Ask The Experts: Retirement

By Reg Jones

Two pensions?

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Q. I retired from the Marine Corps after 21 years of service in 2002 and I’m receiving retirement pay. I began working with the State Department and will be eligible to retire at age 59 with 20 years of service. Will I be able to retire from the State Department and receive a pension and still receive my pension from the Marine Corps?

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Nurses and VERA

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Q. Are nurses allowed Voluntary Early Retirement Authority? I have 22 years and am 57 years old.

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Military buyback and annuity

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Q. My husband had 16 years of military service (no retirement received). He is now 65 and may soon be employed in civil service. At age 70, he would have about 21 years of federal employment and military combined. Is he then eligible for retirement at age 70?

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Special retirement supplement

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Q. I retired under FERS with over 30 years of service in May 2009 and began receiving the special retirement supplement. The SRS was eliminated when I exceeded the Social Security earnings limit working in the private sector for the next three years. I fully retired in May 2012, after I again exceeded the $15,000 earnings limit for 2012. Do I need to contact Social Security to let them know I am no longer working? If so, is there a form I need to submit? Also, when can I expect my SRS to be reinstated? I won’t be 62 until May 2015.

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Buyout likelihood

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Q. I am a federal employee under CSRS with 40 years of service this year for the Veterans Affairs Department at age 60. I am the only person at my facility doing my job and the only one in this facility with full knowledge of my job task and responsibilities. Is there an opportunity for a buyout in this position? Do I need to ask human resources if there is a chance for buyout potential?

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Phased retirement

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Q. I am eligible to retire under CSRS in September (age 55 with 30 years). Will phased retirement be in place for me to consider on or before that date?

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Medicare Part B

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Q. I am retired military. I am 65 years old now. Do I have to pay for Medicare Part B even though no expense now?

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Best time to retire

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Q. I am a CSRS employee who will be 55 years old in September 2015 and will have 38 years of federal service. Some are telling me to stay until I have 41 years because of the added benefit. What’s the big difference? I’d like to go as soon as I’m eligible.

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Sick leave and creditable service

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Q. I am a CSRS Offset employee in a law enforcement position. I plan to retire Sept. 1 at the age of 50 with eligibility service credit of 23 years, nine months, and 12 days. I have over 650 hours of sick leave. My computation service credit is 30 years, 11 months, and nine days without including the 650 hours of sick leave. Does including the 650 hours of sick leave to my computation service credit provide me with any additional annuity? Also, will my annuity be based on my eligibility service credit or my computation service credit?

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Social Security reduction

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Q. I am a retired GS-1811 (federal law enforcement) CSRS retiree (2005) with 25 years civil service and 7 years military I bought back. I’m 59 now and when I reach 62 or older and want to collect Social Security, I know my CSRS retirement will be reduced, but by how much? I used SSA.gov/estimator and got the figures, but there was no place to enter the fact I have a federal retirement. Do the figures I received on SSA.gov/estimator already factor my federal law enforcement retirement?

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RIF, special retirement supplement and penalty

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Q. If I retire at 59 years and five months with 28+ years of service, under a reduction in force, would I qualify for the special retirement supplement and only be penalized until I reach 60?

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Five-year rule

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Q. In the 2012 Federal Retirement Handbook, it states that if you meet the following age and service requirements — age 62 and five years — you are entitled to an immediate retirement benefit.

I will be 65 years old in May, so I already meet the first requirement. In June, I will have been a federal civilian employee for two years. However, I have 12.3 years of Air Force (1971 to 1984) service, and I plan to make the required deposit so the 12.3 years becomes part of my federal creditable service. Therefore, in June, I will have 14.3 years of creditable service. Does this mean I will be eligible to retire as soon as the Air Force years become part of my creditable service (since it’s more than five years)?

Said another way, is there a requirement that you need to be a federal civilian employee for five years before you are eligible to retire? I have not been able to find anything in FERS documents or government website that stipulates this requirement. All years are typically referred to as creditable service so that includes my Air Force time.

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Post-1956 deposit

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Q. The following statement was made in an answer to a question ask about post-1956 deposit: “You can’t get a refund of the deposit you made for your active-duty service. What’s done is done. If you retire at age 62 and aren’t eligible for a Social Security benefit at that time, you’ll never have to worry about losing those years and having your annuity recomputed.”

