By Reg Jones
Q. I have worked for the Postal Service for 26 years. I just turned 50. I am under FERS. If I decided to retire at the end of the year, how would I calculate what my annuity will be? Additionally, if there were another early-out offer from the Postal Service, how would I benefit from that rather than retiring outside of the offer?
Q. I took an early retirement from the Social Security Administration in 2005 as a CSRS employee. In 2009, I returned to work as a full-time CSRS employee and make CSRS retirement contributions. I will be eligible for a redetermined annuity early in 2014, when I will be 56. From 1975 to 1981, I had civilian service, during which I made no CSRS contributions. I paid a deposit for this service when I retired in 2005. Office of Personnel Management regulations indicate that I will need to make another election regarding this when I retire again next year. Will I have to pay this civilian service deposit again when I retire and elect a redetermined annuity? If so (and the difference between a supplemental annuity and a redetermined annuity isn’t too great), I may retire sooner.
Q. Is there an option to take buyout money as monthly payments rather than a lump sum, and what are the ramifications? I’ve heard there is an option but cannot find any information on it.
Q. My wife wants to retire next year, and she will be 57 in July. Plans on retiring end of March. According to Social Security, her SS benefit at age 62 would be $1,857 a month, but it says it is based on her working until 62 and that she earns $110,000 a year during that time. I can’t find anything about what happens under her scenario of retiring at 56.75 years old. Will her benefit be reduced because she does not work until 62? Her first year with full-time SS contributions was 1983, and her SS earnings were $12,750. Prior to that, she had some on-and-off part-time earnings starting in 1974; not more than $1,200 in any year, and some years were $0.
Q. I am going on 42 with 23 years of federal service. I would like to know if I would qualify for anything if a reduction in force were to take place. I see the computation charts show any age but you need 25 years. I don’t have 25 yet, so would that mean I wouldn’t be eligible for buyouts or anything until then?
Q. Are there any differences between a FERS early retirement and an immediate retirement? During a reduction in force, can you retire before your minimum retirement age for both under early retirement and immediate retirement? For example, can you retire at age 53 with 30 years in FERS without any age reduction penalties to your annuity under both early retirement and immediate retirement? Which type of retirement is more appropriate for the previous example?
Q. I am 63 years old and have worked for Department of Labor for 14.9 years. My department is offering buyouts, but I can’t seem to find anyone who can tell me if I’m eligible. Is anyone with less than 20 years ever eligible?
Q. I was a tenured foreign service officer. I have nine years of creditable service. I voluntarily left the Foreign Commercial Service after multiple posts. I left in August 2010 with excellent reviews and under great conditions and awards. I was 54 when I left the service to join a private company. I am now 58.
I would like to apply for retirement benefits to qualify for Federal Employees Health Benefits for myself and to gain any other benefits from the pension. Can you help me to understand what I may be eligible for and when I could apply?
Q. I will be 56 in January 2014 with over 20 years of federal service (included military time bought back). Am I eligible for early retirement? Approximately how much will I be getting monthly?
Q. My dad is getting ready to retire from the Transportation Security Administration with just over five years of service. He’s under FERS at age 57. Will he be able to continue his health insurance into retirement?
Q. I was recently married (March) and changed my health insurance from self-only coverage to family coverage. If I were to receive an offer to take an early retirement, will I be able to keep the family coverage? I am under CSRS and have 33 years of continuous service.
Q. I will have 30 years in January and will be 55 years old in March. I’m a FERS employee working for Hill Air Force Base, Utah. If an early-out is offered and I take it before my minimum retirement age of 56 years, will I still get the special retirement supplement paid to me monthly until I reach the 62 years of age, or will I lose that benefit?
Q. I have 15 years of federal service and would like to do an early retirement with MRA+10. Would I have to take a reduction in my Thrift Savings Plan, or just my federal retirement only?
Q. I am under FERS, 57 years old and will have 30 years in on Feb. 12, 2014. I have been asked if I would take a buyout and leave Dec. 31. What impact would retiring two months early have on me financially? Would I still get the special retirement supplement? Would my pension be reduced?
Q. My husband got a survey about which option he would take to retire early, but how do we know if it is going to be offered to him?
Q. How many years of federal employment does one need to be eligible for retiree health insurance? Do employees becomes “vested” in health insurance after a certain number of years? I thought I needed to be working for 10 years with the feds to be eligible for retiree health insurance, but now I am not so sure.
Q. I have more than 14 years of civil service. I’m retired military (20 years). I’m almost 58 years old. I fall under FERS. A while back, an email came down asking who would be interested in Voluntary Early Retirement Authority/Voluntary Separation Incentive Pay. I replied in the affirmative.
