Ask The Experts: Retirement

By Reg Jones

Unused annual leave

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Q. I am considering retirement under the MRA+10 provision and postponing my annuity until I reach age 62. If I follow this course, am I eligible to sell back any unused annual leave without penalty?

A. Your unused annual leave will automatically be paid to you in a lump sum when you separate from the government.

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Annual leave

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Q. When I ETS from the Army, I was allowed 30 days of terminal leave with the remainder of unused  annual leave a forced buyout. I had been unable to take leave due to the needs of the Army.

Because of that I lost almost a month of BAH, specialty pay, etc.

I was told at that time the federal government cannot force more than one buyout of unused annual leave during your federal career.

I am resigning from civilian federal service with a deferred retirement. Can they once again force a buyout of unused annual leave? Can they not allow me to take terminal leave?

A. No, they can’t. The comptroller general of the United States has ruled that federal civilian employees may not take terminal leave.

 

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Locality pay

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Q. Is there a minimum number of days per pay period that an employee must work at his assigned duty station (duty station as it appears on the SF-52) to qualify for locality pay in that area? I live in one state, and my wife in another (long story). I try to get home once a month by taking a combination of a few days of annual leave and a few telework days. I have heard that to qualify for locality pay, a person must work in that area a minimum of two days per pay period (which seems more than reasonable, and even lenient).

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FERS and cashing out annual leave

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Q. Recent legislation entitles FERS-eligible employees to have sick leave credited to their time in service: 50 percent until 2013 and 100 percent in 2014. At the same time, FERS annual leave hours past 240 are not lost but paid in full in completing your last year of employment.

Can you clarify that if you retire Jan. 1, 2014, you lose the hours in excess of 240? (I was informed by an HR employee that if you don’t retire Dec. 31, your hours in excess of 240 are not paid even if you retire the next day, Jan. 1 — I have my doubts.)

But if you didn’t and retired Dec. 31, you would lose 50 percent of your sick leave.

I have four months of accrued sick leave, whereas I would have about $20,000 in unused annual leave paid if I retired Jan. 1.

If the information from HR is true, I would have to choose between losing 50 percent of my 700 hours of accrued sick leave for retiring before Jan. 1, 2014, and losing more than 240 hours.

What is the better financial decision? Accruing four months of time in service and losing all my leave in excess of 240 or taking the full lump sum and getting credit for only two months?

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Leave without pay and creditable service

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Q. In 2011, I left my civil service job for 175 days to deploy to Afghanistan as an active-duty officer. While deployed, I used a day or two of annual or military leave every pay period to pay for my health care benefits. FERS payments also were made on the days I was on paid leave.

When I got back from my deployment, I was told I had to buy back the time, and I put in paperwork with DFAS to do so. However, I just read in my agency’s furlough FAQ that: The amount of a CSRS or FERS annuity paid by the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) is based primarily on the amount of creditable service an employee performs and the employee’s high-3 average salary.

Both CSRS and FERS allow service credit for up to 6 months of nonpay status in any calendar year. If a furlough period does not cause an employee to be in a nonpay status for more than 6 months in a calendar year, the furlough period will be included as creditable service in determining the employee’s total creditable service used in the annuity computation. If the total amount of time an employee spends in a nonpay status in a calendar year exceeds 6 months, the amount of nonpay status in excess of 6 months in the calendar year will not be creditable for retirement purposes.

Based upon this, it looks like as long as I was not in a nonpay status for six months that calendar year, I do not have to buy back that time for it to count toward my retirement. Am I correct in my interpretation of this? If so, is there a way to verify how many creditable years I have?

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Rehired annuitant looking to add to retirement

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Q. I retired as a CSRS employee Nov. 30, 2006, and am a rehired annuitant. I have been working in my current position with the Air Force for the last 22 months, receiving both my annuity and the full salary of my new position. I want to find another way to add to my retirement before this overseas job ends.

What additional retirement program options do I have? I was told by Air Force personnel management that I do not qualify for supplementing/contributing to my CSRS annuity. TSP also is closed for me to invest in since I started to withdraw from my account.

