By Reg Jones
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?
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?
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?
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?
Q. Is Federal Employees’ Group Life Insurance, survivor benefit and Thrift Savings Plan matching based on GS base pay or firefighter base pay?
Q. I am 58 and have 23 years of service with the IRS. Two items I have yet to see specifically addressed on the special retirement supplement are: Will my FERS retirement benefits be reduced or lower in any way if I draw the SRS? Also, the amount of the SRS is fixed on the day it is first calculated and isn’t increased by cost-of-living adjustments. Is the non-SRS portion of a FERS employee’s retirement pay still subject to cost-of-living adjustments when the employee is drawing the SRS?
Q. I’m a Postal Service employee with 25 years at age 45. If an early-out is offered and I accept, do I get the special retirement supplement at my minimum retirement age, 57?
Q. My wife just resigned from the U.S. Forest Service. She is 44 with more than 20 years of service. Did she lose all of her retirement, or is she still eligible to receive a portion at the reduced rate of 5 percent?
She was always in a position covered under firefighter retirement, eligible at 50 to retire. Also, is she still eligible for health benefits?
Q. In 2008, CBP was legally given 6C law enforcement. I retired in 2007 with 19 years of law enforcement experience working for Customs and Border Protection. I was basically forced to retire since the agency informed me that I could no longer perform the essential elements of the job, supervisory CBP officer. They provided me with the job description of a CBP officer — the job description used today providing 6C coverage to all new recruits. I am wondering if I am entitled to 6C retirement coverage since I met and perform the 6C law enforcement duties before my separation. If not, then why does OPM continue to send me to periodic examinations? Is CBP going to hire me if I am no longer found disabled even though I can no longer meet the age requirement? I am almost 50.
Furthermore, if I recuperate from my initial injury, am I entitled to my job? Even if it is 6C now and I retired before it was granted?
Q. I am a federal firefighter under FERS. I have 25 years in position and will reach mandatory retirement age in 4.5 years. I want to stay with the federal program where I work. Is it legal for me to retire from the fire service and move to another government position here at the base where I am employed? If so, where is this in print, or under what regulation? I know in years past this was not allowed unless you came back as a contract employee.
Q. I am 51 and retired with 22 years with the Federal Bureau of Prisons. In our agency, we could retire at age 50 with 20 years of service or at any age with 25 years of service. Our maximum retirement age is 57. I thought I understood from retirement training that in our special circumstances, earnings rules did not apply until we reached age 57, or when we would have been forced to retire. In other words, after early but full eligibility retirement, we could work and we would not be penalized or limited with new income, in that it would negatively affect our current retirement annuity. That includes a Social Security supplement that law enforcement retirees receive. A retired co-worker/friend says I am wrong about that. He says we actually are limited until age 57, at which time we can earn as much as we are able without it affecting our retirement and Social Security. Please advise. I am being offered a job with which I would really like to be involved, but I am concerned that it will pay me too much if my co-worker is correct.
July 22nd, 2011 | Special category employee retirement
Q: I work at Kirtland AFB, N.M. A VERA/VSIP survey was sent out in May 2011 with a suspense date of May 21 to show interest. I completed the survey and received confirmation that it was received. The VERA/VSIP is scheduled for FY 2011/2012. It’s been over a month and I haven’t heard anything. Does your office know any status?
A: We haven’t heard a thing.
March 1st, 2011 | Special category employee retirement
Q: I entered federal civil service in March 2007 as an Air Reserve
technician. I bought back 10 years of military service. I turn 51 in August. I have heard I must retire at age 56 due to being an Air Reserve technician. However, I won’t have 30 years of service. Is this true?
A: What you were told was untrue. Go to http://codes.lp.findlaw.com/uscode/10/E/l/1007/10218 and read what the law has to say about mandatory retirement for reserve technicians.
Q: I am a federal law enforcement employee with 20 years covered by the Federal Employees Retirement System FERS plus five years worth of military buyback time. I have six more years before I will face mandatory retirement at my 57th birthday. I want to transfer to a non-LEO position with another federal agency so I can keep working. Please confirm that if I do transfer to a non-LEO position with another federal agency that I can keep working past 57 and not face mandatory retirement, and that my 20 years of FERS LEO service will transfer over at the 1.7 percent per year retirement rate as a part of my overall pension. Neither the Office of Personnel Management nor my human resources office have confirmed this for me.
