By Reg Jones
June 27th, 2014 | Creditable service: CSRS
Q. In 2009, I took the postal clerk buyout and retired. I am under CSRS with 32 years with 2 years of military Service included. When military buyback was offered some 25 years ago, I passed. In 2009, the same buyback was almost $10,000 so I passed on that. I am working and will have 37 credits of eligibility toward Social Security at the end of this year. If I continue and become Social Security eligible, how much of my monthly pension will I lose?
A. If you become eligible for a Social Security benefit, you won’t lose a penny of your CSRS annuity. However, your Social Security benefit will be subject to the windfall elimination provision. The WEP reduces the Social Security benefit of anyone who has fewer than 30 years of substantial earnings under Social Security.
Based on the mail I’ve been getting, there’s a lot of confusion about the rules governing deposits and redeposits to get credit for prior service in determining your eligibility to retire and having that time used in your annuity computation when you retire. In this column, I’ll deal with the rules that apply to Civil Service Retirement System and CSRS Offset employees. In my next column, I’ll do the same for Federal Employees Retirement System employees.
The term “nondeduction service” applies to any period of federal government employment where retirement deductions weren’t taken from your pay. If you are a CSRS and CSRS Offset employee, you can make a deposit to get credit for that nondeduction service. The deposit equals the amount of the contributions you would have made to the Civil Service Retirement and Disability Fund if your job been covered by CSRS, plus accrued interest.
If you are covered by CSRS or CSRS Offset when you retire, most kinds of federal government employment that aren’t covered by CSRS count toward the years of service needed to be eligible to retire. That includes federal government employment where only Social Security deductions were taken from your pay. It also includes employment covered by another federal retirement system, such as the Foreign Service, as long as you aren’t receiving any benefits for that time under the other system.
When you performed that nondeduction service has a significant effect on the way it will be treated.
If you had any nondeduction service before Oct. 1, 1982, you’ll get credit for that time in determining your eligibility to retire; however, unless you make a deposit, your annuity will be reduced by 10 percent of the amount you would have paid into the fund, plus interest.
If you had any nondeduction service on or after Oct. 1, 1982, it, too, will be creditable for determining your eligibility to retire; however, if you don’t make a deposit to get credit for that time, it won’t be used in the computation of your annuity.
With one important exception, if you ever separated from the federal government, took a refund of your CSRS retirement contributions, and later returned, you’ll have to redeposit that money, plus accrued interest, before the time can be used in the computation of your annuity. However, if you don’t make the redeposit, you will still get credit for the time in determining your length of service for retirement, as well as for determining your “high-3.” Your high-3 is the average of your three highest consecutive years of pay, regardless of when they occurred in your career.
Here’s the exception: If you received a CSRS refund covering a period of service that ended before Oct. 1, 1991, you won’t have to pay the redeposit if you don’t want to. You’ll receive full credit for it in your annuity computation (unless you retire on disability). However, your annuity will be actuarially reduced based on your age and the amount of the redeposit you owe, including interest, on the day you retire.
Beginning with the first pay period in January 1970, the contribution rate for CSRS has been 7 percent (7.5 percent for law enforcement officers and firefighters beginning with the first pay period in January 1975). If the nondeduction service you performed was before that date, the contribution rate will be lower.
Interest for nondeduction service earned before Oct. 1, 1982 (and refunded service if the application for a refund was made on or after that date) equals 3 percent. Interest for nondeduction and refunded service on or after Oct. 1, 1982 equals 3 percent through Dec. 31, 1984. Thereafter, a variable rate is applied. (In 1985 the rate reached an all-time high of 13 percent. In 2014 it’s at an all-time low of 1.625 percent, the same as it was in 2013.)
If you owe any deposits or redeposits, go to www.opm.gov/forms/pdf_fill/sf-2803.pdf and download a copy of Standard Form 2803, Application to Make Deposits or Redeposits. Once you’ve filled it out, take it to your personnel office. When they tell you how much you owe, you can decide if it’s worth the cost.
To help you make that decision, use the following formula: 0.015 x your high-3 x 5 years of service, plus 0.0175 x your high-3 x 5 years of service, plus 0.02 x your high-3 x all remaining years and full months of service.
As you can see, if you have over 10 years of actual CSRS service, each additional month of credit your get by making a deposit or redeposit is worth 1/6 percent. That’s 2 percent per year.
If you decide to make the deposit, you can pay it in a lump sum or set up a payment schedule, with payments as low as $50 a month. Just remember. The longer you wait to complete the payment, the more you’ll have to pay in interest.
Reg Jones was head of retirement and insurance programs at the Office of Personnel Management. Email your retirement-related questions to firstname.lastname@example.org, and view his blog at blogs.federaltimes.com/ federal-retirement.
June 20th, 2014 | Creditable service: CSRS
Q. I received nine years creditable service for Annual Leave accrual for non-federal work experience when first hired for federal service. A friend of mine recently told me that the creditable service will also be factored into my CSRS retirement date. For example, if I plan on retiring after 30 years of service, I would only need to work an additional 21 years for the government. I cannot seem to find anything on the internet to support his claim. Can you tell me if my friend is correct?
