Ask The Experts: Retirement

By Reg Jones

FAA pension

Bookmark and Share

Q. I worked for the FAA from June 1969 and left after I married to raise my family in September 1975. I will be 62 in September. Am I eligible  for any FAA pension?

A. If you left your retirement contributions in the retirement fund when you left, you’d be entitled to an annuity at age 62. To get that benefit, go to http://www.opm.gov/forms/pdf_fill/opm1496a.pdf, download a copy of the form, fill it out, and send it to OPM.

Tags: ,

Pension eligibility

Bookmark and Share

Q. I worked for the National Security Agency from 1961 to 1968. Am I eligible for a pension?

Read the rest of this entry »

Tags: , , , ,

Retirement eligibility

Bookmark and Share

Q. I am 50 years old and have over 30 years of service (bought back my military academy and military time) and am in FERS. My minimum retirement age is 56. Is there a penalty for retiring now (or, more specifically, in November, when I turn 51) in that I will not have reached my MRA?

Read the rest of this entry »

Tags: , , , ,

VSIP eligibility

Bookmark and Share

Q. I will complete nine years of civil service as of August, as well as 22 years of military service. If I apply for Voluntary Separation Incentive Pay, what, if anything, can I expect to receive?

Read the rest of this entry »

Tags: , , , , ,

Buyout eligibility

Bookmark and Share

Q. I’m retiring at the end of this month. If there were to be an announcement of a buyout before 5 p.m. of my last day, would I qualify? I’m 62 with 29 years in the Postal Service.

A. Highly unlikely because the purpose of a buyout is to encourage employees to leave who wouldn’t do so without a financial incentive. Since you have already made the decision to retire and are on the verge of departing, your agency would have no reason to either offer or approve a buyout for you.

Tags: , , ,

VSIP and VERA

Bookmark and Share

Q. I am eligible to retire October 2014 under FERS at age 56 (my minimum retirement age). Are you allowed to take both the Voluntary Early Retirement Authority and Voluntary Separation Incentive Pay? If not, which would be smarter to take?

Read the rest of this entry »

Tags: , , , ,

Eligibility for benefits

Bookmark and Share

Q. I am 64 with 9.5 years under FERS, but it was split up after 4.7, then a few years later I returned and now have 4.8 years. Could I retire on an immediate retirement and be able to take my Federal Employees Health Benefits along with me? I know if there was an early-out/buyout offer, I could. I was given a service computation date of Feb. 4, 2004.

A. You could retire on an immediate annuity because you are at least age 62 and have at least five years of service. And you could carry your FEHB coverage into retirement if you were enrolled in the program for the five consecutive years before you retire. That break in service doesn’t matter if you were enrolled in the program when you left government and immediately re-enrolled when you returned, and the total of those two enrollment periods equals a minimum of five years.

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Age 62 or 61?

Bookmark and Share

Q. I am FERS-covered and eligible to retire this year with 20 years but at age 61. Can I separate (or resign) first at age 61 this year and postpone the start of my annuity to 2014, when I am 62 to get the higher 1.1 annuity (instead of 1.0 at 61)?

A. No, you can’t. The only FERS retirees who are eligible to get the higher multiplier are those who retire on an immediate annuity at age 62 or later with at least 20 years of service.

Tags: , , , , ,

Early retirement eligibility

Bookmark and Share

Q. I am 56 years old with 22 years of service in the Defense Department. Am I eligible to retire early?

A. You have the age and service needed for early retirement. However, you can only retire if your agency offers you an opportunity to do so.

Tags: , ,

Early retirement eligibility and NAF time

Bookmark and Share

Q. I am 54 and have 24 years with the federal government. I will hit my 25-year mark in November, when I also turn 55. If early-outs are offered, will I be eligible to retire being that I won’t hit 25 years until after October? Also, prior to working for the federal government, I worked for five years with nonappropriated funds. I was originally told by human resources that those years would count toward my service computation. This year, I requested a retirement estimate from HR, and they say those five years don’t count. Is this correct?

A. If you were offered the opportunity to retire early, you could do that now. Any employee who is at least age 50 and has at least 20 years of service can do that.

I have no idea whether your NAF service is creditable. So many windows of opportunity have opened and closed that it depends on when your service was performed. Only your agency (and the Office of Personnel Management) can answer that question.

Tags: , , , , ,

VSIP and re-employment

Bookmark and Share

Q. I worked for the federal government for over 28 years. I retired last year under Voluntary Separation Incentive Pay provisions June 30, 2012.

I am considering re-employing/reinstating. Am I eligible to return to work on July 1, one year after retiring? Can I repay the VSIP in cash or in payments?

I read once that you can make payments for up to 36 months upon re-employment but am not sure whether this is correct. I understand the VSIP must be paid back before I return to work.

