By Reg Jones
December 10th, 2013 | Creditable service: FERS Disability retirement discontinued service retirement EMPLOYMENT FERS annuity computation management-directed reassignment Minimum retirement age RETIREMENT separation
Q. I retired on FERS disability in 2009 at the age of 46 with 17 years of service. I applied for FERS and went on various leave until approved. When I was approved, my position was eliminated from the agency within my state. I had been given a direct reassignment, which I declined due to the nature of the duties (similar to what I was disabling on) and the distance for transfer (130 miles away). Plus, the position had additional duties of driving for two hours daily — a duty I could not do (This was known for years within the agency). My separation papers reflected my original position as the disabling position, not the reassignment.
I went through one medical questionnaire two years ago, and I am now getting ready for the second one. The difference now is that I have a new doctor who has not yet been involved in such a questionnaire. I assume all will get well because nothing has changed, and he is aware of my conditions.
1. If for this reason, I am removed from FERS disability, what are my options concerning retirement: discontinued, involuntary separation or nothing? I am age 50 but with the 17 years of service, can I convert to any other type of retirement, or must I wait until my minimum retirement age of 56?
2. If my doctor is not supportive and I submit the form without physician comments, what happens then?
Q. Three years ago, I took a disability retirement from a motor vehicle accident. In the past three years, I rehabilitated myself to go back into the federal workforce to repay monies I had received from the Office of Personnel Management for the disability retirement. I was a GS-05 at the Veterans Affairs Department. Am I eligible to apply for the Career Transition Assistance Program, as well as my Schedule A Hiring Authority when applying for new, open GS-06 positions?
Q. My agency is proposing my removal of federal service due to my condition, which I have had since being hired in 2002. They claim I am “unfit for duty based on my Family and Medical Leave Act paperwork from my physician.” Am I qualified to claim disability retirement?
Q. I’m age 50 with 25 years of non-Postal service under FERS. If I have a medical condition that qualifies me for disability retirement, will I still be covered under FEHB after retiring on disability? I would only pay my portion of the premium as if I am still employed, correct? I have been enrolled in Federal Employees Health Benefits my entire career.
And would I still receive the special retirement supplement when I hit my minimum retirement age of 56, even though I am retired on disability?
Q. I was removed from the Postal Service for nonperformance four months ago after a reassignment due to a reduction in force and 24 years of service. I had also applied for disability retirement after being assigned to that job and was just waiting for approval. A package for severance pay was offered to those of us affected by the RIF if termination was necessary. My disability application was recently approved, and I’m so relieved. What about that four months of agony, though? I was really depressed and wondering if that was how my career would end. I really wanted that reassignment to work out or I never would have settled for that job, and I would have taken the severance deal. Will that severance pay be calculated into my annuity by the Office of Personnel Management? It’s not my fault that health conditions would not allow me to do the reassignment.
Q. I have been working for the federal government for just over five years. I am in need of my third spinal surgery. This one will be a doozy and will put me out of commission for over a year, and I will no longer be able to sit comfortably, which will make it impossible to do my eight-hour desk job. According to Social Security, I would qualify for full disability, but I have not applied yet. Would I be eligible for both Social Security disability and the early disability retirement under FERS being only 41? If so, which is done first: surgery, Social Security or retirement?
Q. I have been receiving workers’ compensation since 1977 as a partially permanently disabled person. Four years ago, I started getting Social Security disability, so the two combined is still not much. The Office of Workers’ Compensation Programs sent me a letter that my workers’ comp check may be reduced because I am turning 62. I only get $400 from them and my SSD amount is not changing, as it is just going to be called Social Security now instead of SSD. Same amount of stipend, so why are they taking away what little bit I get? Nothing has changed except my age.
Q. I’m a FERS employee. I will be 52 in August 2014. I have 13 years with the Veterans Affairs Department, seven years military buyback. I have an 80 percent disability rating. Can I take the Voluntary Early Retirement Authority that is offered now at age 56 with 25 years, or a disability retirement? Will I be penalized in any way?
Q. I am a retired disabled military member who works in the federal government. Since I am retired, I did not opt for any of the Federal Employees Health Benefits, as I am covered through Tricare as well as the Veterans Affairs Department. So, why is it that I must pay into Medicare when I am presently covered by another form of medical coverage? What can I do to stop this $2,247.18 annual deduction? Since I am covered as a vet under VA, I don’t need additional medical coverage. This is not right. How do I get my money back?
I’ve been paying into this since 2005 as a federal employee, having spent the previous 20 in the military. Since retiring eight years ago, I have been receiving Medicare care as a disabled vet through VA, and my family is covered through Tricare, which I pay monthly through payroll deduction. So where is my $2,247.18 going every year? What is the government doing with my earnings? Are there any provisions to cease this from happening?
Q. If a FERS employee goes out with a disability, where can they get their health insurance, or can they keep what they have?
Q. In 1997, I retired from the federal government at age 58. I will soon be 74. When I became eligible for Medicare, I chose only Plan A, since most of Plan B would have duplicated my Blue Cross/Blue Shield benefits. My wife is 59, and went on Social Security disability in 2008. She chose only Plan A of Medicare for the above stated reason. Now, I am rethinking my situation. If we were to apply for Plan B, would we be required to pay the 10 percent annual penalty for each year because we chose not to take Plan B? If so, that would make it unaffordable. Or, will my creditable coverage over those years result in a waiver of the penalty?
Q. I am 55 with almost 10 years in FERS and 31 years military, for which I haven’t made a deposit. If a reduction in force happens, would I be eligible for a buyout or severance pay?