A: Your friend is mistaken. You wouldn’t receive any credit for that time in determining your eligibility to retire.
Q. I was in the Kentucky National Guard for 7 years and was honorably discharged in 1976. During that time I attended basic training at Ft. Bragg and advanced training at Ft. Eustis from December 29, 1968 and June 23, 1970. I am currently in the FAA as a federal employee and I am near retirement.
Does this time in the Kentucky National Guard training for almost 6 months count toward my SCD calculation? Will I need to “buy back” the time? Read the rest of this entry »
Q. I am a FERS employee with 32 years of service credit. I was in CSRS for 5 years, 10 months and 28 days. I left the government but came back 3 years later as a FERS employee. When I retire I will have 28 days of CSRS service credit and 25 days of FERS Service Credit. Will 7 days of my excess sick leave (56 hours) be applied to my remaining days of 23 to give me an extra month toward retirement?
Q. I am a 63 year-old CSRS retiree with 40 Social Security credits but substantial earnings years of < 20. I think I understand the impact on my small SS benefit and the impact of the WEP provision.
My wife is 67 and waiting until she is 70 to collect her SS.
We have been reading a lot about the file and suspending of SS for the one with higher earnings, which is my wife, and the claiming now of the spousal benefit for me.
If my wife files and suspends her SS, we understand it will grow just like she did not file and at 70 she would get the full amount as calculated on the SS website.
However, as a CSRS retiree, am I eligible to apply for a spousal benefit under her since her SS is higher than mine, and if so, would there be the same WEP calculation to this spousal benefit as it would be to my own SS benefit?
In my last two columns I described the kinds of active duty service in the armed forces that are potentially creditable in your CSRS or FERS annuity, and what you have to do to get that credit. This time I’ll quickly go over the rules governing the computation of CSRS and FERS annuities for most federal employees. That way you’ll be able to see what the difference would be between a pure civilian annuity and one that includes credit for active duty service for which you’ve made a deposit.
Under CSRS, you can retire immediately if you are age 55 and have 30 years of service, 60 with 20 or 62 with 5. Under certain circumstances, you can retire at age 50 with 20 years of service or, if you have 25 years of service, at any age. However, your annuity will be reduced by 1/6 of a percent for each month you are under age 55. That’s 2 percent per year.
Under FERS, you can retire immediately at your minimum retirement age (MRA) with 30 years of service, 60 with 20 or 62 with 5, You can also retire at your MRA with at least 10 years of service but fewer than 30. However, if you retire under the MRA+10 provision and have fewer than 20 years of service, your annuity would be reduced by 5 percent for every year you were under age 62, age 60 if you had at least 20 years of service.
You could also retire early at age 50 with 20 years of service or, if you have 25 years of service, at any age. However, unlike CSRS retirees, there wouldn’t be any age penalty.
Note: To find out which kinds of active duty service in the armed forces are considered creditable and under what conditions, go to www.opm.gov/retirement-services/publications-forms/csrsfers-handbook/c022.pdf. To find out the same thing about civilian service, go to www.opm.gov/retirement-services/publications-forms/csrsfers-handbook/c020.pdf.
Here’s how you compute a CSRS annuity:
* 1.5% x your high-3 x 5 years of service, plus
* 1.75% x your high-3 x 5 years of service, plus
* 2% x your high-3 x all remaining years and full months of service
This formula generates the basic annuity amount, which cannot exceed 80 percent of your average high-3 salary. However, unused sick leave is not included in that 80 percent limitation.
Two simple examples will illustrate the difference between making a deposit for four years of active duty service and not doing so. For simplicity’s sake, we’ll say your high-3 is $100,000 and you have 30 years of actual service.
* Without a deposit, your annuity would be $56,150.
* With a deposit, your annuity would be $64,250.
Here’s how to compute a FERS annuity:
.01 x your high-3 x all years of service
If you are age 62 and have at least 20 years of service, use this formula:
.011 x your high-3 x all years of service
Once again, some simple examples will illustrate the difference between making a deposit for four years of active duty service and not doing so. And I’ll use the same high-3 – $100,000 – and 30 years of actual service.
* Without a deposit, your annuity would be $30,000.
* With a deposit, your annuity would be $34,000.
If you were entitled to the .011 multiplier
* Without a deposit, your annuity would be $33,000.
* With a deposit, your annuity would be $37,400.
Note: Whether you are covered by CSRS or FERS, unused sick leave can’t be used to make you eligible for retirement. It can only be added to your years of service after you meet the age and service requirements.
The special retirement supplement
Because FERS is a retirement system that includes Social Security, if you retire before age 62, you’ll be entitled to the special retirement supplement, unless you are retiring under the MRA+10 provision.
The SRS approximates the amount of Social Security benefit you earned while a FERS employee. It doesn’t include periods of active duty service, whether or not you have made a deposit.
Using the FERS example above, if you are a FERS employee with 30 years of actual service and have made a deposit to get credit for your active duty service. That time will be included when determining your total years of service and used in your annuity computation. However only your actual service will be used in calculating your special retirement supplement. That’s because the SRS is paid out of the Civil Service Retirement and Disability Fund, not the Social Security Fund. However, when you apply for a Social Security benefit, it will be based on all your years of Social Security-covered employment.
