By Reg Jones
October 1st, 2014 | Re-employment
Q. I retired in January as a CSRS annuitant after 32 years of service with the Navy and Marine Corps. I am considering returning to the Navy as a re-employed annuitant. In accordance with DoD policy, I understand that I will be able to draw my full salary and my full annuity without a waiver from OPM. I believe Social Security taxes will be withheld, and I cannot make CSRS contributions if I draw both a pension and full salary. Will I be able to contribute to TSP? Will I accrue annual leave and sick leave? If so, how many hours of leave will I accrue? Will my FEHB premiums be withheld from my salary, or continue to be withheld from my annuity? Will I be able to have a FSA health savings plan? Read the rest of this entry »
September 30th, 2014 | Military service deposits
Q. I am a federal employee with 21 years military service. I receive military retirement pay and a separate disability from VA. I am considering retiring in five years. If I buy my military time back now, can I keep receiving my military retirement until I retire from the federal government? Do I still receive my VA pay after federal retirement?
A. The answer to both questions is yes.
September 30th, 2014 | Retirement Contributions
Q. I keep hearing that it takes five years to get vested in the federal government. However, no one seems to know what happens after five years of employment, and I keep hearing different stories. Do you happen to know what happens at the five-year mark?
A. I can’t imagine what stories you’ve been hearing. When an employee has worked for the federal government for five years full-time (or its part-time equivalent), he has secured an entitlement to an annuity when he meets the age and service requirements to retire. If he leaves before having five years of service, he’s only entitled to a refund of his retirement contributions.
September 29th, 2014 | Sick leave
Q. I am a CSRS employee and have worked about 40 years. I plan to retire by the end of this year. I have about 1,659 hours of sick leave. How many hours of sick leave is equivalent to one service month, so I could plan to use the remaining sick leave and not lose it?
A. Let’s get one thing clear from the beginning. You have no right to burn off your sick leave. It may only be used for legitimate reasons spelled out in law and regulation. If you want a rough estimate of how many hours it takes to make a retirement month, use 174. Note: Annuities are based solely on years and full months of service, so there are usually some stray hours left over. Add those leftover hours of actual service to your hours of sick leave when doing the computation.
September 29th, 2014 | Re-employment
Q. I went to work for the federal government in 1974 under CSRS and worked until 1984, when I resigned and drew my retirement out. I returned to federal service in 2007 under FERS. I will have 20 years service counting military next May 4th. How will drawing my retirement out affect my retirement check?
A. Although you got a refund of your retirement contributions before October 1, 1991, you’ll still get credit for that time in determining your length of service; however, your annuity will be actuarially reduced based on the amount you owe, including accrued interest, and your age on the day you retire.
September 26th, 2014 | Creditable service: FERS
In my last column (read it here) I wrote about the age and service requirements for Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS) employees to retire. In this one, I’ll focus on Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS) employees.
FERS age and service requirements to retire
Age 62, with 5 years of service.
Age 60, with 20 years of service.
Minimum retirement age (MRA), with 30 years of service.
MRA, with 10* years of service.
Age 50, with 20 years of service.
Any age, with 25 years of service.
Age 62, with 5 years of service.
Age 60, with 20 years of service.
MRA, with 30 years of service.
MRA, with 10* years of service.
* If you retire under the MRA plus 10 provision, your annuity will be reduced by 5 percent for every year (5/12 percent per month) you are under age 62.
Note: FERS special category employees, such as law enforcement officers, firefighters and air traffic controllers, may retire at age 50 with 20 years of covered service or at any age with 25.
Immediate retirement means that you have the age and service needed to retire on an immediate, unreduced annuity. Once you have that combination, you can retire whenever you want to. You can take early retirement, if your agency is offering that opportunity through a Voluntary Early Retirement Authority and/or a Voluntary Separation Incentive Payment. It’s also an option — called discontinued service retirement — if you are being separated through a reduction-in-force or for poor performance. A deferred retirement is one where you leave government before being eligible to retire and apply for an annuity when you meet the eligibility requirements.
