Ask The Experts: Retirement

By Reg Jones

Retirement at MRA with 30-plus years

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Q. I am 53 with 30-plus years of excepted civil service with the National Guard. I believe my MRA is 56. At age 56, can I voluntarily retire with no penalties? Could I voluntarily retire early?

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No break in service

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Q. I came into federal service in 1995 with the Air Force (civilian). In May 2012, I began a Schedule A excepted service temporary appointment to the Army to serve in Afghanistan. The Air Force put me on leave without pay, and I have return rights and will return to my old position and location when this one-year assignment is done. I want to ensure that there is no break in service or other problem when it comes time to retire. Is there anything that I should do now to ensure that things don’t get messed up at retirement time? I want my time with the Army in Afghanistan to be counted for retirement. Will there be a problem later if, at retirement, one agency shows me on leave without pay for 12 months, while another agency has me on an excepted service appointment for that time? I’m continuing to pay into FERS while with the Army.

A. Just make sure that the Standard Form 50 cut by the Army to bring you onboard makes it into your Official Personnel Folder, along with the SF-50 separating you from that position. Having them placed between the SF-50 putting you on LWOP and the one returning you to your former position, your employment record will be seamless.

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Forced retirement?

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Q. I am 62 years old with more than 10 years of service. I am on a Schedule A excepted service term appointment that is soon to expire. I came to this appointment from a competitive service, permanent position at the request of my agency, but the funds for the program are now, unexpectedly, about to run out.

I am told that I am not eligible for severance pay because I am eligible for an immediate FERS annuity (age 62 and five years of service), but I do not wish to voluntarily retire. Can my department make me retire without offering me another job first? If so, what’s that called and why? If I refuse to voluntarily retire, to preserve any right to complain, will I lose any FERS medical survivors benefits?

A. No, your agency can’t make you retire. However, they can separate you when they no longer have the money to support your position. Further, as a term employee, there is no requirement that you be offered another job. Because you are eligible to retire, you aren’t entitled to severance pay.

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Excepted service retirement

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Q. I have 27 years with the government. At 23 years, I took a job with excepted service and it was not explained to me that they never offer early retirements. Is there any possibility of getting a retirement under FERS with excepted service at less than the full retirement number of years and age?

A. You didn’t mention how old you are. If you have reached your minimum retirement age, you could retire under the MRA+10 provision. However, your annuity would be reduced by 5 percent for every year you were under age 60.

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Excepted service and RIF

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Q. I am 52 years old and have 12 years in a federal excepted service position. Due to my excepted service status, do I understand correctly that I have no bump or retreat rights in the event of a reduction in force? For what retirement benefits would I be eligible under these circumstances?

A. If you left your contributions in the retirement fund, you would be eligible for a deferred annuity at age 62.

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Service computation date and breaks in service

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Q. When I initially joined federal service overseas, my original service computation date was March 4, 1982. Due to two small breaks in service (coming back from overseas under excepted service to a temporary job and then the break from the end of the temporary job to gaining a permanent position), my SCD was adjusted to April 3, 1983. I have since paid back the monies for the breaks in service (with the OPM documentation to prove it), but don’t understand why my SCD has not reverted back to the original date of March 4, 1982. Why doesn’t the SCD change?

A. Your SCD couldn’t be the same as your original SCD because no service credit is given for breaks in service when you weren’t an employee of the federal government. On the other hand, if you have made a deposit to get credit for periods of service where retirement deductions weren’t taken from you pay, those should be reflected in your SCD. Since the deposit was made to OPM, they will have that information in their files; however, your agency may not. You’ll need to give copies of your deposit documentation to your personnel office so they can update your OPF and reset your SCD.

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