Ask The Experts: Retirement

By Reg Jones

Disability retirement

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Q. I work for the Air Force, and I have 35 years of actual service under CSRS and I am 62. I have confirmed from OPM that I can apply for disability retirement within a year after retiring and start receiving annuity payments. I have had FEHB for only one year so the regular retirement will not allow me to keep FEHB (five-year rule). Can I apply for disability retirement before my regular retirement, or do I have to wait until after I retire to apply? Read the rest of this entry »

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Social Security and pension reduction

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Q. In 2009, I took the postal clerk buyout and retired. I am under CSRS with 32 years with 2 years of military Service included. When military buyback was offered some 25 years ago, I passed. In 2009, the same buyback was almost $10,000 so I passed on that. I am working and will have 37 credits of eligibility toward Social Security at the end of this year. If I continue and become Social Security eligible, how much of my monthly pension will I lose?

A. If you become eligible for a Social Security benefit, you won’t lose a penny of your CSRS annuity. However, 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.

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Matching contributions

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Q. I’m a CSRS employee with more than 41 years of service and plan to continue my federal employment well beyond 41 years. I understand that CSRS employees contribute 7 percent of their salary into the retirement fund and that the government matches that 7 percent contribution into the fund. I’m told that, after completing 41 years, 11 months of service, I will reach the maximum annuity benefit of 80 percent. At that point, the 7 percent retirement contributions will continue to be taken from my pay and placed into an interest bearing account to be refunded when I retire. When that happens, does the government continue to pay its matching 7 percent contribution into the interest bearing account as well? Read the rest of this entry »

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Creditable service

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Q. I received nine years creditable service for Annual Leave accrual for non-federal work experience when first hired for federal service. A friend of mine recently told me that the creditable service will also be factored into my CSRS retirement date. For example, if I plan on retiring after 30 years of service, I would only need to work an additional 21 years for the government. I cannot seem to find anything on the internet to support his claim. Can you tell me if my friend is correct?

A: Your friend is mistaken. You wouldn’t receive any credit for that time in determining your eligibility to retire.

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CSRS and Social Security

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Q. I work for the federal government and have 31 years in CSRS. I was born in 1959. I am eligible to retire in August 2014 and will be 55. I also worked in the private sector before becoming a federal employee. I am four credits short of receiving Social Security. If I earn four more credits after I retire, how much will I receive and how much will my CSRS retirement be decreased?

If I could receive Social Security, would it be better to keep working under CSRS/ Social Security? Which would be greater? Should I just work longer under Social Security or stay extra years under CSRS?

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CSRS, Social Security and military service

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Q. I just retired from the federal government Dec. 28 under CSRS at age 66. My service comp date is March 3, 1975. Now I am told I have only 31 years in federal service because they are not counting my six years on active duty with the Army. They say it’s because I’m eligible for a Social Security benefit, and I’m receiving one. I thought they went by the service computation date. If I am required to buy back my military time, of six years, to get a larger monthly annuity, can I still do that? How much will I have to pay to buy back the six years of military? Does it have to be paid all at once? The Social Security Administration representative said my Social Security benefit will be reduced because I’m a CSRS retiree.

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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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Medicare coverage for pre-1983 federal retiree

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Q. My father retired from the federal government in 1976. For whatever reason, he does not have Medicare Part A. My mother recently suffered a stroke, and because my dad did not have Medicare Part A, rehab at a nursing facility will not be covered. Apparently federal workers did not pay into the Social Security system back then and therefore have had to pay separately for Part A. It took hours of calls to SSA, OPM and Medicare to unravel this bureaucratic mess! BCBS (federal) is his secondary insurance and would not pay because Medicare A is primary.

(BCBS was no help — we tried to get a special benefit created for her, which they could have done, but it was denied.) My dad will be 93 soon, so I do not know how many of these retirees are still alive and were in similar situations and did not know nursing rehab would not be covered.

I wonder if at some time Medicare Part A did not cover nursing rehab and since BCBS is primary for inpatient hospital care, he was advised not to sign on for Part A, which also covers inpatient hospital care.

It is a sad situation for the last of his generation of federal retirees.