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FERS retirement and leave

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Q. I am a FERS employee and was hired in January 1984. I will reach MRA (56) with 31½ years of service in early July 2015.

What is the best day for me to retire in 2015 to get credit for the most annual and sick leave?

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FERS, CSRS Offset and service

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Q. After serving 12 years in the military, I went to work for the federal government Jan. 13, 1982, and left federal service in October 1987, having served five years and nine months. I was in CSRS that entire time. I withdrew my CSRS contributions when I left. I came back to work for the federal government in July 2006 and was placed in CSRS Offset, with the option of going into FERS. I opted to be in CSRS Offset. At that time, I paid the deposit plus interest to get credit for my military time for pension purposes. I read the “Ask the Experts” response of March 30, 2010, where it said that as of Jan 1, 1987, any current employee with fewer than five years of service under CSRS was automatically converted to FERS. On Jan. 1 1987, I was 13 days short of five years, although I had previous military time and more than 13 days of annual leave and sick leave on the books. The “Ask the Experts” answer of Jan. 18, 2012, seems to say that I was correctly placed in CSRS Offset. Other pamphlets I read say you need five years as of Jan 1, 1987. I was 13 days short, excluding military time. I think my military time counted because my service computation date is in 1969.

Now I am concerned that my agency might have placed me incorrectly into CSRS Offset and I might be in for a surprise when I retire. Am I correctly in CSRS Offset? Do I need to take any action?

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Temporary employment and service computation date

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Q. I served four years in the military on active duty and seven years in the reserves. I was hired as an Army civilian temp in 1991 and was kept until 1993, then laid off. Then I was called back in 2004 as permanent employee under FERS. I paid back the deposit for four years of military time, and they processed a new SCD Merge and Purge of OPF complete.

Now my SF50 action gives a service computation date of 1998 (leave). The EBIS preliminary retirement report says my SCD is 2000. The left hand isn’t speaking to the right hand.

I worked 2½ years for the federal government. That should count as creditable service. I was even given back my sick leave of more than 500 hours. Shouldn’t I have to pay back the service credit payment? Why is the EBIS retirement estimate wrong?

Example:

Military time: 1976-1980 = four years

Temp time: 1991-1993= 2½ years

Current time: 2004-2013= 10 years

That’s 16½ years of working for the government. Simple math.

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Military service and buyback

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Q. I am a traditional guardsman and am considering federal employment.

Does any of my inactive duty or mobilized time count toward retirement or leave accrual? I’m 43. What is the minimum number of years I would need to work to qualify for a pension, even deferred? Whom can I contact for more information?

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New job and allowances/raise

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Q. I’ve been offered a position with the Defense Intelligence Agency as a GG-13, step 6. I’m a GS-13, step 6, and have been for nearly a year. I accepted my position last year, going from my previous salary as a GS-13, step 4. Can I ask for a raise in the new position? Or, since I’ve been a step 6 for only around a year, am I ineligible? Also, with DIA, will my leave award of six hours per pay period apply? Should it? My new position with DIA will be outside the contiguous United States, so the allowances and leave days are different. And DIA is offering all applicable OCONUS allowances.

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HR mistake and leave adjustment

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Q. I retired from the Army with more than 22 years of active duty. I submitted my paperwork to FBI HR to get credit for my military time on my first day of employment in October 2010. I inquired numerous times about the status of the documents but never received a satisfactory answer. Then, after more than a year of asking, I found out the HR person submitted the paperwork to an incorrect address (now November 2011). The paperwork was resubmitted by another HR person because I told them all that they submitted it incorrectly. I finally received six hours of annual leave per pay period, which began this year. How can I get credit (six hours a pay period) from the beginning of my employment with the FBI? FBI HR told me it was from the time of the documents submitted getting certified. What are your thoughts on this situation?

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Recharacterizing leave after retirement

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Q. After 35 years with the federal government, I retired Feb. 29, 2012.

