Ask The Experts: Retirement

By Reg Jones

CSRS pre-10/01/82 deposit

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Q. I entered federal service under a temporary appointment on March 16, 1981, until being converted to a career-conditional appointment on Jan. 12, 1982. The Office of Personnel Management has calculated that I owe a CSRS pre-10/01/1982 deposit of $878.88 and interest of $1,398.85 for a total of $2,277.73. If I understand it correctly, unless I pay the deposit in full, my annual annuity will be reduced by 10 percent of the amount of the unpaid balance at retirement. In this case, my annual annuity would be reduced approximately $227.77 or $18.98 per month. Does this reduction ever change? Are there ramifications other than this reduction to be considered, i.e. cost-of-living adjustments, etc.?

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VERA and one-time annuity reduction

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Q. I am CSRS with 33 years of service at age 52. I am considering a Voluntary Early Retirement Authority offer and understand the annuity is reduced 2 percent for each year under age 55. Is this a one-time annuity reduction at time of retirement, or is the reduction computed every year against the inflation-adjusted annuity?

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Annuity eligibility

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Q. I worked for the Postal Service from 1988 to 1999 and took my retirement money with me. Someone told me that they only gave me what I put in and I am entitled to the money they matched. Is that true? Am I entitled to any pension from the post office when I am old enough to retire for good?

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CSRS lump sum

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Q. In 1988, while I was a federal employee at the Defense Mapping Agency, I was enrolled in CSRS. Then, when the FERS plan became available (about 1988), I switched from CSRS to FERS. Then, in November 2000, I separated from the federal government. I have since been told that the money that I paid into CSRS is sitting there and that I can collect it. How can I obtain the money?

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Windfall elimination provision

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Q. If I continue to work at a Social Security-covered job past the age of 62, will the windfall elimination provision deduction be reduced?

I retired from the Postal Service as a CSRS employee in 2004. Prior to my Postal Service time, I had 12 years of substantial earnings in the private sector. Since my retirement in 2004, I have worked for 10 years in a job that pays Social Security deductions. So, as of now, at the age of 62, I have 22 years of substantial earnings.

I have contacted the Social Security Administration and been told to use the WEP detailed calculator to determine what my benefit would be if I made a Social Security claim. However, that did not answer my question. I realize that the longer I work, the greater the Social Security benefit will be. But, as I work longer, will the WEP deduction be reduced, too? Or is it permanently set at age 62?

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Contribution rate for reinstated employee

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Q. I started my career with the federal government in December 2010. If I am not mistaken, my retirement contribution is 1.2 percent. I left the federal government in June 2013. I will be reinstated hopefully in about a month. As a reinstated employee whose initial date of entering the federal workforce was in 2010, will I be abided by the new retirement contribution rate of 4.4 percent?

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Unused sick leave, creditable service and annuity computation

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Q. I am planning to retire at the end of pay period 26, which is Jan. 10, 2015. I will have 13 years, 11 months and 20 days of service. I will be 10 days short of 14 years of service. If I have 80 hours of unused sick leave, will that cover the 10 days to get 14 years of service?

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Refund of military service deposit

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Q. I have approximately five-plus years of active military service, and approximately four years of civilian time. If I buy back my military time now and later decide not to retire from the federal civil service, can I receive that money back?

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Re-employment after retirement

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Q. I retired, I believe, under the MRA + 10 program, at the end of my member’s term. I have a total of 13 + years with the House of Representatives. I get a small annuity. I may have an opportunity to return to full-time service with the Department of Homeland Security. How will that affect my retirement? I assume the annuity would go away but am not sure how the health care would be handled. And I have been retired almost five years now. Will this new position accrue along with my previous 13 (since they were with the House and not GS)?

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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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First annuity check

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Q. I retired Jan. 3 from the Department of Health and Human Services/Indian Health Service with almost 45 years of service. My entrance on duty was May 3, 1969. I am covered under CSRS. I was expecting to receive my first annuity check Feb. 1. However, there was no electronic deposit in my bank account. I tried calling the Office of Personnel Management, but all I got was a busy signal. Therefore, I contacted OPM via email. I haven’t heard back from them as the automatic response I got indicated that it could take up to 30 days to respond.

I also contacted my human resources folks where I worked and was told that I was expecting too much from OPM. They indicated that OPM does their calculations in 30-day increments. Since I retired on Jan. 3, I did not meet the 30-day increment. They said that OPM would be working on my annuity during February and that I “might” receive an interim annuity check on March 1. However, they couldn’t guarantee it.