I will retire at age 60 and have paid in a post-1956 deposit. I am in CSRS and will have 41 years and eight months with the post-56 deposit (eight years, six months of military service). I have worked for 40 quarters and am eligible for Social Security (military service and work prior to the military). However, due to the windfall elimination provision, I do not plan to ask for Social Security benefits until I am 65 or older. Will my annuity be recomputed after I reach 62 even though I have no intention of requesting my Social Security benefit until 65 or 70? Can I expect some kind of reduction in my annuity? I understand my Social Security benefit will be reduced by two-thirds once I apply for it.

A. Because you made a deposit for your active-duty service, you’ll not only get credit for that time in your annuity computation but your CSRS annuity won’t be affected no matter when you apply for a Social Security benefit. However, as you noted, your Social Security benefit will be reduced because of the windfall elimination provision. That’s because you will be receiving an annuity from a retirement system where you didn’t pay Social Security taxes and have fewer than 30 years of substantial earnings under Social Security.

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Discontinued service retirement

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Q. I was injured in a severe motor vehicle accident and unable (because of doctor’s orders) to return to work.  The agency sent me a letter stating that I should return to work and violate the restrictions, apply for FERS disability, or be terminated. I chose to apply for FERS disability and was denied, and now the agency is in the process of terminating me. I am still under doctor’s restrictions. I am over age 50 and have 21 years of combined service: 16.5 military, which I bought back, and seven civil service if they count my leave without pay (six if not). Will I be entitled to discontinued service retirement?

A. Yes.

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Affordable Care Act vs. FEHB

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Q. I will have 20 years of congressional employment as of Jan. 23, 2014. I will be 60 years old three months earlier, in October. It is my understanding that members and congressional personal staff will be forced into Affordable Care Act health coverage as of Jan. 1, 2014. Can I retire Dec. 31 and keep my Federal Employees Health Benefits? How will this affect my FERS annuity?

A. If you retire as a FERS-covered employee, you would be entitled to a FERS annuity. And if you have five consecutive years under the FEHB program and retired before the Affordable Care Act is implemented, you would be able to carry that coverage into retirement. Neither of those entitlements could be altered by legislation that becomes effective after you retire.

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CSRS Offset retirement age

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Q. I am a 58-year-old CSRS Offset civilian employee with 20 years of federal service. What is the earliest date that I can retire?

A. Because you have at least 20 years of service, you could retire on an immediate, unreduced annuity at age 60.

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Retirement calculator

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Q. Is there a calculator where you can enter your service type (FERS vs. CSRS), military buyback years and months, current high-3 and projected retirement age to get an accurate retirement estimate?

A. You’ll find what you’re looking for at www.fedbens.us.

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Deferred annuity

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Q. My husband resigned from a Defense Department agency (non-civil service) after 29 years to work in the private sector. He was under CSRS, never converting to FERS. Before his resignation 10 years ago, he spoke to the agency’s personnel retirement representatives and was told he would still be able to collect retirement but only after he reached the age of 62. They told him that he should start the retirement paperwork six months from his 62nd birthday. Is this information correct? Does he lose the 2 percent for each year under the age of 62 he was when he resigned? He’s within a couple of months of that six-month target.

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CSRS Offset

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Q. I’m looking to retire sometime this year. I turn 66 on April 2, have 13 years at the Veterans Affairs Department, from which I withdrew funds. I worked in the private sector until 1995, when I started working for the Postal Service. I am under CSRS Offset, and I have essentially bought back my four years in the military. So the total years at the Postal Service would be 18 years + 4 years military = 22 years. Can you explain to me how the offset will apply to me? Will I be able to receive Social Security?

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Eligibility for benefits

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Q. I am 64 with 9.5 years under FERS, but it was split up after 4.7, then a few years later I returned and now have 4.8 years. Could I retire on an immediate retirement and be able to take my Federal Employees Health Benefits along with me? I know if there was an early-out/buyout offer, I could. I was given a service computation date of Feb. 4, 2004.

A. You could retire on an immediate annuity because you are at least age 62 and have at least five years of service. And you could carry your FEHB coverage into retirement if you were enrolled in the program for the five consecutive years before you retire. That break in service doesn’t matter if you were enrolled in the program when you left government and immediately re-enrolled when you returned, and the total of those two enrollment periods equals a minimum of five years.

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