-13/2. Is this accurate? I know other people who left government service and came back were hired at a much higher grade and rate than what they held previously.

Read the rest of this entry »

1 percent pay raise, step increase and annuity computation

Bookmark and Share

Q. A federal employee under CSRS becomes eligible to retire with 30 years of employment in December. Also, that same individual earns a step increase in late December. If that individual decides to retire in January 2014, will the 1 percent pay raise for federal workers be calculated in his/her retirement salary along with the higher salary? If yes, please explain.

Read the rest of this entry »

15 years vs. 20 years

Bookmark and Share

Q. I am 45 years old with 15 years of FERS. My job is being moved 85 miles away and I am trying to determine the benefit (if any) to my FERS pension (beyond the addition of five years to the total) of continuing on five more years until I have 20 years and am 50 years old. Resign now with 15 years at 45 years old vs. tough out the drive for five more years and resign at 20 years at 50 years old? What advantage is there to this (if any) on my FERS pension?

Read the rest of this entry »

Salary increase and term employee

Bookmark and Share

Q. I am a government employee not to exceed five years. I am eligible for benefits and furloughs. Am I also eligible for a step increase or within-grade increase?

Read the rest of this entry »

HR error and high-3

Bookmark and Share

Q. Recently, I was informed that human resources made and error when I was recruited to my position. I was given four additional steps to meet my salary needs to accept the position. HR has learned that they were not authorized to give and has taken them away. This has now created an overpayment.

Secondly, I was allowed to maintain my previous station pay scale. My salary has been cut by approximately $18,000. How does this affect my retirement? If I request a waiver or hearing, will my last two years of salary (which are part of my high-3) be counted in my retirement? Is it better to request a waiver or a hearing to support my high two years of salary?

Read the rest of this entry »

Re-employment and salary offer

Bookmark and Share

Q. I resigned from federal employment as a civilian in the Air Force after 18 months in March 2012. I have reapplied and been offered a position at same base. The position is a grade higher than the one I had when I left. I was a GS-11, Step 8. The new position is a GS-12. What should the salary offer be for that position? From what I have been told by several other sources, the offer being made is incorrect for my situation (offering a GS-12, Step 2). I have been told the salary should be calculated by moving two steps right and up from my previous GS-11, Step 8 — which would make the new salary a GS-12, Step 4. Which is the correct calculation?

Read the rest of this entry »

Term employees and step increases

Bookmark and Share

Q. Do term employees get step increases automatically, or is it up to their supervisors to put them in for it?

Read the rest of this entry »

New job and allowances/raise

Bookmark and Share

Q. I’ve been offered a position with the Defense Intelligence Agency as a GG-13, step 6. I’m a GS-13, step 6, and have been for nearly a year. I accepted my position last year, going from my previous salary as a GS-13, step 4. Can I ask for a raise in the new position? Or, since I’ve been a step 6 for only around a year, am I ineligible? Also, with DIA, will my leave award of six hours per pay period apply? Should it? My new position with DIA will be outside the contiguous United States, so the allowances and leave days are different. And DIA is offering all applicable OCONUS allowances.

Read the rest of this entry »

Tags: ,

High-3 and promotions

Bookmark and Share

Q. The Office of Personnel Management website describes the federal high-3 salary as the average of three consecutive years of an employee’s base (gross) salary (consecutive years but not necessarily calendar years). Is this high-3 calculated for only within one GS level? (e.g. GS-11), or can it be calculated using more than one GS level? (e.g. GS-10 for one year and GS-11 for two years)?

Read the rest of this entry »

Military leave without pay and high-3

Bookmark and Share

Q. I am on military leave without pay on presidential recall orders. I was promoted to GS-12, Step 1 a few months prior to being mobilized on military orders. If I’m involuntarily extended on military orders for three years then return to my civilian employment and request deferred annuity, would my high-3 be based on GS-12 Step 1 that I held for a few months prior to being mobilized? Based on my career GS level, can you tell me my current high 3?

