Ask The Experts: Retirement

By Reg Jones

Special retirement eligibility

Bookmark and Share

Q. I am currently 43 years of age and I am a DoD firefighter with 20 years and 2 months of service under the FERS special retirement. I plan to move to another FERS position that is not covered under the FERS special retirement. I want to work in this position until I reach age 50. Since I have 20 years of service in the special retirement, could I still retire under special retirement once I reach age 50 even though I won’t be in a FERS special retirement position when I turn 50? Read the rest of this entry »

Special retirement supplement for early retirement

Bookmark and Share

Q. I retired on Jan. 31, 2014, under an offer of early retirement and will not reach my minimum retirement age until August 2014. Can I apply for special supplement income prior to my MRA knowing it takes time to process or do I have to actually wait until I reach 56 years of age?
Read the rest of this entry »

Firefighter retirement

Bookmark and Share

Q. I am a Fuels Planner (GS09) and have worked in fire in various capacities over the past 16 years.  If I take a job outside of fire, will I forfeit my firefighter retirement entirely?  Is any of the time I have put in counted in my final retirement?  Is there a period of time that I can get back into a firefighter position to finish out my four years in order to get the additional retirement?  If so, how long do I have to do so? Read the rest of this entry »

Retiree returning to work

Bookmark and Share

Q. I am a federal retiree returning to work. I have been offered a term position not to exceed thirteen months.  Would accepting this position reduce or stop my present annuity?

Read the rest of this entry »

Age restrictions

Bookmark and Share

Q. Is there an age restriction for potential employees if they are older than 69?

Read the rest of this entry »

Law enforcement special retirement coverage

Bookmark and Share

Q. I was hired as GS-9/11 1811 criminal investigator (primary position) and, after two years and 23 days, I was promoted into a supervisory position for nine years that was classified as a secondary position. Because I did not complete three years in a primary position first, I was told that I did not meet the requirements for special coverage. But I changed agencies and spent my last eight years in a “primary position,” so I have over 10 years in a primary position. I feel that I have completed the three-year requirement. Can I get the nine years of my secondary position covered?

Read the rest of this entry »

Retirement eligibility

Bookmark and Share

Q. I am a civilian federal firefighter. I bought back four years and one month of active-duty military time (also as a firefighter) into FERS. I will have 25 years total (four military and 21 civilian) when I am 48 years old.

Can I retire at that time since firefighters can retire at 25 years of service at any age, even though only 21 of those years are as a civilian firefighter? My active-duty time was as a firefighter also, USAF 3E751.

Read the rest of this entry »

Firefighter, earnings limit and SRS

Bookmark and Share

Q. I am a FERS retired firefighter and wanted to know if and how the post-retirement earning test applies. At age 55, is my special retirement supplement dependent on how much I am making at that age? If so, once the supplement is lost, can you get it back if earnings drop prior to age 62?

Read the rest of this entry »

Firefighter annuity

Bookmark and Share

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?

Read the rest of this entry »

Annuity eligibility

Bookmark and Share

Q. I am a Defense Department firefighter with 20 years in service. I also have four years of military time, which I bought back. I want to leave DoD fire and work in another federal office that is also covered by FERS. I am 42 years old. I want to leave now with 20 years of firefighter time and work in another federal office for five years. Would I still qualify for an immediate annuity once I have a total of 25 years in federal service even though 20 were as a DoD firefighter and five were inside another federal agency in a regular FERS-covered position?

Read the rest of this entry »

Special retirement supplement

Bookmark and Share

Q. I am a special category employee retiring this month with 30 years of service. I will be 55 in April. My minimum retirement age is 56. I know means testing of the special retirement supplement begins when I am 56, but how, mechanically, does it work? Do I get a letter on or near my 56th birthday asking me what my earned income was during the previous year? Or do I get such a letter on or near my 57th birthday, asking the same question about the previous year (the year I turned 56)? Or does the Office of Personnel Management rely on my income tax returns to make such determinations? How long can I earn in excess of $15,450 (the threshold for means testing in 2014) before I start losing SRS money to means testing?

Read the rest of this entry »

The importance of your high-3

Bookmark and Share

Whoopee! You just got a 1 percent pay raise, the first increase in several years. It may not sound like much, but in the long run it will pay off. That’s because once you meet the age and service requirement to retire, it’s your length of service and high-3 that will determine what your annuity will be.

Your high-3 is an average of your highest rates of basic pay over any three consecutive years of creditable civilian service, with each pay rate weighted by the length of time it was received. That three-year period starts and ends on the dates that produce the highest average pay. Therefore, the counting doesn’t have to start on Jan. 1 or any particular date.

For most of you, your highest three years of basic pay will be the ones that immediately precede the day on which you retire. All you need to be do to find the starting date for your high-3 calculation is to subtract three years from the date you plan to retire plus a day.

