Ask The Experts: Retirement

By Reg Jones

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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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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