During my last full pay period, I used 16 hours of sick leave. I discovered after a call from OPM recently that a correction to my final sick leave balance was made by my former employing agency, modestly increasing my sick leave balance. OPM informed me today that after the correction, my sick leave balance was six hours short of the number of hours needed to bring my total creditable working hours up by one more full month.

After hearing this, I realize that had I used six hours LESS sick leave (instead of 16 hours) in my last full pay period in pay status, and used just 10 hours of sick leave plus six hours of annual leave for the time I took off during that last full pay period, I would have had enough creditable work hours to complete another full month toward the calculation of my annuity.

My question to you now is whether or not leave I used in my last full pay period can be recharacterized almost a year since retiring because that would initiate another updated correction to my sick leave balance, which would be forwarded to OPM via the National Finance Center, and subsequently permit a recalculation of my final annuity amount.

I was paid a lump sum for unused annual leave a few weeks after retiring but would gladly reimburse the agency for six of those hours if possible if a correction to my time and attendance report for the last full pay period could be done, allowing for a recharacterization of leave I used during my last full pay period, which would increase my annuity, even if only a little.

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Workers’ compensation and leave

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Q. I was injured in September 2010 and was out of work until I retired on disability in March 2011. I exhausted my annual and sick leave, since my initial workers’ compensation claim was denied.

After numerous appeals, my workers’ compensation claim was approved in October 2011. I began receiving interim retirement payments in September 2011 but have yet to receive payment from OPM for annual and sick leave I would have accumulated during that period. I have contacted DFAS and OPM, along with filing two congressionals regarding this issue, but no resolution.

Shouldn’t I be paid for the time I would have been on workers’ compensation? Shouldn’t OPM pay the lump sum after receiving notification that my workers’ compensation claim was approved? I have contacted OPM, and it seems to lack adequate professionals to decipher this mess.

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Military buyback

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Q. I am an active-duty member of the Air Force with five years of service.

I am planning to stay in for five more years to transfer my post-9/11 education benefits to my kids. I am looking to get out of active service at the 10-year mark and would like to remain working for the federal government. How would my years of service count toward retirement if I began to work for the Veterans Administration versus switching service branches (i.e. public health services corps)?

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Best day to retire in 2015

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Q. I’ve been in CSRS since Feb. 10, 1975, and I turned 65 in January.

1) Which day, in late leave year 2015, would be the best day to retire?

2) What should be my schedule for submitting retirement documents?

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Leave, USPS and retirement benefits

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Q. A Postal Service employee had to use all his sick and annual leave because of illness. He used leave without pay. When he retired, he was not entitled to benefits. He received only his contributions. Why did he get back only his funds and not the complete package because of LWOP? Read the rest of this entry »

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Cashing out a time-off award

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Q. I read the March 25 posting “Annual Leave and cashing out.” I’m retiring June 1, I will have 320 hours of annual leave and, in addition, a 40-hour time-off award. My Civilian Personnel Advisory Center representative advised I could not cash out the time-off award, that I could only use it or lose it. I would like to add it to the regular annual and cash it out. Are they correct about not being able to cash out those 40 hours?

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Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal and leave accrual

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Q. I understand having an Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal will allow me to accumulate more leave per pay period, starting my third year as a DA civilian (from four to six hours).

Will having a second one increase that by two years? I served 21 years in the Marine Corps and have one AFEM on my DD-214 (Lebanon). While on active duty, I should have pushed for a second AFEM for my two tours in the Persian Gulf (1988-1990). If I would get a second year of increased leave accumulation by having a second AFEM, I’ll push to NavPerCom (PERS-312B) for action.

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Annual leave and cashing out

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Q. I will have approximately 503 hours of annual leave when I retire at the end of May (183 hours were carried over). I also have 24 hours of a time off award and 30 hours of home leave unused as a result of a previous overseas assignment. Will my payout for leave include the 24 hours of the time off award added to my 503 hours? Will I receive a payout for the 30 hours of home leave, will I simply lose it, or will it be added as creditable service in my retirement calculations?

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