Ask The Experts: Retirement

By Reg Jones

SRS eligibility

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Q. FERS discontinued service retirement with 29 years and nine months. After five months of trying to reach the Office of Personnel Management, I was told I’m not entitled to the special retirement supplement due to less than 30 years. I am 56 years old. All paperwork received prior to retirement indicated that I was entitled to it.

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Retirement at 30 years

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Q. I just received my 30-year pin for government service time worked as a FERS employee. I’ve been considering relocating to Florida and can’t find a government job. If I took a job at a town hall in Florida, would I be able to resign from my current government job and have them keep all my retirement and Thrift Savings Plan on ice until I would have been eligible to retire at age 56 without penalty? If so, would I also be eligible at age 56 for the special retirement supplement, even if I were working for the town, or would I have to retire from the town job to be eligible for the supplement?

The only reason I ask is that after seeing your answer to someone else’s similar question (they only had 20 years vested), part of your answer was: “The only way to reduce or avoid the reduction would be to retire and postpone the receipt of your annuity until a later date.”

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VERA

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Q. I have worked for the Postal Service since 1985. I did not reach career status until January 1994, when I became postmaster in my Level 11 office, so the 8½ years prior do not count, unfortunately. I have worked here my entire career. In September, it will be reduced to a Level 2 and I will not be allowed to stay. I would like to take the Voluntary Early Retirement Authority being offered. Will I be penalized the customary 5 percent per year under 30 years? I am 55 and, as of Jan. 22, have 20 years of career service (this excludes my work prior to 1994). Also, will I be able to take advantage of the special retirement supplement?

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SRS and lump-sum payment for annual leave

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Q. Does the lump-sum payment for annual leave count against maximum earnings to be eligible for the special retirement supplement? Also, if I choose a retirement date and the application begins processing, can I back out before that date?

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Special retirement supplement and Form 1099R

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Q. I retired from the Postal Service last year and, when I received my CSA 1099R, it has my FERS annuity and my special retirement supplement taxable amount combined. If the supplement is taxed like Social Security, which is different from my FERS annuity, why are they combined on my CSA 1099R, and how do I separate the two on my tax Form 1040A? My gross income will be over $44,000 and, from what I have been reading, at that amount, I should only be taxed on 85 percent of my supplement. Is this correct?

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SRS eligibility

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Q. I am 55 years old and plan on retiring when I turn 56 (minimum retirement age) with 30 years of service. I worked for 4½ years under CSRS and then had a break in service for almost three years. When I went back to work, I was put in the CSRS Offset and worked for another five years. I then had another break in service for two years before going back to work. At this point, I switched to FERS. Am I entitled to the special retirement supplement when I retire?

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Military buyback and SRS

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Q. I am 52 and I want to retire when I reach 57. I started my career with the Postal Service in 1993, which gives me 20 years. I am in the Air Force Reserve with 30 years (four years and six months active) and I also have nine months of deployment on active duty. Will I be able to buy back the full five years and three months so I can meet the 30-year requirement at age 57? How is the special retirement supplement calculated under age 62?

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SRS eligibility

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Q. I am 55-year-old postal employee with 27 years of postal service. I have read that a Voluntary Early Retirement Authority will be offered to eligible employees. Would I be eligible for the special retirement supplement? I also have an Equal Employment Opportunity case that has not been adjudicated, how would this affect my case? Would it still go forward?

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Collecting retirement

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Q. I am a federal air technician with the Air National Guard. I have 34 years in the Guard and 27 years as a federal full-time technician. I am in FERS and have a minimum retirement age of 56. I will be 53 this year.

It has been communicated to me that I will probably not be retained this year, meaning that Dec. 31, 2014, I will be involuntarily retired, thus losing my full (technician) and part-time (traditional Guard) employment. When can I begin collecting my retirement pay, Social Security, Thrift Savings Plan? Are there any penalties if I was forced to retire?

