Ask The Experts: Retirement

By Reg Jones

BC/BS and VA

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Q. I will turn 65 next May and have retired from the post office after 33 years. I have BC/BS with the post office, and I’m also with the VA. What happens with my coverage from the post office when I turn 65? Do I have to keep the coverage since I’m with the VA?

A. Your BC/BS enrollment is under the Federal Employees Health Benefits program. It doesn’t make any difference which agency you were working for when you enrolled or which one you are working for now.

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Sick leave calculation

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Q. If I retire with 27 days of unused sick leave, and I started government service on the sixth day of the month, will that mean that a month of service will be added to my years of service? I understand that anything under one month of sick leave will be dropped, but am unclear about whether the day you started affects the calculation. The chart does not seem to address this.

A. Annuities are calculated using years and full months of service. Any days that don’t add up to a full month are converted to hours and added to any hours of unused sick leave. The total is then converted to retirement months. For annuity computation purposes, approximately 174 hours equals one month. Any hours that don’t add up to a retirement month are dropped.

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Military annuity and CSRS

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Q. My husband (age 56) and I (age 53) are reaching the time when we are considering retirement and want to clarify a few things. I am covered under CSRS with 33 years of service. I have worked other jobs but I do not have enough credits to be eligible for Social Security. He is National Guard and will retire with over 30 years of service. He is also a government technician covered under FERS and will be eligible for Social Security. We are both retiring with survivor benefits. I know my husband’s Social Security would offset my CSRS. Will I be able to draw his National Guard military annuity without it affecting my CSRS retirement? What about FERS? Read the rest of this entry »

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Return after LWOP

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Q. If a person is in a voluntary LWOP for a period of time and then returns to active service, is the service time necessary to meet retirement qualifications affected? For instance, if a person went on LWOP for three months does that time need to be made up in order to meet a minimum service requirement?

A. No, it doesn’t. You can be on LWOP for up to six months in a calendar year without it affecting your creditable years of service.

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Eligibility to receive benefits

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Q. I worked for the post office for 23 years under FERS and resigned at the age of 48 to work in the private sector. I am 53 and would like to know when I would be eligible to receive retirement benefits. Also, I worked for four years with the state government. Would those years count towards retirement?

A. If you didn’t receive a refund of your retirement contributions when you left, you’d be eligible for a deferred annuity at age 62. That annuity would be based solely on your years of FERS service.

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Salary offset

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Q. Is an office closure that forces employees into a Discontinued Service Early Retirement considered voluntary or involuntary when the employee is rehired as a re-employed annuitant.  Namely, if involuntary, not subject to new Federal Salary offset.

A. If you choose to retire in the face of a reduction-of-force, your retirement is voluntary. If you are separated by a RIF, it’s involuntary. However, no matter which way you went, it would have no affect on the amount you’d have to contribute to the retirement fund if you were re-employed by the federal government. The higher contribution rate doesn’t apply to re-employed annuitants.

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Delinquency definition

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Q. Could you please explain what the term “delinquency” refers to with regards to a discontinued service retirement?

A. Delinquency is a term that includes, but is not limited to, failure to do what law or duty require, an offense or a misdemeanor, a debt or other financial obligation on which payment is overdue.

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Creditable service

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Q. I was hired in January 1991 at U.S. Army TACOM in Warren, Michigan, as a Desert Storm Temporary. I worked for full two years. I also was on active duty in the Marine Corps from 1982 to 1989. I was hired full time at TACOM in 2007. I was able to buy 7 years from my active-duty service for retirement purposes. Is there any way that I can purchase my Desert Storm Temp time as a GS09? Read the rest of this entry »

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Excess contributions

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Q. I began my civilian federal employment in May of 1974. I am a Vietnam era veteran with three years military time and paid back that time. My service comp date for retirement is May 1971. I am going to retire at the end of this year. Based on the above, will all CSRS contributions I paid after reaching 41 years, 11 months, qualify for refunding to me?

A. If you have 41 years and 11 months of service from which retirement deductions were taken (or a deposit made), any excess deductions will be refunded to you with an option to purchase additional annuity.

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Maximum earnings

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Q. You recently answered a question regarding the maximum earning amount for 2014 is $15,480 before the Social Security benefit would be reduced. Does the SSA consider military retirement, VA disability pay, along with TSP disbursements as “earnings”?

