Ask The Experts: Retirement

By Reg Jones

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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Retirement after 22 years in CSRS

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Q. How much will my retirement be when I turn 62?

I rotated back to the states after more than 22 years of federal service. I was effectively terminated from my position due to the five-year rule in Europe. I was under CSRS.

I will not turn 62 for five years, but I would like to know how to get information regarding my CSRS account status.

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Disability retirement and FERS annuity

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Q. I retired on disability in June 2011 because of multiple health issues. Is the annuity I receive now from my FERS contributions (made since 1991)? I never applied for FERS contributions.

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CSRS and Social Security for spouse’s survivor

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Q. I retired from the Department of Veterans Affairs on Nov. 4, 1994, after 38½ years. My husband worked under Social Security for many years. After he passed away April 26, 2010, I was informed that I could not draw on his Social Security, as this would be considered double dipping. I am constantly asked, “Why are you not drawing on Bob’s Social Security?” I will be 75 on Sept. 24. Why can’t I?

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FICA withholdings for re-employed CSRS annuitants

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Q. I am a retired pure CSRS employee working part time as a rehired annuitant with no annuity offset. I am coming to the end of my third year. When I first began working, HR was not taking out FICA. Two years ago, HR said it had been told at some payroll class that it should be taking out FICA, so it started doing so. About 12 months later, HR sent a demand letter for the FICA it had failed to collect in the beginning. I filled an appeal immediately and have heard nothing.

Three of us here are in this predicament. We do not think FICA withholding is proper. We will never be able to collect Social Security.

Their total justification seems to be that we were hired as rehired annuitants after 1983.

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Retirement and insurance with more than 30 years in CSRS

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Q. I am 55 with 36 years of federal employment, including two one-year breaks in service. The last break was in 1985. I withdrew the funds I had paid into CSRS each time I broke service and have repaid a minimal amount of it. I thought I would be one of those people who worked forever; however, I have a progressively degenerative medical condition and likely will not be able to work more than another year at the most. I am totally ignorant about retirement and to what benefits I am entitled. For example, will my pension benefits be reduced because I am retiring early? Do I continue to pay the same health insurance rates once I retire until I become eligible for Medicare? Will my health benefits remain the same until I become eligible for Medicare? I used the pension calculator and am more confused. For example, I calculated using the percentage for the first five years and the different percentage for the next five years, and then the 2 percent for the remaining years past 10. Is this the amount plus interest, plus matching funds what I pay into CSRS from my paycheck, or do I have to do yet other calculations? I have requested a meeting with my HR department, but it has to wait until it receives information for payroll and tells me it will be weeks before I can get a meeting. My neurosurgeon and neurologist are telling me I should consider retiring immediately, but I need to make this major decision as knowledgeably as possible.

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FEHB coverage options

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Q. I am 64, under CSRS, and my wife is 55, under FERS. I am the subscriber for FEHB. If I retire, would it be advantageous to have her carry health insurance for our family, or should I just continue with things as they are?

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CSRS survivor benefit and FEHB coverage

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Q. I am a CSRS employee. I understand that to continue my wife under my Federal Employee Health Benefits, I must elect a survivor benefit of at least $1.

My medical insurance payments will, of course, be taken out of my monthly annuity. Will she be able to continue these payments at the same rate if I die before she does?

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Social Security, CSRS and survivor benefits

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Q. I am a retired CSRS postal worker and have opted for a survivor benefit. I do not qualify for Social Security. My spouse has about 24 years of SS payments from her jobs. If I die, are her benefits, either CSRS survivor benefits or Social Security, affected? If she dies, am I entitled to any of her Social Security benefits?

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Social Security benefits for survivor of CSRS employee

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Q. I am a retired CSRS employee, not eligible for any Social Security benefits. When I die, will my spouse’s survivor annuity be reduced because she is receiving her own Social Security benefits?

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Obama health care law and FEHB changes

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Q. I am a CSRS retiree. I retired in 2005. I am a subscriber to the Federal Employee Health Benefits program, specifically Blue Cross-Blue Shield’s Standard Option with family coverage. My wife and I are also qualified for Medicare Parts A and B. That makes Medicare the primary coverage and FEHB/BC-BS the secondary coverage for any health benefits paid.

1. What (if any) changes in the plan’s coverages are anticipated for 2014 and beyond, due to the health care law? 2. Does OPM anticipate that current retirees/program members will be forced into a health care provider’s coverage offered under the law? Starting in 2014, will federal retirees be forced into that law’s coverage rather than having the option to choose our own coverages under current program?

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CSRS, Social Security and annuity

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Q. I retired in 2001 from the FAA under CSRS. I have 33 quarters of Social Security. If I go back to work and earn an additional seven quarters and apply for Social Security benefits, will that same amount of money be subtracted from my annuity?

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Staying in CSRS versus FERS or CSRS offset

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Q. I served in the military from June 1974 to April 1981. I was then hired by civil service in April 1983 as a temporary employee. I was picked up as permanent in July 1984, and my service computation date is June 1976.

For whatever reason, when FERS was implemented, I was left in the original CSRS retirement plan and have been paying into CSRS for 29 years and 11 months. I applied for retirement computation last month and was notified by the human resource office that I will have to switch to FERS or CSRS offset to retire. Since I have invested into CRSR my whole career, can I remain in CSRS?

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CSRS, Social Security and retirement

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Q. I plan to begin collecting Social Security at age 66 in CSRS. I have met my 40 quarters and 30 substantial salary requirements. Additionally, I took a two-year break to work in the public sector. When I retire at age 69 with 40 years’ service and begin collecting my CSRS annuity, will I be able to collect Social Security?

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CSRS employment and Social Security

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Q. I retired under full CSRS (none offset) in January 2010 with 35 years’ federal service as a GS 14/10. I am 59 and don’t have the 40 credits required to receive Social Security benefits when I turn 62.

Is it worth it to take a part-time job just to get my 40 credits in, or will there be a reduction to my federal retirement that will hurt more than it will help? I haven’t earned very much in the private sector — just a few years before I became a CSRS employee in 1977, including the time I served in the Army, which I bought back to add to my CSRS time (included in the 35 years), but still paid a very small amount to Social Security while serving in the Army.

I have an opportunity to start a small business (~$10,000 per year).

Would it be better to have the business in my wife’s name to add to her Social Security rather than affect my CSRS? Or will I expect to see a small Social Security check when I hit age 62 if I get my 40 quarters in with Social Security?

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Withdrawn post office retirement funds

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Q. I started in the post office in 1976. I left the post office for a university job in 1984. I returned to the post office three months later because of low expectations of the employees at the university by the university. I withdrew my retirement because I believed I would not be back.

If the amount is not paid back, what percent of my post office retirement will be affected? OPM can tell me what I owe, but no one has an answer for this question until I retire!

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CSRS offset and annuity

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Q. I received a refund of my CSRS contributions when I separated from federal service in 1993. Four years later, I returned to federal service. I am CSRS offset.

Because I withdrew my contributions from CSRS, and federal service where Social Security taxes are withheld is not affected by the windfall elimination provision, will withdrawing CSRS contributions change my Social Security benefit when I retire?

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