A: If you transfer to a noncovered position, you can continue working as long as you want. When you retire, your 20 years of covered service will be computed using the special, enhanced formula. The rest of your service will be calculated using the standard multiplier of 0.01 percent, unless you retire at age 62 or later. In that case, those years would be multiplied by 0.011 percent.
Q: I’m in a 6C law enforcement covered position and will be reaching 20 years of service in that same position this coming January. I will be 46 years old. As soon as I reach 20 years, can I transfer out of the LE series to an administrative job (no 6C coverage) and still have my complete enhanced retirement benefits when I decide to retire 10 years from now?
A: Yes, you can.
Q: I retired from federal service in 2006 under the law enforcement retirement provision. I have since been re-employed by the government with a waiver for a temporary law enforcement position that allows me to receive both my annuity and the full salary of my new job. I have been informed that when my temporary position ends, the Office of Personnel Management will recalculate my retirement. Are there are any special provisions that would apply to my situation due to being re-employed with a waiver? Because I have not been contributing to retirement in my temporary position, would the recalculation just involve additional years of service?
A: You’ll need to find out which appointment authority was used to hire you, because with rare exception, anyone who receives a waiver that allows him to keep his salary and the full salary of his position isn’t entitled to any additional retirement credit for the time he is re-employed. If your authority does allow you to get credit for that time, you’d have to work one year to be entitled to a supplemental annuity and at least five years to have your annuity recomputed. In either case, you’d have to make a deposit to the retirement system to get that credit.
Q: For those covered under the law enforcement provision of the Federal Employees Retirement System, is the Social Security earnings test applied toward funds received from their Thrift Savings Plan if those amounts exceed the earnings test for the special law enforcement officer/firefighter Social Security supplement after their minimum retirement age?
A: No. The Social Security earnings test only applies to earnings from wages or self-employment.
Q: I will have been in federal law enforcement for 25 years as of April 2011. I will be 46 years old at that point. In my first 15 years of service, I was in a covered law enforcement position. The next two years, I was in a law enforcement position that was not covered. In last seven years, I again have been in a covered position. Will I be eligible to retire in 2011 at the age of 46, or do I have to add the two years I was in the uncovered position onto the 25 years?
A: Any period of service when you weren’t in a covered position won’t count when determining your eligibility to retire under the special provision for law enforcement officers. You need to have 20 years of covered service to retire at age 50 or 25 years of covered service to retire at any age.
Q: I am covered by the Federal Employees Retirement System’s law enforcement retirement plan. I have 11 years in as a law enforcement officer plus three years of federal service as a non-LEO. I am 48 and am considering retirement to go back to school. I may return to federal service at some point, but not as an LEO. I would be retiring without having 20 years of service or reaching my mandatory retirement age of 57.
I know there are benefits to retiring as opposed to resigning (especially as an LEO), but what are the major pension pros and cons? Also, if I retire, how does deferment and the eventual pension work? And if I re-enter service before my mandatory retirement age, does the clock restart at that point?
A: You can’t retire. While you have at least 10 years of service, you aren’t old enough. If you resign, which is your only option if you want to go back to school now, you could return to work for the government at a later date. However, because the mandatory retirement age for law enforcement officers is 57, it’s unlikely that you’d be rehired into a covered position. On the other hand, if you were, you’d be allowed to continue working beyond age 57 until you hit 20 years of covered service. Alternatively, you could take a noncovered position and retire under the less-generous provisions that govern such positions. In either case, if you were re-employed, you would get credit for any prior service if you didn’t take a refund of your retirement contributions. If you did, you’d have to redeposit that amount plus accrued interest.
Q: I work for the Federal Bureau of Prisons. In November, I will have 20 years’ service in law enforcement and will be 49 years old. If I decide to retire right there and then, do I have to wait an extra year to collect benefits? Can I retire at age 49 with 20 years of law enforcement plus 4 years of active-duty military service?
A: No, you can’t retire on an immediate annuity at age 49. You’ll have to wait until age 50 to retire under the special provision for law enforcement officers. You could, of course, resign from the government and apply for a deferred annuity when you reach your minimum retirement age. MRAs range between 55 and 57, depending on your year of birth. If you did that, your annuity would be based on your high-3 on the day you left government, and you wouldn’t be allowed to re-enroll in either the Federal Employees Health Benefits program or the Federal Employees’ Group Life Insurance program.