FERS credit rules
Figuring out your age is simple. Figuring your length of service can be harder, unless your career has been continuous, with no breaks in service or any service credit to be added or deducted. However, for those whose career is made up of bits and pieces, you need to know what kinds of service can be included.
If you are covered by FERS, you’ll get credit for any FERS service for which deductions were taken and not refunded. As for service where you left government and asked for a refund of your contributions, for 20 years FERS employees were barred from recapturing that service if they came back to work for the government. All that changed with Public Law 111-84. Now any FERS employee who retires on or after Oct.28, 2009, can redeposit that money, plus interest, and get full credit for it.
You’ll also get credit for nondeduction service performed before Jan.1, 1989, if you’ve made a deposit for that service. And you’ll get credit for periods of military service performed before Jan.1, 1957. You’ll also get credit for periods of service performed after Dec. 31, 1956, but only if you make a deposit for that post-1956 time. And, if you are receiving military retired pay, you’ll probably have to waive it to get any credit.
Finally, if you transferred to FERS from CSRS and had at least five years of CSRS service, you’ll have a CSRS component in your annuity, unless you got a refund of your retirement contributions. If you did, you can still make a deposit and get credit for that time.
Computing your length of service
Your annuity will be based on your total years and months of creditable service. Any days that don’t add up to a full month will be converted to hours and added to any hours of unused sick leave you have to your credit. If you have enough of those hours, they’ll be converted to months and used in the computation of your annuity.
The method for converting those hours to months needs an explanation. Here’s how it’s done:
In order to produce 12 equal annuity payments, each month is treated as if it was 30 days long. To convert those leftover hours into additional retirement months, the number of hours in a work year — 2,087 — are divided by 360 (12 months x 30 days).
As a result, each additional month is roughly 174 hours long.
September 26th, 2014 | discontinued service retirement
Q. I will be 52 and have 29 years of technician service (32 years National Guard) under FERS. If I was diagnosed with a medical condition that ended my military career, would I be eligible for the non-reduced pension/Social
Security Offset/ and access to my TSP, since I have 25 years, I am age 50 and would be losing my military position through no fault of my own? Read the rest of this entry »
September 26th, 2014 | Retirement Contributions
Q. I worked 22 years for the federal government, and five of those years were as a CBP officer with 6C coverage. I retired at age 62. My high-3 salary used to calculate my annuity was $88,115, which means that 17 years should be calculated using 1.1 percent and the other five using 1.7 percent. I have been calculating my numbers but they don’t match up with the $1,892 annuity I receive monthly. I wrote a letter to OPM asking for the formula they used, but I have not received an answer. According to my numbers, I should receive about $400 more each month. What can I do to receive a copy of the calculation used for my pension? Read the rest of this entry »
September 25th, 2014 | Sick leave
Q. I worked for the federal government from May 1985 to February 2005 as a FERS employee. My remaining annual leave was paid out to me, and I had more than 700 hours of accumulated sick leave. I moved all of my TSP contributions into another fund several years ago. As I plan for retirement, are there any retirement benefits I can receive or can I receive payment for sick leave? I saw in your column: “If you are already off the rolls, you can apply for a refund up to 31 days before your 62nd birthday.” That is fast approaching, and I wonder if there is anything I can recoup. Read the rest of this entry »
September 25th, 2014 | spouse benefits
Q. I am a postal employee in the CSRS pension plan. I’m 64 with 33 years service. If I die before I retire, will my wife get the 55 percent of what my pension would be as if I was retired? Would she be eligible for the survivor benefit as if I would have been retired? Read the rest of this entry »
September 22nd, 2014 | Eligibility
Q. I worked for the FAA from June 1969 and left after I married to raise my family in September 1975. I will be 62 in September. Am I eligible for any FAA pension?
A. If you left your retirement contributions in the retirement fund when you left, you’d be entitled to an annuity at age 62. To get that benefit, go to http://www.opm.gov/forms/pdf_fill/opm1496a.pdf, download a copy of the form, fill it out, and send it to OPM.