Q. I am 39 and on disability retirement from the Postal Service. I initially turned down continuing my Federal Employees Health Benefits insurance. Is it possible to enroll now, seven years later?
Q. I retired from the Army after 23 years and began my civilian service last year. I have seen from your blog that, even as a military retiree, I can buy back my years of military service and apply them to my federal service. But if I do:
1. Do I lose my health care through Tricare?
2. At what point do I stop receiving my military retirement pay (when I buy back my military service time or when I retire from civilian service)?
3. Would this affect my disability pay, which I believe is separate from my military retirement pay?
4. What other benefits would I lose as a military retiree, e.g., on-base benefits such as shopping at the commissary and post exchange, etc.?
Q. I have a friend on a full disability retirement through FERS. He has become eligible for Medicaid and told me he wants to drop his Blue Cross/Blue Shield insurance.
1. Is this a good idea?
2. If it is OK for him to drop it, what number does he call at the Office of Personnel Management to make that happen?
Q. My wife is able to receive health benefits starting Dec. 1. I am a Postal Service employee retired on disability FERS. Can you tell me the procedure to remove her from my APWU health insurance effective Dec. 1? I realize when she retires from her job and loses her insurance, I can add her back on mine. But if I should die before she retires, is she able to get a FEHB health plan? She will have survivor benefits.
October 30th, 2013 | Benefits COLA Creditable service: CSRS Creditable service: FERS CSRS annuity computation Disability retirement FERS annuity computation PAY RETIREMENT SOCIAL SECURITY spouse benefits SURVIVOR BENEFITS
Every fall, readers ask me what the cost-of-living adjustment will be for CSRS and FERS retirees and Social Security beneficiaries. And they want to know where the numbers come from, who is eligible for a COLA, when are they effective, if they are prorated, and why they are sometimes different for CSRS and FERS retirees.
Because of the government shutdown, it took a little longer than usual to find out that the what the 2014 COLA will be. It’s 1.5 percent. Not great, but better than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick.
Where do the numbers come from? COLAs are a byproduct of data collected by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, which it uses to produce the Consumer Price Index for Urban Consumers. The CPI-U covers about 87 percent of the population. However, to more closely match the spending patterns of federal beneficiaries, BLS uses a subset made up of Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers — the CPI-W.
The CPI-W is based on the spending patterns of households where more than half of the income comes from clerical or wage occupations and where at least one of the household’s earners has been employed for at least 37 weeks during the previous 12 months. The COLA amount is determined by the difference in the CPI-W from one year to the next. The arithmetical mean of the CPI-W for the third quarter of the current year — July, August and September — is compared with the arithmetical mean from the base quarter in the previous year.
Who is eligible for a COLA? If you are a CSRS retiree, when you’ve been on the annuity roll long enough, you’ll receive a COLA regardless of your age. With certain exceptions, if you are a FERS retiree, you won’t receive your first COLA until you reach age 62. If you are a FERS employee who retired under the special provisions for law enforcement officers, firefighters or air traffic controllers, you’ll begin receiving your COLA regardless of your age. The same is true for military reserve technicians whose separation from technician service resulted from a loss of military membership or rank because they became disabled after reaching age 50 and completing 25 years of service. Also entitled to non-age-restricted COLAs are survivor spouses, former spouses and insurable interest survivor annuitants.
COLAs are effective Dec. 1 of the year in which a retiree, survivor or Social Security beneficiary becomes eligible. The increases are reflected in the January payments.
When and how are COLAs prorated? For those of you who are eligible and have been retired for an entire year, you’ll receive the full amount of the COLA. If you’ve been retired for less than a year, it will be prorated. The proration will be based on the number of months that have elapsed between the date your annuity began and the effective date of the first COLA after that date. For example, if you retired after Nov. 30, 2012, (FERS) or Dec. 3, 2012, (CSRS), your 2014 COLA would be reduced by 1/12th for each month that you were still employed.
Why are COLAs different for CSRS and FERS retirees? While the 2014 COLA will be the same for CSRS and FERS retirees, it isn’t always that way. That’s because the FERS law states that if the CPI/W increases by 3 percent or more in any year, FERS-covered retirees and survivors will receive 1 percent less than that number. That happened in 2012, when CSRS retirees received 3.6 percent and FERS retirees 2.6 percent. If the CPI/W increases by 2 percent to 3 percent, the adjustment will be 2 percent. If the CPI/W increases by less than 2 percent, the adjustment will equal the CPI/W. That is happening this year.
Q. I retired under CSRS Offset (disability) from the federal government at age 52 in 2005 with 26 years of service. I was told by human resources that, at age 62, it is mandatory that I apply for Social Security retirement, and if I did not do so, I would be subject to an overpayment that must be repaid. HR also told me that I would have no choice in the matter — that after applying for Social Security at age 62, my federal Blue Cross/Blue Shield health insurance would become secondary and Medicare would become primary health carrier. Is this the case? Must I retire at 62, and must I give up my Blue Cross health care for Medicare?
Q. I have been on Social Security disability for the past 10 years. I have Medicare Part A now. Part B was dropped because I needed the money. If I add back Part B, how much will it cost me each month? It was about $100 a month back then.
Q. I have a work-related injury that led to a total knee replacement. I was taken out of my shop due to permanent restrictions and given desk duty four years before retirement. I was offered a $25,000 buyout in April and accepted with my doctor’s support. Can I convert to disability without affecting the buyout money?