If they offer VERA/VSIP, my supervisor says he would not approve it for me, as he cannot afford to lose the position. My plan was to retire at 60, but if they offered VERA/VSIP I would go earlier. With talk of reductions in force, I’m concerned what course would be most beneficial for me. If a RIF is enforced or if VERA/VSIP is offered, do they waive the 5 percent-per-year penalties for early retirement? How do I find out how much penalty I would incur if they do not waive them? Should I buy back my military time? Keep it separate? Stay until 60?
Q. I’m 53 years old with 22 years of service. Will I be eligible for Voluntary Separation Incentive Pay, and would it be beneficial to retire early?
Q. I am 50 years old with 20 years of service from the military (retired). I have 10 years federal service. Do I qualify for Voluntary Separation Incentive Pay? If not, OPM Form 1496A is the application For Voluntary Early Retirement. Do I submit Form 1496A prior to terminating my employment or wait until I reach the minimum retirement age?
September 29th, 2013 | COLA Creditable service: FERS Deferred retirement DOWNSIZING Early retirement EMPLOYMENT FERS annuity computation HEALTH INSURANCE law enforcement LIFE INSURANCE Minimum retirement age Reductions in force RETIREMENT SOCIAL SECURITY Special retirement supplement
In my last two columns, I described the procedures agencies are required to use when they conduct a reduction in force. In this column, I’ll focus on the options available to employees who are eligible to retire when facing a RIF.
If you have the right combination of age and service, you’ll be able to retire on an immediate annuity, even if you aren’t directly targeted by a RIF. Here are the rules, which are different for personnel under the Civil Service Retirement System and the Federal Employees Retirement System.
The immediate retirement rules are different for special category employees, such as law enforcement officers, firefighters and air traffic controllers. If you are covered by CSRS, you can retire at age 50 with 20 years of service; if you are covered by FERS, you can retire at age 50 with 20 years of service or at any age with 25.
If you aren’t eligible for immediate retirement, a general RIF notice won’t qualify you for early retirement. You’ll need a specific notice, which must identify your position as one that will be affected and that you will be separated from it on a specific date.
Rather than issue specific RIF notices, your agency may first authorize early retirements under Voluntary Early Retirement Authority or encourage retirements by offering buyouts to employees occupying certain positions under the Voluntary Separation Incentive Program.
Note: If offered a VSIP, you don’t need to be eligible to retire. You only need to be willing to leave and do so.
Whether offered a VERA, a VSIP or both, you’ll be eligible for early retirement if you meet the age and service requirements, which are the same for CSRS and FERS.
Special retirement supplement
If you are a FERS retiree, you’ll receive a special retirement supplement if you retire after your MRA with 30 years of service, at age 60 with 20 years, or on early voluntary or involuntary retirement beginning at your MRA. If you are a special category retiree, you will receive the SRS regardless of your age.
The SRS approximates the amount of the Social Security benefit you earned while covered by FERS. It is paid until age 62 when you become eligible for a Social Security benefit. The amount you receive in your SRS is fixed. It won’t be increased by any cost-of-living adjustments while you are receiving it. However, it will be reduced or suspended if you’ve reached your MRA and have earnings from wages or self-employment that exceed the annual Social Security earnings limit. In 2013, that limit is $15,120.
COLAs on retirement annuities
The rules governing COLAs for CSRS and FERS retirees are different. If you are a CSRS retiree, you are entitled to receive them annually regardless of the age at which you retire. The same is true if you are a special category retiree under FERS. On the other hand, if you are a regular FERS retiree, you won’t receive one until you reach age 62.
FYI: When the consumer price index is 2 percent or less, FERS retirees receive the same COLA as their CSRS counterparts. However, between 2 and 3 percent, they receive 2 percent, and at 3 percent or more, they receive the CPI minus 1 percent.
Even if you aren’t eligible to retire now, you may still be able to receive an annuity later on. For example, if you had at least five years of service when you left, you could apply for a deferred retirement at age 62. If you were a FERS employee who had 20 or more years of service, you could apply at age 60. In either case, your annuity would be based on your years of service and highest three years of average basic pay on the day you left. Note: FERS employees applying for a deferred retirement aren’t eligible for the special retirement supplement.
Health and life insurance
You must be covered under the Federal Employees Health Benefits program and/or the Federal Employees’ Group Life Insurance program for the five consecutive years immediately preceding your retirement (or from your first opportunity to enroll) to carry that coverage into retirement. (Coverage under Tricare also counts toward the five-year requirement, as long as you were enrolled in the FEHB program when you retired.)
Fortunately, the Office of Personnel Management has some flexibility. If you haven’t met the requirement to continue your coverage but are currently enrolled, you may be eligible for a pre-approved waiver.
A final note: If you are a FERS employee who is eligible to carry your FEHB or FEGLI coverage into retirement but you postpone the receipt of your annuity to a later date, you can re-enroll in those programs when your annuity begins. On the other hand, if you leave government and apply for a deferred annuity, you can’t re-enroll in either program.