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Contractor work and annuity

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Q. When I retire, is there a period of time I have to wait if I want to work as a contractor for the government? Is this a standard rule/law or does it vary by agency? Will working as a contractor for the government affect my retirement annuity and/or special retirement supplement?

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Deferred annuity and SRS

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Q. I left the Postal Service (CSRS) in 2000 with 21 years and seven months of service. I will be 56 years old next month. At what age can I draw supplemental annuity? What are the penalties for withdrawing sooner?

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Special retirement supplement

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Q. I am retiring in February and expecting the special retirement supplement. Apparently, the federal 2014 budget canceled the supplement. Does that apply to newly hired employees or current employees? Does the language in the budget establish a cutoff date for the supplement?

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Special retirement supplement

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Q. I am retiring at age 55. I will have 26 years of 6(c)-covered service and an additional two years of military for a total of 28 years. What is the maximum amount of special retirement supplement I can get as a military veteran?

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Firefighter, earnings limit and SRS

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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?

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Earnings limit

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Q. I am FERS-covered and will retire this year with 20 years at age 62. My annual FERS annuity is about $25,000. After retirement, I plan to work in a private company in a foreign country for an estimated annual $90,000 salary. I will roll over my Thrift Savings Plan savings to a traditional IRA. I will not withdraw my Social Security until I reach my full retirement age at 66 when I will no longer have any wages.

1. Am I allowed to draw FERS annuity while living in a foreign country?

2. How will my salary from the private company affect my FERS annuity? That is, will my FERS annuity be reduced due to an earnings income limit?

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Disability retirement and SRS

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Q. I retired under the FERS disability provisions 16 years ago. I want to find out what portion of my monthly retirement benefit represents the special retirement supplement portion. At the time of my retirement, I had 16 years of creditable service. I am receiving about $1,900 per month, and I believe my calculation at age 62 would be times 1.1 percent. I will not be eligible for Social Security until age 62 and one month. Will I lose the supplement for one month?

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Special retirement supplement

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Q. I have a few years to go but have been looking at my retirement options. I started working for the Veterans Affairs Department in 1992, then joined the Army under the Military Employment/Reemployment Rights Act in 1995. I returned to VA in January 2000. At that time, I bought back my military time.

Now I’m looking at my qualifications for the special retirement supplement. I can find numerous examples of people that were in the military prior to their federal job. It appears that the time can count for their FERS retirement, but not for the supplement.

Since my situation is a bit different, will my military time count toward the supplement? It’s never too early to plan, and those four years could make a big difference to my retirement date.

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CSRS Offset

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Q. I am CSRS Offset. I’ve been paying into Social Security for many years and I plan on retiring before I’m 62 years old. Once I retire, will I stop paying into Social Security? Also, will I be eligible for the special retirement supplement before I’m eligible to collect when I’m 62 years old?

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Special retirement supplement

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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?

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Early retirement and spousal Social Security

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Q. My husband is 66 years old and retired last year with full Social Security benefits.  My daughter is receiving Social Security benefits until she graduates from high school at age 18. I was told that had my salary not exceeded the maximum amount allowed, I would also receive some benefits until my daughter turns 18.

I am 54 years old, a federal worker under FERS with 23 years of service. My office is going through a major reorganization. I understand that if I am offered an early retirement, I will have immediate annuities without the 5 percent reduction each year under 62), will have Federal Employees Health Benefits and have the special retirement supplement when I am at my minimum retirement age.

1. I assume that since I won’t have a job, I will be able to receive Social Security benefits until my daughter turns 18 and graduates from high school in June 2016. I will be at my MRA in January 2015. At my MRA, will I be able to continue receiving my Social Security benefits and the special retirement supplement simultaneously?

2. When I turn 62 and the special retirement supplement stops, should I apply for Social Security benefits from my husband’s retirement until I am at my full retirement age (66 and 10 months)? This way, I would have my own full Social Security retirement benefits without reduction. Am I correct?

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