Ask The Experts: Retirement

By Reg Jones

Retirement benefits

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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 »

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CSRS pension

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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 »

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FAA pension

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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.

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CSRS and Social Security

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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 »

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VSIP ramifications

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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.

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Dropping daughter’s coverage

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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 »

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FERS supplement

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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 »

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Waiting for Social Security

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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.

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Prior LEO service

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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.

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Deferred retirement

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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 »

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Location and high-3

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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.

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FERS rate following transfer

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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 »

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Social Security after marriage

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Q. I am 64 and I am unmarried with a CSRS retirement with no survivor benefits designated. My 62-year-old future wife will begin receiving her Social Security benefits in September. I am not qualified to receive any Social Security benefits although I have paid in for 36 quarters. Will her Social Security benefits be affected by my income after we marry?

A. No, they won’t.

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Social Security transfer

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Q. I am a retired federal employee with CSRS. I also receive minimum Social Security payments based on my qualified earnings. My husband is a retired federal employee, FERS. In the event he passes before me, will I be able to collect/draw any of his Social Security?

A. Probably not because that benefit would be subject to the government pension offset provision. For more information about the GPO go to http://ssa.gov/pubs/EN-05-10007.pdf.

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Social Security reduction

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Q. I’ve read about the Social Security reduction if your income is above a certain amount. Does the calculation for that amount include the FERS pension and TSP annuity payments? In other words, does the SSA consider my pension and TSP payout to be “income” they will reduce against? Or is the reduction only against “wages” from actual employment income after you reach SSA retirement age? Read the rest of this entry »

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Creditable service

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Q. I enlisted in the Marine Corps in 1984 and retired in 2004 with 20 years of service. In March 2006, I was hired as a Defense Department civilian and have been so to date. I completed my deposit for Military Service Credit in 2011 and have my letter for “paid In full.” I would like to retire at MRA 56 years, four months (1966). Does my time in service (military), if combined at retirement, override the minimum years of creditable service, therefore foregoing the penalty for retiring under age 60. My understanding is that you need MRA plus 30 years service to avoid a penalty. I would have 20 years military service and 16.5 years civil service. I might stay longer, but wanted to know my options. Read the rest of this entry »

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Deferred FERS retirement

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Q. I plan to leave government employment within the next year, at age 50, with about 15 years accrued service. I will defer my pension until I am 62. Everything I read discusses elections for survivor benefits as the pension payments begin. What if I were to die before the annuity begins? What benefit will be provided to my surviving spouse and minor child while I have deferred my pension payments?

A. Because you have at least five years of service, if you left your retirement contributions in the fund when you resigned and later died, your spouse would be entitled to a survivor annuity based on your prior service. And any dependent children would be entitled to children’s annuity benefits.

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Leave for school

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Q. I have been working for the government more than 20 years. Can I take leave without pay to go back to school full-time for nine months?

A. You can request LWOP. However, the decision to grant it is in your supervisor’s hands, as guided by agency policy. If what you study would increase your value to the agency, the chances of LWOP being granted would be greater than if it didn’t.

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Social Security credits

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Q. I am a CSRS employee who will retire at the end of 2014. I have 36 quarters of work covered under Social Security  before I started federal service and I am trying to decide whether or not to try to get four more quarters of coverage after I retire. I understand the WEP provision. I was told at a retirement seminar that Social Security quarters do not count if earned before the age of 22 or after the age of 62. Is this true? Read the rest of this entry »

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Annuity taxes

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Q. I’m a recent federal retiree and I’m trying to project my income for the year. Is the starting point for the taxable portion of my monthly annuity the amount before or the amount after the survivor’s benefit is deducted? From what I gather from IRS Pub 721, the deduction is a pre-tax deduction, but it lowers the tax-free portion amount of my monthly annuity. Is this correct? Read the rest of this entry »

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