A. Those aren’t earnings. Earnings are income received from wages or self employment.

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Retirement credit

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Q. I was called to active duty in 2009 to serve in Iraq. However, when I was ordered to active duty, I used my annual leave and my military leave during my short stay. While serving on active duty, I was getting paid and retirement deductions were being deducted from my pay, along with all the other deductions. So, my question is: Shouldn’t that time be counted toward federal credit? Especially since retirement deductions were being taken and I was using leave the whole time. Read the rest of this entry »

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FERS or CSRS?

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Q. I’m under FERS, and my Service Computation Date is Nov. 26, 1983. A co-worker in my organization has an SCD of Nov. 7, 1983 and is under CSRS. What is the SCD cutoff date for FERS vs. CSRS? Read the rest of this entry »

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Disability retirement

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Q. I am a retired FERS employee — 59 years old, with 25 years of federal service. I retired two years ago under VERA VSIP. My employer (Defense Department) was reducing the workforce due to budget cuts and abolished my job.

I paid into Social Security for 42 years. I have some health issues and am considering applying for Social Security disability. My question is: Will Social Security disability retirement affect my FERS annuity? Read the rest of this entry »

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Retirement date

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Q.I read that Aug. 1 is a best date to retire. Why not July 31? That is for those who work a 4-5-9 schedule (i.e., Aug. 1 is a non-work flex Friday).

A. As a CSRS employee, your only requirement is that you retire no later than the third day of a given month. Whoever wrote that Friday, August 1 was the best day to retire was probably accepting the fact that most employees complete their workweek on a Friday. By leaving at the close of business on that day, they’d receive a full week’s pay. Since you are on a flex schedule, nothing would prevent you from retiring at the end of your last work day. By doing so, you’d be on the annuity roll on Aug. 1, instead of Aug. 2. FYI. Since you’d be leaving in the middle of a pay period, you wouldn’t get any credit for annual or sick leave you would have earned if you had retired at the end of a pay period.

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High-3 calculation

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Q. I have been a federal employee for Homeland Security for 6-1/2 years. I have been medically disqualified from my job. I am going to try to get disability. I have worked full time for the first 4-1/2 years, and went part-time down to 25 to 30 hours a week. Will they use the highest three salaries, even if when discharged I was working part-time for the agency? How does the calculation work for this situation?

A. An employee’s full-time salaries are used in determining his high-3, even if he is in a part-time position.

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Early retirement

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Q. I’m a FERS postal carrier with 26 years of service. I am about to turn 49. What penalty will I face if I leave the post office at age 54 with 31 years of service? Read the rest of this entry »

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Credit for state service

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Q. I have been employed in New York and I’m under the NYS Employee Retirement System. Would any portion of my New York civil service time count as creditable service in the FERS system if I were to gain employment under the federal retirement system?

A. No, it would not.

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Military buyback

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Q. I am retired Army with 22 years and nine months being paid my monthly retirement check. I retired in May 2011. I started as a GS FERS employee in February 2013. I am in a target GS 12 position, which basically means that I will be a GS 12 in February 2017. I did the DFAS Payback estimator for military time and it stated that I would owe about $18,000. My monthly retirement check right now is about $2,200 a month. I know that I will have to waive that once I retire from civilian service in order to combine the civil service time and the military time. How much more in retirement would I get as a GS FERS employee, and is it worth the $18,000? I have heard that retirees don’t buy back their time because it is not worth it. I heard that this program is designed for the person who did any number of years but did not retire. Is that true? Do you know of retirees that buy back their time? Read the rest of this entry »

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Early out and offset waiver

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Q. I retired last year under FERS at age 56 with 28 years and seven months service. I took an early out. I would have had my full 30 years in January 2015. I applied as a rehired annuitant this month with the same agency and everything looked like I was going to be hired, but the manager called and said I didn’t qualify for the annuity offset waiver because I had taken an early out, and they were only allowed to hire those people who qualified for the waiver at this time. Is it true that if you take an early out, you do not qualify for the waiver?

A. Yes.

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FERS after resignation

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Q. I resigned from the federal government May 21 with a retirement SCD date of March 22, 1988, so I am vested in FERS. When I elect to apply for a refund of my FERS, do I get everything that I have in my FERS account or just the portion that I put in?

A. You’d get what you contributed to the retirement system, plus accrued interest.

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