Upon re-employing with the government, will I be able to contribute to FERS and the Thrift Savings Plan?

I noticed on the USAJobs website that some Navy notices state you can’t contribute to the retirement or TSP if your a re-employing annuitant. Yet others I read from other government agencies remain silent on this issue.

A. Reg: You can return to work for the government at any time after you accept a VSIP. However, if you accept employment for compensation with the government of the U.S. within five years of the date of the separation on which the VSIP is based, including work under a personal services contract or other direct contract, you must repay the entire amount of the VSIP to the agency that paid it before your first day of re-employment.

Both things you read about re-employment are true. As a rule, your salary would be offset by the amount of your annuity and you would be able to contribute to the retirement fund. If you worked for a full year, you’d receive a supplemental annuity; if you worked for five years, you’d receive a redetermined annuity. On the other hand, there are certain limited authorities that would allow you to return to work and receive both your full annuity and the full salary of your new position. However, you would not be permitted to contribute to the retirement fund and, when you retired again, you wouldn’t be eligible for any additional retirement benefits.

Mike: From published Office of Personnel Management materials: “If a re-employed annuitant is performing service covered by FERS or CSRS (i.e., the appointment is made pursuant to 5 U.S.C. § 8468 or § 8344(a), respectively), the re-employed annuitant is eligible to participate in the TSP.

Agency contributions for a FERS re-employed annuitant must begin with the effective date of the reappointment to the FERS position as discussed in Section VI (A) of this bulletin. The re-employed annuitant may make contribution elections as discussed in Section III of this bulletin.

If a re-employed annuitant is not performing covered service (e.g., a FERS annuitant who is re-employed on an intermittent basis or an annuitant authorized to receive full salary and full annuity under P.L. 101-509 or the National Defense Authorization Act of 2004), the re-employed annuitant is not eligible to participate in the TSP.

Generally, re-employed annuitants are performing covered service. In most cases, if the annuitant indicator on the Standard Form (SF)-50, Nature of Action, is coded “1,” “4,” or “5,” the re-employed annuitant is eligible to participate in the TSP. In the case of a FERS re-employed annuitant, this will be reflected in the retirement code (which indicates FERS) because the annuitant is required to have FERS deductions taken from pay.

In the case of a CSRS re-employed annuitant, however, this may not be reflected in the retirement code because the annuitant may not be required to have CSRS retirement deductions taken from pay. Consequently, the retirement code of a CSRS re-employed annuitant may be “4” (i.e., none), though the annuitant is performing service covered by CSRS and is therefore eligible to participate in the TSP.”

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

Retirement eligibility

Bookmark and Share

Q. I am 52 years old and have 22 years of federal employment. Can I retire? If so, how soon can I receive monthly payments, and how much would they be reduced by?  How would this affect my Social Security benefits later? Also, how would this affect my medical insurance?

A. Unless you are a special category employee, such as a law enforcement officer or a firefighter, you don’t meet the age and service requirements to retire.

For FERS employees, these are: age 62 with five years of service, 60 with 20, at your minimum retirement age (MRA) with 30, and at your MRA+10, but with a 5 percent-per-year age penalty for every year you are under age 62. Your MRA is 56.

There is an option. Because you have at least 20 years of service, you could resign and apply for a deferred annuity at age 60. After 31 days of free health benefits coverage, you’d be able to continue it for up to 18 months under the temporary continuation of coverage provision of law. However, you’d have to pay the entire premium plus 2 percent.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Deferred retirement eligibility

Bookmark and Share

Q. I have 26 years of federal service under FERS. I am 51 years old.  I would like to leave federal government.  Am I eligible to apply for a deferred retirement? If so, how is my penalty calculated?

A. Because you have at least 20 years of service, you could resign and apply for a deferred retirement at age 60. Your annuity would be calculated using the standard formula: 0.01 x your high-3 x your years and full months of service. Your high-3 would be determined by your highest three consecutive years of average salary on the day you left.

Tags: , , , , ,

Social Security eligibility

Bookmark and Share

Q. I am 67 years old, employed as a federal civil servant with 35 years of service this year.  Can I collect Social Security benefits? What effect will that have on my retirement? I was under CSRS until FERS came into existence. I switched to FERS, believing I would not stay in civil service and wanted to pay Social Security taxes. It worked out that I did stay in the government, so I should have a portion of CSRS (about eight years) and the rest under FERS when I retire.

A. Because you have reached full Social Security retirement age, you can continue working and receive a Social Security benefit. However, that benefit will be affected by the windfall elimination provision. The WEP reduces the Social Security benefit of anyone who receives an annuity — in whole or part — from a retirement system, such as CSRS, where he didn’t pay Social Security taxes and has fewer than 30 years of substantial earnings under Social Security.