I did review the “best” date to retire and all the information I reviewed did indicate that Jan. 3 would be the “best” date to retire since I would not only get credit for the holiday but that I would also receive credit for the entire month of January. I did receive my lump-sum annual leave with my last paycheck, and this was extremely helpful. I am wondering how long I will have to wait for my first annuity check. My last earnings and leave statement indicated that my retirement data was sent to OPM on Jan. 27.

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State taxes

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Q. When I retire under CSRS, I will not have state taxes taken out of my check. How do I know how much to pay the state? Do I pay quarterly or yearly? Where do I find the information?

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Annuity reduction

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Q. I served three years on active duty from 1966 to 1969. I was hired as a federal employee in 1970. I retired in 2009 at age 61 and not eligible at that time for any Social Security benefits. I did not buy back my military service because of the provision under section 22A5.1-3G of the CSRS/FERS Handbook, where it states that “employees who retired prior to age 62; and are not eligible for Social Security at age 62; continue to receive credit for the post-1956 military service even if they become entitled to Social Security at a later date and the military deposit was not made.”

Because of some part-time work I have been doing over the past four years, I am now eligible for Social Security benefits. If I apply for such benefits, will it affect my CSRS annuity? I understand that the windfall elimination provision will apply to me.

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Retirement benefits with 5 years

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Q. Is there a plan where civil service employees who are 65/66 years old with only five years of civil service will be eligible to receive any retirement benefits? I did not start my civil service time until September 2010 at age 63. I was given approximately nine months credit for my Vietnam time, bringing my service computation date to Nov. 6, 2009.

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Medicare refund?

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Q. I began work for the Department of Agriculture in April 1957, and continued until Oct. 24, 1957, when I was drafted into the Army. I was honorably discharged Oct. 23, 1959, and returned to work for the USDA, where I continued to work until I retired Oct. 31, 2006. During my tenure with the USDA, I was covered under CSRS.

I have spoken to several federal employees about my retirement. Since I retired with more than 41 years and nine months under CSRS but continued to pay my Medicare until my retirement date of Oct. 31, 2006, they told me that I was entitled to a refund for these payments.

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Workers’ compensation and annuity

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Q. I was a postal worker for 12 years when I was injured on the job in 2001 and am now collecting workers’ compensation. Would I receive any retirement benefits at age 65?

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Firefighter annuity

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Q. I just received my first interim annuity check from the Office of Personnel Management for my CSRS firefighter retirement. They did not provide me with the percentage of the full payment that they sent. The check was less than 60 percent of what I believe I should be receiving. What should I do if OPM sends me a check that they claim is 100 percent of what I will receive but is much less than what I believe I should receive? How will I know if OPM properly included special firefighter provisions?

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Deferred annuity

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Q. I am a 60 percent disabled veteran, so I earn a disability income. When I started work at the Postal Service, I bought my military time back so it would count toward retirement, so my service date is Sept. 1, 2001 (actually started in 2006). I am 46 years old now and I am looking to leave the USPS within three to four years. What options do I have for retirement? Could you explain deferred annuity and any other options available to me?

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Military buyback

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Q. I have tried numerous times to buy back or pay back for my military service so it can be used to civilian retirement. Each time I have been denied. What is the proper way to do this? How do I find out how much it will cost me each paycheck? And normally how long does it take? I was in the Army from August 1972 (months of delay entry) to December 1986.

I am now employed by the government in civilian service position (GS). I understand the time presently is going to leave only, and not my retirement. I would like to pay this back so when I can retire, it will be included.

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CSRS annuity and taxes

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Q. My accountant, a CPA, has a question about the Form W-4P (withholding Certificate for Pension or Annuity Payments) where it states to put down the “additional amount, if any, you want withheld from each pension or annuity payment.” He is asking me to tell him how much of my monthly pension payment is not taxable. My human resources specialist has given me a federal retirement benefits estimate if I retire from the federal government March 3. My total CSRS annual net retirement annuity is estimated to be $128,412, and my monthly annuity after health insurance premiums are deducted is estimated to be $10,701. How much of that monthly net pension is not taxable?

It is my understanding that my cumulative CSRS retirement contributions, which are listed on my civilian leave and earnings statement are my after-tax contributions to my retirement.

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