September 22nd, 2014 | CSRS Offset
Q. I retired at 60 under the CSRS Offset program 18 months ago which, I think, I understand fairly well. Still: At 62 (this summer), I understand my CSRS amount will be reduced by my Social Security benefits amount. I want to confirm that the total I will receive will be substantially the same. But also, will my bank then begin receiving two deposits? Or does OPM somehow intervene so that there is but one monthly payment? Also, while I worked under the CSRS Offset program for 25 or so years (six under pure CSRS), what about the Social Security benefits that I should have accrued when I was a young man working for a grocery, a bank (during the lapse in service), and other full- and part-time jobs outside of government service? Read the rest of this entry »
September 19th, 2014 | VSIP
Q. I’m a retirement eligible FERS employee also eligible for the supplement when I retire. I’m thinking of retiring this Dec. 31 since I may be offered a VSIP to retire due to force restructuring. Will a VSIP payment count against the 15K something minimum
level of earnings?
A. No, it won’t. The limit applies only to earnings from wages or self employment.
September 19th, 2014 | self and family
Q. I am enrolled in the Federal BCBS (self + family plan) and wanted to drop our 18-year-old daughter from the plan as she has moved out and does not associate with the family any longer. My local rep said this wasn’t possible but couldn’t state exactly why I couldn’t drop her … just said it couldn’t be done. I wasn’t comfortable with this answer and lack of explanation. If I am unable to drop her, who is responsible for the costs associated with her lifestyle? Read the rest of this entry »
September 18th, 2014 | Re-employment
Q. I retired from federal service in February 2010 under the FERS Special system and my MRA is Febuary 2016. I understand that if I work after February 2016, my FERS supplement will be means tested against how much I am making in salary. If I work after my MRA, making 150K for only two years and therefore lose my supplement during that time frame, would the supplement restart after I worked those two years, and would the supplement stay at the same amount as when I retired in February 2010? Read the rest of this entry »
September 18th, 2014 | Postal Service
Q. I am 60 and retired three years ago under CSRS with the post office. Will my annuity be reduced if I do not claim Social Security benefits at 62? I want to wait until I am 65 to claim Social Security. I worked nine years under Social Security when I was younger.
A. Because you retired under CSRS – not CSRS Offset – your CSRS annuity will never be reduced. If you are eligible for a Social Security benefit, the fact that you retired from a retirement system where you didn’t pay Social Security taxes means that your Social Security benefit will be subject to the windfall elimination provision. The WEP reduces the Social Security benefit of anyone who has fewer than 30 years of substantial earnings under Social Security. Note: If you only have nine years of coverage under Social Security, you won’t be eligible for a Social Security benefit. You have to have 10 years – 40 credits – to receive that benefit.
September 16th, 2014 | law enforcement
Q. I worked for 10 years and five months under CSRS prior to moving to a law-enforcement covered position. How will the first 10 years be calculated with the 21 years as a LEO?
A. All time beyond 20 years of covered service will be computed using the standard formula, not the enhanced one for LEOs.
September 16th, 2014 | Deferred retirement
Q. I’m a federal law enforcement officer with 16 years covered and three years federal service not covered. If I decide to take a deferred retirement will I still get the enhanced 1.7 x the number of years x my high three and 1 x the number of non-law enforcement years X my high-3? I also bought back 13 years of military service. How will those years be added? Read the rest of this entry »
September 15th, 2014 | High-3
Q. I am a Defense Department employee in Washington D.C. If I change my locality three months before I retire Jan. 1, when I retire would the lesser locality pay kick into my base and be used as the high-3?
A. How may times do I have to say this? Your high-3 is your highest three consecutive years (78 pay periods) of average basic pay, regardless of when they occur in your career.
September 15th, 2014 | service computation date
Q. I was hired at the Defense Department in October 2012, and thus I contributed .8 percent of my pay to FERS. I transferred to VA in April 2014 with no break in service and now have 3.1 percent of my pay deducted, and I am told that it is increasing to 4.4 percent of my pay, as this rate applies to new hires after January 2014. Is it correct that I should be treated as a new hire, despite in all other areas being treated as a transfer (leave carried forward, no ability to change benefits until open season)? I checked and my SF-50 reflects the correct service computation date from 2012. My HR representative has informed me that I will be in the 4.4 percent group when I questioned why I was already paying the 3.1 percent. Read the rest of this entry »