Ask The Experts: Retirement

By Reg Jones

FERS disability for term employee

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Q. My husband is a helicopter maintenance instructor on a term-appointment due to expire Dec. 31, 2014. He was taken out from his position as a primary instructor and put in the an assistant instructor position due to memory problems that are affecting his ability to teach and do proper fixes on the aircraft. His supervisor recommended in a counseling statement that he seek medical attention to identify any issues. He has been recently diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis and excruciating face pain. He will meet the MRA + 10 retirements in August of this year (all term appointment time) but that provides very little in way of an annuity. Is he eligible to apply for FERS retirement disability? Does he have to apply for Social Security first? He is retired military but receives no disability benefits from the Army or VA. Read the rest of this entry »

Sick leave

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Q. If an employee has sick leave to use or loose before retirement and has a medical appointment, can his or her supervisor disapprove the sick leave for a doctor’s appointment?
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VERA/VISP offered in 2014?

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Q. Is a VERA/VISP going to be offered in 2014?
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Planning for retirement

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Q. I will be 62 the end of June this year. I am in FERS, would like to retire this year and am trying to make a sound decision regarding what date would be best.
1) I have 918 sick hours accumulated. Will they convert 100% into service time?
2) When trying to calculate how much I will get for retirement, is it based on basic pay or total pay with locality adjustment?
3) Is there any penalty if I retire at age 62 if I have less than 20 years of FERS service?
4) Is there any offset with Social Security? Read the rest of this entry »

Retirement and health benefits

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Q. If I retire at age 60 with 25 years of federal service, how will it affect my federal medical health benefits? Will I still be eligible for benefits to continue under the FEHB and will my benefit costs remain the same amount as if was working? Read the rest of this entry »

Federal retirement

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Q. I spent eight years active duty in the Air Force as a physician in the late 1990s. I would like to end my career practicing at the VA. I am 59 years old. If I work at the VA for 11 years, I will only have 19 years of federal service. Will I be entitled to any federal government pension? Must I work a full 20 years for the Fed? Will that effect the Social Security funds that I have contributed to for the past 25 years? Read the rest of this entry »

FERS retirement calculations

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Q. You recently stated in your posts you can receive your FERS retirement benefits calculated at the rate of .011 with 20 years of service, at age 62. Does this benefit rate of 1.1, apply if you left your employment before the MRA (resigned), have more than 20 years of service and elect to receive a deferred retirement at age 62? At age 60, benefits are calculated at .01. Is there a choice? Read the rest of this entry »

Overseas direct deposit

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Q. I would like my FERS retirement monthly benefits direct deposited to my overseas account. What foreign countries does OPM allow direct deposit of retirement benefits? Is the Philippines on the list? Read the rest of this entry »

Late application for FERS annuity

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Q. I am 64 years old. From 1986 to 1995, I worked for the federal government and was covered by FERS. I just now realized that I may be eligible for a pension, starting at age 62. If I apply now, will I be somehow able to recover the two years’ worth of payments that I did not collect? Can I wait even longer, until the time that my total income (and my tax bracket) will be lower than it is now? Read the rest of this entry »

Drawing Social Security while working

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Q. I will be 63 next month. I currently am employed by the federal government with an annual salary of $40,000. I plan to retire next year with 40 years of service. Can I draw Social Security and still work at my present job? Read the rest of this entry »

Deferred retirement

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Q. I’ve completed five years of creditable civilian service with the VA and “purchased” my four years of military service, and now I work for the state. If my annual average pay was $44k, how much can I expect to receive after I apply for deferred retirement at the age of 62? 65? Read the rest of this entry »

Disability retirement conversion to other retirement

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Q. I was retired on CSRS disability with 30 years of service at age 52. OPM has sent me a letter that I have made too much money for 2010 through 2012. I would have been eligible for full retirement in July 2009 (and will be age 60 in July 2014). What are my options? Can I convert to full retirement or discontinued service retirement? Can I do this retroactively to 2009? Read the rest of this entry »

Best retirement FERS date

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Q. I started Government employment Jan. 13, 2013, and I want to retire on my 62nd birthday Dec. 7, 2016, or should I wait till Jan. 13, 2017. Does it really make a difference? Read the rest of this entry »

Pay for reinstatement-eligible candidate

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Q. If someone is reinstated into a federal position, is it the same step as well as grade that they were when they resigned? I have 15 years additional professional experience since I resigned from the federal government. When I resigned I was a GS-11, step 4. However my current salary with a defense contractor is in line with a GS-11 step 10 salary. If I am reinstated, am I entitled to be compensated as close to my current salary without exceeding it or at the step I was at when I resigned (GS 11 step 4). Read the rest of this entry »

CSRS Offset and windfall elimination provision

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Q. I am a federal employee who has 21 years of federal service and am under the CSRS Offset retirement plan. I have paid in over 30 years of social security. What would be the percentage of my offset? I have been told that it would be minimal after 30 years of Social Security pay in. Read the rest of this entry »

Affordable health insurance options for USPS

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Q. I’m considering an early retirement from USPS. I currently have health insurance that costs me approximately $370 per month. It looks to me like I can actually get comparable coverage through the Obamacare site for less than my contribution to my current health insurance plan based on my projected income after retirement.
Would I be eligible to receive the discounted health plan from the new government program? I know that I’m not eligible to participate now as an employee of USPS because my employer provides health coverage. After retirement, I can continue to receive health benefits through USPS but the cost is much higher than the new health insurance plans. Does the fact that I could continue my existing health plan disqualify me from Obamacare? Read the rest of this entry »

FERS and Social Security disability

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Q. My husband was retired from active military at 100 percent disability for a line of duty illness. He also has a FERS pension that is currently at 60 percent the first year and 40 percent for all the rest. They required him to file for Social Security disability, which he was denied. We have received notice from FERS asking him to re-apply for Social Security disability. I’m sure this will affect his FERS pension, however I have been unable to get an answer as to how.