If you are a CSRS, CSRS Offset or FERS employee with a CSRS component in your annuity, periods of service that are creditable in determining your length of service but not in your annuity computation can still be used in determining your high-3. That includes, for example, periods of non-deduction service on or after Oct. 1, 1982, for which you didn’t make a deposit or CSRS service that ended on or after Oct. 1, 1990, for which you took a refund of your retirement contributions and failed to make a redeposit.

The rules are different if you are covered by FERS. If a period of service isn’t creditable for determining your length of service, it can’t be used in computing your high-3. On the other hand, service that is creditable includes time under FERS when retirement deductions were taken and not refunded; non-deduction service (such as temporary or intermittent) performed before Jan. 1, 1989, but only if a deposit is made for that time; service under CSRS Offset, if the CSRS deductions weren’t refunded after you transferred to FERS; and periods of military service for which a deposit has been made.

Your high-3 won’t be affected if you had to take leave without pay, unless it exceeded six months in a calendar year. Any LWOP beyond that will cause your three-year period to be extended. So, for example, if you had taken nine months of LWOP in a calendar year, your high-3 period would be three years and three months long, to account for those three months of excess LWOP. The six-month limitation on LWOP doesn’t apply if you were called to active military duty.

The FERS formula for calculating your annuity is simple: It’s 1 percent of your high-3 average salary for each year of service, or 1.1 percent if you retire at age 62 or later with at least 20 years of service.

The CSRS formula is more involved: It’s 1.5 percent of your high-3 for your first five years of service, plus 1.75 percent of your high-3 for your second five years, plus 2 percent of your high-3 for all remaining years. If you are a FERS employee who will have a CSRS component in your annuity, you figure each period of service separately and add the results. The formulas are different for special category employees, such as law enforcement officers, firefighters and air traffic controllers.)

Military buyback eligibility

Bookmark and Share

 Q. I had seven years of active military service prior to starting my civil service job as a firefighter. Am I eligible to buy back the military time to use toward my retirement?

Read the rest of this entry »

Re-employment

Bookmark and Share

Q. I am a federal firefighter under FERS. When I reach age 57, I will have 20 years of service.

1. Can I resign from the Forest Service without drawing my retirement?

2. Can I then collect my firefighter retirement at age 62 or later?

3. Can I resign from the Forest Service and move to another government position?

Read the rest of this entry »

Special category employees and SRS

Bookmark and Share

Q. I am trying to understand the special retirement supplement. I am under FERS. I plan on retiring from a position of air traffic controller at my mandatory retirement age of 56 with 33 years and four months of service (I was born in 1962). I have been told by a few people that because I am forced to retire at age 56, the special retirement supplement will not be means tested. Is that correct?

Read the rest of this entry »

Special retirement supplement and COLA

Bookmark and Share

Q. On May 21, you answered a question: “As a rule, FERS retirees don’t receive cost-of-living increases on their special retirement supplements, nor do they receive them on their annuities until they reach age 62. Note: Special category employees, such as law enforcement officers and firefighters, and disability retirees receive COLAs regardless of the age at which they retire.”

My statement for Jan. 1, 2014, reflects a partial COLA (retired March 31, 2013) on the annuity but not on the SRS. Do special category employees such as law enforcement officers get COLAs on the SRS?

Read the rest of this entry »

Earnings test and special category retirees

Bookmark and Share

Q. When does the earnings test begin for special category retirees? I’ve heard either 56 or 57, depending on birth year. Is this indeed the case?

Read the rest of this entry »

Firefighter and special retirement supplement

Bookmark and Share

Q. I am a firefighter with more than 25 years. I just turned 50 and am looking to retire at the end of the year. Can I still receive the special retirement supplement, or am I leaving too early?

Read the rest of this entry »

LEO special category retirement and hiring

Bookmark and Share

Q. Does a law enforcement officer or firefighter have to work 20 years consecutively to be eligible for special retirement coverage? Also, if an applicant is beyond his/her 37th birthday, could the agency hire them for the LEO or firefighter position?

Read the rest of this entry »

Affordable Care Act and FEHB coverage

Bookmark and Share

Q. I am 53 and eligible to retire as a GS-1811 FERS employee. All things being equal, I would prefer to work more years toward my mandatory retirement age of 57. If I retire this year, I would continue my Federal Employees Health Benefits coverage into retirement. If I wait until 2014 or later, I would be forced into the Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”) plan. Do you recommend retiring this year under FEHB or delaying into 2014 or beyond and becoming subjected to Obamacare? And do you know whether current retirees under FEHB will be forced over to Obamacare (or grandfathered), in which case I might as well keep working?

Read the rest of this entry »