Ask The Experts: Retirement

By Reg Jones

Applying for CSRS years after a RIF

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Q. My husband and I were both hit with reductions in force (RIFs) in 1997 due to base realignments, and while I managed to return to civil service, he did not.  Both of us were on CSRS, and I am still covered by CSRS.

Is there any way we can accurately determine what his CSRS benefits would be in advance of applying for retirement?  And how do we apply for CSRS retirement when there’s been such a long break in service? Read the rest of this entry »

CSRS offset

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Q. I am CSRS offset and can retire later this year.  I have two questions.

1) As someone who works on a regular basis on Sunday and receives Sunday premium pay, is this premium pay part of calculations for my retirement annuity?

2) I spent 10 months in Iraq as a US Corps of Engineers civilian army employee.  One adviser told me that my hazardous/combat pay counts towards my high-3 for retirement purposes.  Another adviser said the opposite. Which is true?

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Medicare is not deducted from annuity

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Q. I plan to retire within the next year but have some questions. I am a CSRS-Offset with 34 years of employment. I understand that after I start receiving the payments Social Security will not be taken out. Does that also include Medicare and state withholding taxes? So, if my annuity estimate states that I will receive $2,700 per month, is the only deduction I will have off of that my insurance if I choose to continue it? Also, if you deduct the withholding of Medicare and state taxes, will I be able to get them back when I file for my income taxes? Do I have to claim this retirement money as income on my taxes?

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Retirement date

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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.

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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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Military retirement + civilian retirement

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Q. I left active duty after 14 years and joined the reserves. Due to my specialty in certain investigations (CID agent), I was involuntary mobilized prior to obtaining a civilian (1811) job. I was mobilized for four continuous years, bringing my active-duty time to 18 years. Once off active duty, I was able to report for my first day of work as an 1811 in the GS. Since I was not eligible for active-duty retirement, I was able to use my 18 years for sick/vacation time. My unit is planning to mobilize this year (for a year), and my plan is to mobilize and hope to stay on until reaching 20 active-duty years, thereby clinching an active-duty retirement. If I buy the 18 years back now for the GS civilian job, and then I mobilize for two years, would I be eligible for the active-duty retirement since I will have reached 20 years?

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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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CSRS actuarial reduction

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Q. I worked under CSRS from 1963 to 1984 and withdrew my contributions when I left. I returned to a term position in 2002 and was informed that I couldn’t elect CSRS, so I selected a FERS pension. I am 72 and still employed. When I retire, I will receive an actuarially reduced CSRS pension. Does the reduction computation continue each year into retirement? What is the reason (law or regulation) that this reduction is itself not reduced or eliminated if I retire at a more advanced age (and will receive the pension for fewer years)?

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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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