Ask The Experts: Retirement

By Reg Jones

Leave of absence, retirement and high-3

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Q. I’m going to be doing charity work for several months in 2014. I’m considering requesting a leave of absence for it (I understand such leaves are at the discretion of management). If I’m not granted the LOA and I resign, how will a few months (seven to eight total) affect my retirement? I plan to rejoin federal service after the charity event. I’ve consulted my local HR department and OPM, but I’ve received conflicting information.

If I’m granted the LOA, is my high-3 affected by such an absence? Then, assuming I’m not granted the LOA and I resign, can I rejoin federal service with the high-3 intact? Lastly, do I lose my high-3 if I withdraw funds from TSP just before the LOA or resignation? That is the big one for me — some people tell me if I touch my TSP, I lose my high-3.

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Federal retirement and re-employment

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Q. 1. I left the Fed in November 2011 with 22 years of creditable service (military time buyback included) and, as I am under my MRA of 56, would not be eligible for my retirement benefits without penalty until age 62, correct? 2. Can I work part time (consultant) on an agency’s payroll without affecting my current status, or would that part time add to my benefit? 3. Also, if I came back to the Fed and did three more years of full-time work before age 62, would that reinstate my health benefits?

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Federal re-employment and health benefits

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Q. My husband worked for a Veterans Affairs medical center for seven years, then left federal employment for eight years. He is 63 and receiving a deferred annuity. He may be returning to federal employment. When he returns, is there a certain amount of time he must be re-employed to be able to retire and carry his health benefits into retirement?

A. If your husband was re-employed, he’d be able to enroll in the FEHB program during the next open season. He would then have to be enrolled for five years to continue that coverage when he once again retired.

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TSP and re-employment

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Q. I have been working for the federal government for a little more than two years. I am planning on moving in the next few months. I have applied to federal jobs as well as private-sector jobs and have heard back from the private-sector jobs. I read that TSP is vested at three years and that employees are entitled to retirement benefits after five years. If I were to leave the federal system at this point, would I be able to return to the system in the future and restart, as it were, at my two-year mark?

A. Yes. If you left your retirement deductions in the fund, you could pick up where you left off. If you asked for a refund, you’d need to redeposit that amount, plus accrued interest, to reclaim that period of service.

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Undoing a military buyback

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Q: I was a federal employee for the better part of 1991-1997, during which time I made a deposit for a percentage of my base pay received during active-duty Army service that totaled $8,098.17. I then separated from civilian service and returned to active duty, where I remained until retirement in 2007. I am now a civilian employee again. I no longer intend to use my years of military service toward a civilian retirement. Is there any way I can have that deposit refunded, either now or when I retire as a civilian employee?

A: You could only receive a refund now if you separated from the government without being eligible to retire and were entitled to a refund of all your retirement contributions. On the other hand, if you choose not to waive your military retirement pay when you retire from your civilian job, you will receive a full refund of that deposit.

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Disability annuity and re-employment

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Q: I’m on Civil Service Retirement System disability retirement. Will my annuity be affected if I return to work for my local county government or the federal government?

A: If you were to be rehired by the federal government, the salary of your new position would be offset by the amount of your annuity. If the salary for that position was equal to or exceeded 80 percent of the current pay for the position you held before retiring on disability, your disability annuity would be suspended. If you went to work in a nonfederal position, there wouldn’t be any offset to your new salary; however, just as with federal re-employment, your disability annuity would be suspended if that salary exceeded the 80 percent limit.

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