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Retirement eligibility

Bookmark and Share

Q. I plan on retiring in 1½ years. I will be 56 and have 23 years federal service. I bought back my three years of military time, but I understand that I will not be able to use that unless I do 30 years. I am FERS and was born in 1958, so my minimum retirement age is 56. Will I be able to retire at 56 with 23 years of federal service?

A. You could retire under the MRA+10 provision. However, your annuity would be reduced by 5 percent for every year (5/12 percent per month) that you were under age 62. To avoid the age penalty, you could retire and postpone the receipt of your annuity to a later date. Note: Regardless of when you retire, you will receive credit for those years of active-duty service for which you made a deposit in determining your length of service and in your annuity computation.

Tags: , , , , , ,

VSIP eligibility

Bookmark and Share

Q. With 20 years of federal civilian employment at age 50, would I be eligible for Voluntary Separation Incentive Pay if it’s offered? I am under FERS.

A. Yes, because anyone who is offered a VSIP can accept it, whether or not he is eligible to retire. In your case, you have the years and service to both accept the payment and retire.

Tags: , , , ,

Retirement application

Bookmark and Share

Q. I am an Air Force retiree who has 13 years as a federal employee. I am eligible for MRA+10 on March 24. If I apply to retire, how long does it take to process my application for approval or what is the earliest date I can actually resign? I am considering a private sector job and they want to start in 30-45 days.

A. When you fill out the Standard Form 3107, Application for Immediate Retirement, you’ll put the date you are retiring in Section B2. It doesn’t matter how long it takes to process your application, that’s your last day of employment. I suggest that you inform your management well in advance and give your personnel office time to review the 3107 to make sure that everything is in order. Note: Since you’ll be retiring under the MRA+10 provision, you have the option of accepting an immediate annuity, which will be reduced by 5 percent for every year you are under age 62, or postponing the receipt of your annuity to a later date to reduce or eliminate the age penalty.

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Buyout eligibility

Bookmark and Share

Q. If I decided to retire this year and submitted my retirement paperwork already… If my agency came along later and offered a buyout, would I be eligible for that buyout?

A. Highly unlikely, since the purpose of a buyout is to encourage people to leave or retire who wouldn’t do so without a financial incentive. However, the decision is up to your agency. And their decision is final.

Tags: , ,

VSIP eligibility

Bookmark and Share

Q. My position was not listed as eligible under the last Voluntary Separation Incentive Pay round offered by the Department of Energy. I was told that, before another round of VSIP can be offered, the department must request or renew its buyout authority. How and when is this done? Where can I find a description of the process that departments must go through to request buyout authority and how eligibility lists are determined?

A. For basic information and legal and regulatory background, go to www.opm.gov/hcaaf_resource_center/assets/Tal_tool9.pdf. To learn how your agency establishes eligibility lists, you’ll have to check with your own personnel office.

Tags: , ,

Annual leave and retirement date

Bookmark and Share

Q. I work for a Veterans Affairs hospital under CSRS Offset. I was employed at the Postal Service from 1980 to 2001. I was reinstated at VA in 2008. I work Monday to Friday, 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. I am a GS-5. I have 178 hours of annual leave and 1,027 hours of sick leave. My service computation date is Feb. 12, 1987.

I am eligible to retire on my 60th birthday, which is March 28. I have planned a European vacation from March 21 to April 9. I want to take annual leave March 21-29. I have annual leave approved by my supervisor for March 21-31. (I used March 31 on my annual leave slip to coincide with my retirement date.)

The local human resources department is telling me that I must be physically at work on March 29 to use a retirement date of March 31, to clear the facility, that to be in an annual leave status on your retirement date is a violation of the terminal leave law at VA. Is this correct?

Can you please help me provide a reference that I am eligible to retire March 31 without being physically at work? They are saying the soonest I can retire is April 10 because that would be the soonest day that I could physically be at the facility after I am eligible to retire, due to being out of the country.

If I must be at work on my retirement date, could you suggest the least expensive date to retire?

A. Because the Office of Personnel Management’s leave regulations don’t address this one way or another, it’s been left to agencies to establish their own rules when it comes to granting requests for annual leave and determining whether an employee must be present on the day he or she retires or separates. Even then, there are exceptions — for example, if the retiring employee is too ill to come to work or when an activity is closed because of weather conditions.

Some agencies have more restrictive rules than others, probably a result of their response to earlier Comptroller General decisions that prohibited people from burning off their leave before retiring or separating (The Government Accountability Office calls this terminal leave). If your agency has such a rule governing the period before separation or a last-day rule, it should be in writing. Ask to see it.

Tags: , , , , , , ,