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Surviving spouse’s retirement benefits

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Q. My husband retired under CSRS, and I expect to retire under FERS in a few years. When he retired, he elected survivor benefits for me, and I will do the same for him. What will be the rate the survivor will receive: only their benefit or their benefit plus the survivor portion? The answer will make a big difference in how comfortable we can live in retirement, before and after one of us passes. Read the rest of this entry »

Creditable Military Service, Pt. 2

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(Click here to read Part One)

To get credit for any period of military service, you need to deposit an amount that equals a percentage of your basic military basic pay, not including any allowances or differentials you may have received. The amount of the deposit depends on two things: whether you are covered by Civil Service Retirement System or Federal Employees Retirement System, and when the military service occurred.

For CSRS employees, the deposit equals 7 percent of your basic pay for periods of service performed before January 1, 1999, 7.25 percent for periods of service during 1999, 7.4 percent for periods of service during 2000, and, finally, 7 percent for all service performed after December 31, 2000. For FERS employees, the amounts are 3 percent, 3.25 percent, 3.4 percent and 3 percent, respectively. (The percentages are one-half percent higher for special category employees, such as law enforcement officers, firefighters and air traffic controllers.)

You don’t have to make the deposit in a lump sum. You can make it in amounts as small as $50. However, In order to get any credit for your period(s) of military service, you must pay the total amount due before you retire. Note: If you have more than one period of military service, you have the option of making a deposit for any or all of those segments for which you want credit.

As a rule, post-1956 military service deposits must be made to your employing agency. The only exception is for former CSRS employees who are eligible for a deferred annuity, but only if they separated from the government between September 9, 1982 and September 30, 1983, and their survivor spouses. Such deposits can be made in a lump sum to the U.S. Office of Personnel Management at any time before the final adjudication of their case.


The Department of the Treasury sets the interest rates for military deposits, which begin on January 1 and end of December 31 each year. From January 1, 1948 through December 31, 1984, the rate was set by law at 3 percent. Since then, the amount has been based on market rates, which can change every year. In 1985, the rate was 13 percent, in 1990, 8.75, in 1995, 6.875, in 2000, 5.875, and in 2008, 4.875. In recent years the rates have declined dramatically. In 2010 the rate was 2.75 percent, in 2012, 2.25 and, in 2013 and 2014, 1.625.

Interest begins to accrue after a two-year grace period after you are first hired by the federal government. If you are called to active duty while already employed, the same grace period also applies to that new period of military service when you return to your civilian job. Note: As a rule, interest isn’t posted until the end of a calendar year. Therefore, if you complete your deposit before the end of the third year, you won’t be charged any interest.

Making a Deposit

If you want to find out how much you would have to deposit to get credit for your military service, fill out a copy of form RI 20-97, Estimated Earnings During Military Service, attach a copy of your DD-214, Report of Transfer or Discharge, or its equivalent, and mail it to the finance center for your branch of service. You can get a copy of form RI 20-97 from your personnel office or download a copy at

If you don’t have proof of your military service, you’ll have to fill out a copy of Standard Form 180, Request Pertaining to Military Records, which you can download from Once you’ve filled it out, send it to your branch of service. They will provide you with a new DD-214 or its equivalent. Once you have it, you can attach a copy to your completed RI 20-97 and mail it to the finance center for your branch of service.

When you have a statement of your earnings while on active duty, you can fill out a copy of either Standard Form 2803 (CSRS) or 3108 (FERS), Application to Make Deposit or Redeposit, both of which are available in your personnel office or downloadable. Go to, click on Forms. When the screen appears, click on Standard Forms and scroll down to the one you want to download.

Take the Standard Form, the response you received from your military finance office, and a copy of your DD 214 or equivalent to your agency payroll office.

They’ll be able to determine how much you owe, plus accrued interest, if applicable. Depending on how long the gap is between when you serviced and when you get an estimate of what you owe from your payroll office, you may either be pleasantly surprised or dumbfounded.

The decision about whether to make a deposit for your military service is one you’ll have to make based on what you’ll get in return for what you’ll have to give.

Reg Jones was head of retirement and insurance programs at the Office of Personnel Management. Email your retirement-related questions to, and view his blog at


Benefits to Medicare Parts A & B

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Q. My wife works for the VA. I am covered under her BC/BS federal health insurance. I turn 65 in 30 days. Do I need to sign up for Medicare Parts A & B? If I need to sign up and if I use BC/BS plus medicare, are there any advantages? Read the rest of this entry »