Ask The Experts: Retirement

By Reg Jones

Buyback age limit

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Q. I am 65 and still working but at this time, I have not or did not buy back my military time, is there an age limit where I do not have to buy it back, or yes, if I want the extra money, I will have to buy it back?

A. There isn’t an age limit on when you may make a deposit to get credit for your active-duty service. The only requirement is that you make that deposit before you retire. Note: If you are a CSRS employee who doesn’t make a deposit, you’ll still get credit for the time in determining your eligibility to retire; it just won’t be used in the computation of your annuity. If you are a FERS employee, you won’t get any credit for it unless you make a deposit.

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Excess contributions

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Q. I began my civilian federal employment in May of 1974. I am a Vietnam era veteran with three years military time and paid back that time. My service comp date for retirement is May 1971. I am going to retire at the end of this year. Based on the above, will all CSRS contributions I paid after reaching 41 years, 11 months, qualify for refunding to me?

A. If you have 41 years and 11 months of service from which retirement deductions were taken (or a deposit made), any excess deductions will be refunded to you with an option to purchase additional annuity.

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FERS or CSRS?

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Q. I’m under FERS, and my Service Computation Date is Nov. 26, 1983. A co-worker in my organization has an SCD of Nov. 7, 1983 and is under CSRS. What is the SCD cutoff date for FERS vs. CSRS? Read the rest of this entry »

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Re-employed annuitant benefits

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Q. I retired in January as a CSRS annuitant after 32 years of service with the Navy and Marine Corps. I am considering returning to the Navy as a re-employed annuitant. In accordance with DoD policy, I understand that I will be able to draw my full salary and my full annuity without a waiver from OPM. I believe Social Security taxes will be withheld, and I cannot make CSRS contributions if I draw both a pension and full salary. Will I be able to contribute to TSP? Will I accrue annual leave and sick leave? If so, how many hours of leave will I accrue? Will my FEHB premiums be withheld from my salary, or continue to be withheld from my annuity? Will I be able to have a FSA health savings plan? Read the rest of this entry »

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CSRS pension

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Q. I am a postal employee in the CSRS pension plan. I’m 64 with 33 years service. If I die before I retire, will my wife get the 55 percent of what my pension would be as if I was retired? Would she be eligible for the survivor benefit as if I would have been retired? 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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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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FERS or CSRS

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Q. I’m under FERS, and my service computation date is Nov. 26, 1983. A co-worker in my organization has a SCD of Nov. 7, 1983, and is under CSRS. What is the SCD cutoff date for FERS vs. CSRS?

A. As a rule, employees who were first hired before Dec. 31, 1983, are covered by CSRS. To review that requirement and other details which might affect your situation, go to www.opm.gov/retirement-services/publications-forms/csrsfers-handbook/c010.pdf. If you meet the qualifications to be covered by CSRS, you’ll need to go to your personnel office and ask them to help you process your claim under the Federal Erroneous Retirement Coverage Corrections Act.

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High-3 computation

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Q. Between 2009 and 2012, I served two deployments in Afghanistan as a GS employee (CSRS). Can my salary during those deployments be used in the computation of my high-3?

A. No. Only actual basic pay earned while a federal civilian employee can be used in that computation.

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Federal, state annuity offset

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Q. I am CSRS and worked 20 years between 1983 and 2004. I am considering taking a job in a Texas school district.  Will there be any offset between my CSRS annuity and my Texas state annuity?

A. No, there won’t.

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Credit for part-time hours

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Q. I am a CSRS employee with a period of “post-April 6, 1986” part-time service of about 10 years. During that time, I occasionally worked hours above my scheduled tour of duty. How do I get credit for that time in my retirement annuity?

A. The extra hours you worked are already a matter of record and you’ll get credit for them in your annuity computation.

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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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