2000-2006 = GS-8, Step 6

2007 = GS-7, Step 8

2008 =GS-5, Step 10

2009 =GS-7, Step 8

2009-2011 = Presidential Recall Orders, Mobilized

2011 = GS-11, Step 3

2011-2012 = GS-12, Step 1 (for a few months)

2012-current = Presidential Recall Orders, Mobilized

Read the rest of this entry »

Step increases during disability

Bookmark and Share

Q. I am a veteran of the armed forces and a civilian federal firefighter of Hawaii and have about 13 years government time under FERS.

While on duty in 2010, we were in route in the fire engine and an oncoming vehicle lost control and collided with the fire engine, causing substantial injuries to myself and the crew. The majority of the kinetic energy was absorbed by me because the point of impact was where I was seated.

I sustained injuries to my lumbar area in my lower back and injuries to my left limb, for which I’ve undergone a major back surgery, countless doctors’ visits and therapies, etc. I am still recovering from the injuries and presently on modified light duty at four hours a day, five days a week. I was on total disability for about 2 years and noticed that my retirement investment into my Thrift Savings Plan was at a freeze or standstill, where an injured employee could not invest into their TSP while on leave without pay. I also noticed that while on total disability, an injured employee goes into LWOP status, which human resources said affects your within-grade increases to where you are not entitled to move up in step increases.

Is there a new law that helps with retirement benefits for workers hurt on the job? After intensive research, I stumbled across an article by Stephen Barr dated Oct. 10, 2003, informing that President Bush signed legislation that will help make up any shortfall in retirement benefits for federal employees who are disabled or injured while on the job. It mentions the new law will change the way a federal employee’s benefits are calculated during a disability by increasing the pension benefit provided under FERS to cover any shortfall.

Is there also any new law or standard act that helps with entitlements for step increases for workers hurt on the job? Ever since I was injured on the job in 2010, and because of the injuries I sustained I was on total disability in LWOP status not by choice, the opportunity to move up in step increase passed me over twice. As co-workers who were hired the same day as me moved up in step increase, I was denied. Can you advise?

Read the rest of this entry »

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Pay increases

Bookmark and Share

Q. Can you tell me how Executive Level IV pay, which limits the maximum pay of GS scale employees, is calculated? What is the formula? In searching, I can find the pay rate but not the rules. In other words, will GS-15 Step 9s and Step 10s who have hit that ceiling ever see that ceiling rise?

Read the rest of this entry »

Tags: , , ,

High-3 calculation

Bookmark and Share

Q. I have been on FERS disability retirement from the Postal Service since November 1996. I turned 62 in October and received a letter from the Office of Personnel Management notifying me that my annuity was recalculated and what my new monthly annuity would be.

My creditable service calculation is correct, but the high-3 doesn’t look right. FERS Publication RI 98-1 states, “The total service used in the computation is increased by the amount of time you were on the disability annuity roll and your average salary is increased by the FERS cost-of-living increase during the time you were on the roll. The basic annuity formula is then applied, using the adjusted time base and average salary.”

When I retired in 1996, my base salary as a PS4 Step F was $ 33,294. FERS tells me that my new high-3 is $ 33,934. Does this new high-3 seem correct for 16 years of FERS COLAs? (Currently, PS4 Step F base rate is $ 42,031).

A. I don’t do numbers, so I can’t confirm or refute the figure OPM gave you. What I can do is provide you with the COLA increases FERS retirees received beginning with the first full one you would have been entitled to: 1998 2%, 1999 1.3%, 2000 2.0%, 2001 2.5%, 2002 2%, 2003 1.4%, 2004 2%, 2005 2%, 2006 3.1%, 2007, 2.3%, 2008 2%, 2009 4.8%, 2010 0%, 2011, 0%, 2012 2.6%.

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Buyouts and annual leave

Bookmark and Share

Q. In the last buyout the clerks had for $15,000, one of our clerks took that and said that she got paid for the holidays after her retirement date if her annual leave would have taken her through those dates. Back then, the retirement date was the end of November and she got paid for Christmas, New Year’s and Martin Luther King Day. Does this benefit apply all the time when a person retires, or is it just when a buyout is offered?

A. Yes. Unused annual leave is projected forward as if you were still on the job and paid at the hourly rate in effect at the time. For example, if an across-the-board pay increase occurred, any hours of unused annual leave that fell on or after that date would be paid at the new hourly rate. Note: No credit is given for step increases you would have received if you were still on the job.

Tags: ,