A word about special category employees
Law enforcement officers, firefighters and air traffic controllers may retire at age 50 with 20 years of covered service. FERS employees may also retire at any age with 25 such years. All special category employees receive an enhanced benefit for which they pay by contributing more to the retirement system.
The rules for crediting are the generally the same for special category employees as they are for all other employees. However, there are a few variations on those rules. First, active duty service that precedes employment as a special category employee can’t be used to meet the years of service requirements for the enhanced benefit. Second, active duty service that interrupts a special category career is creditable toward the enhanced benefit, but only if the employee returns to a covered position and makes a deposit for that time.
Q. I switched from CSRS to FERS with about 10 years in CSRS and 25.5 yrs in FERS. When my service in CSRS is calculated, my total service, including 918 hours of frozen sick leave, equals 10 years 2 months and 17 days. Is there any way to apply the 17 days to either credit service in CSRS or even FERS (17 days in CSRS is worth more than 34 days in FERS) or do I just lose the 17 days? Read the rest of this entry »
Q. I have over 41 years 11 months creditable service under CSRS. I also have unused sick leave to take me over the 80% max threshold. I used the chart to convert sick leave hours into months and days (rounding up). Does sick leave just get added to the credible service years, months and days, or is it done separately? Also if it is added to the credible service and the days are dropped, does that mean that I can potentially lose up to a month of sick leave days? If so, should I begin taking sick days when I need them, instead of using annual leave, so I don’t just lose them?
Read the rest of this entry »
Q. I am CSRS and presently employed be the Air Force. I paid my military deposit in full, and as I will never have Social Security quarters, I would like to have it refunded back to me. Although OPM cannot quote the regulation, they said that if I was still making payments on it I could request a refund but because it is paid in full I cannot. Can you quote the regulation that states that? Can you quote the regulation that says that I can have this refunded! Read the rest of this entry »
Q. I am 69 years old and will be 70 in December of this year. I was rehired by the government in January 2013 after a 31 year break in service. I had almost 12 years of prior service and I withdrew my CSRS retirement fund when I left the government in 1981. I am now planning to retire at the end of March of 2016 when my High-3 will be reestablished at my current GS12-10 salary. Since I have over 30 (consecutive) years of substantial earnings under Social Security, will the windfall elimination provision come into play when I retire?
Also, I did not repay the amount I withdrew in 1981, and additionally, I am currently collecting my Social Security benefit and have been since 2010. How will these circumstances effect my CSRS retirement and/or Social Security benefit when I finally retire at the date I mentioned? Read the rest of this entry »
Q. I am a CSRS Offset employee with almost 30 years of service. After my first period of civilian service (1981 through 1992), I was laid off during a RIF. I withdrew my CSRS deposit in 1992 and have not paid it back.
Can I still get retirement credit for my civilian service prior to March 1, 1991, and receive actuarial reduction versus paying back my withdrawal plus interest? Read the rest of this entry »
Q. I joined the federal government on Dec. 19, 1983, under CSRS and later switched to FERS in January 1988. No social security was paid in from 1984 to 1987. I am planning to retire now, and this is my first and last job in the federal government.
Will my 4 years of service under CSRS ( 1984-1987) will be credited to FERS? Read the rest of this entry »
Q. I retired in 2009 at the age of 59. I was a Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS) employee. I am drawing my pension and have never paid into the Social Security system. My future spouse will draw his full social security at age 66. If I understand correctly, if he should die before I do, I will never be eligible to draw his Social Security. Could this be possible since my annuity is twice as much as his Social Security?
Q. I have been retired from CSRS since 2004 with 34 years of service. It is my understanding that I have $25,000 in life insurance to be paid to my beneficiary when I die. That will most likely be my wife. How should she go about claiming the life insurance?
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?
Q. I had heard that there might be an option to retire “gracefully,” e.g, work halftime for two years while also getting your retirement. I am under CSRS. Is this so?
Q. I have read on your site where, in some instances, military retirees are told when they retire from there civilian job, they will be required to waive their military retired pay. At times, they are told they can receive both pensions. I am a National Guardsman with 24 years on active duty. I plan on accepting a federal position (GS). If I leave active duty and revert to M-Day (weekend duty) in the National Guard, buy back my years in the federal system and work for five to eight years until age 56½, will I be able to collect both pensions upon retirement? Will I collect a federal pension at 56½ and have to wait until age 60 for military pension? If, before age 56½, I go back on active duty for a year, how will that be affected?
Q. I was hired by a federal agency while on terminal leave from the Army. Is this creditable service toward retirement from the federal agency?
Q. What are the differences if my retirement date is Nov. 29, 2014, or Dec. 1, 2014? I will be retiring from the Postal Service as a Level 18 postmaster. I am retiring under CSRS. My service computation date is July 6, 1979. I will be turning 55 on Nov. 16. I have worked continuously at the Postal Service, and I have 1,848.84 hours of accumulated sick leave.