Ask The Experts: Retirement

By Reg Jones

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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Lateral transfer, step increase

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Q. I was approached with a lateral transfer from a GS-1071-9 Step 4 to a a GS-1030-9. I told them I would consider it with monetary compensation (I had a step increase in mind). They responded that they couldn’t do that and would open the position to the outside. Is this true that I could not request a step increase to go with the lateral transfer?

A. Yes, what you were told is correct.

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Phased Retirement

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Q. How does WEP work under Phased Retirement?

A. Just the way it always does. If the individual retires before age 62, his Social Security benefit is reduced if he has fewer than 30 years of substantial earnings under Social Security. If he retires at or after age 62, the reduction occurs when he retires.

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Minimum retirement age

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Q. My wife will be 50 in three years and will have 30 years of federal service under FERS. Can she retire with no penalty and keep her federal health benefits.

A. No, she cannot retire on an immediate annuity. The earliest she could do that would be when she reaches her minimum retirement age, which in her case would be 56 years and 6 months. The only way she could retire earlier than her MRA would be if her agency offered her an opportunity under the Voluntary Early Retirement Authority and she was at least age 50.

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Discontinued service retirement

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Q. I have 25 years and three months as a FERS employee. If my agency separated me due to poor job performance, would I be eligible for a discontinued service retirement ?

A. Yes.

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