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Postal Service retirement, employment and Social Security

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Q. I am planning to retire at age 60 from the Postal Service after 34 years.

I also have five years of military service, which I never paid back. I have 31 quarters in Social Security. If I decide to work after I’m 63 to get the 40 quarters, will it affect the amount of my CSRS retirement?

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CSRS, Social Security, Tricare and BCBS

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Q. I worked and completed my 40 quarters for Social Security before I started working for the federal government (CSRS). Will I have to take a reduction too?

Secondly, I am retired now from CSRS, and we have Blue Cross Blue Shield health insurance.

Thirdly, I start drawing my military retirement starting in July, and we are eligible for Tricare. My second question: Should we switch to Tricare Standard and suspend our BCBS? It would be about a $450-a-month raise (the $450 is what we pay per month for the BCBS).

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CSRS retirement and Social Security

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Q. I have been a federal employee with the Department of Veterans Affairs covered by CSRS since October 1977 and have four years of military service (I paid the military deposit in full). I am 75 and have started receiving Social Security. I will be retiring in about one year and eight months, having reached 41 years and 10 months years of service, including military service, hoping to have earned or reached the 80 percent retirement annuity. I am at the top level of my GS-12 grade step 10. What will my civil service and Social Security benefits be? Or, how I can estimate the figure?

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Getting back on FEHB

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Q. I am a retired wildland firefighter (CSRS) and retired after 20 years in 2002. For part of my 20-year career, I had government health insurance. I voluntarily gave up insurance when I went from a 13-13 to a 6-20.

Since I retired from the USFS, I have started a teaching career and was on that organization’s health insurance. I would like to get back on the government health insurance; can I?

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Foreign work and government pension

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Q. I am a U.S. citizen by birth and retired under CSRS in about 2006 after 27 years at the EPA. Since then, I have consulted part time via contracts with Environment Canada and Health Canada. Now Health Canada has asked if I would like to work there temporarily (not to exceed 90 days a year) as a staff member about one day per week. (It’s not clear whether Health Canada’s policies would allow it.) Does this affect my government pension?

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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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CSRS retirement and re-employment

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Q. I retired in 2007 with full firefighter retirement and 34 years under CSRS.

I now wish to work for the U.S. Postal Service. Will this job affect my annuity benefits?

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CSRS, survivor annuity and Social Security

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Q. I have two questions about the Reg Jones article in the Feb. 18 Federal Times issue, titled “2013 brings changes to Medicare, survivor benefits” (Page 22).

1) Under death benefits, it says, “under CSRS, if you die while still employed, your widow will be entitled to a survivor annuity.” When I retired in 1995, I signed an agreement to take a reduction in my annuity so that when I die, my wife will get a percent of my annuity. Please explain what is wrong with one of these two statements.

2) Under the same topic, he says, “the spouse will get a survivor benefit equal half of my basic Social Security if I had 10 years of payment.” I fully qualified for a full Social Security benefit; however, the government sees fit to steal most of my earned benefit because I receive an annuity. Please clarify the status.

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CSRS, resignation and FEHB

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Q. I left civil service employment (CSRS) with the Defense Department in 1994 due to base closure with 17-plus years of service at age 42.

I elected to take a deferred annuity when I am 62 (next year). Will I be able to qualify for any FEHB plans when I start drawing my annuity?

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CSRS offset retirement money question

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Q. A friend has run into some hard times, and I am trying to help him. He says he has worked here as a civil service employee for some time (I can get that info).

When he was hired, he was put into CSRS but was supposed to be in FERS. When that was discovered, he was put into CSRS offset. He says while he was looking at a statement of his retirement money, he noticed a difference of some $40,000 from one of his other statements. He is a WG-10 step 5.

Whom could we talk with to get answers? HR has no answers.

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CSRS and Social Security survivor benefit

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Q. I understand about my retirement being offset by my Social Security when I retire as a federal employee. I want to know what will happen if I choose instead to draw my deceased spouse’s Social Security benefit, which is based solely on his nonfederal work history. Will my federal retirement still be offset by what I receive from his Social Security benefit?

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