Ask The Experts: Retirement

By Reg Jones

Unused annual leave

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Q. As a FERS letter carrier, if I retire and have 600 hours of unused annual leave, will I get a check for the 600 hours or is 440 the most I can get payed at retirement?

A. Because you are a postal service letter carrier, your lump-sum payment for unused annual leave is limited to 440 hours.

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Best date to retire

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Q. I have 24 years of service in federal law enforcement. Nov. 25 will make 25 years government service. I am 52 and will retire this year. I have heard and read the best dates for FERS to retire in 2014 are May 31, June 28, Nov. 29 and Dec. 28. I’ve read no matter which day in the month a FERS employee retires, the employee’s retirement becomes effective the first day of the following month. The first annuity check will then be dated the first day of the following month. If I retire on Oct. 18, the end of pay period 21, will I be minus 13 days of retirement pay, Oct. 19 through 31, when I receive my pension?

A. There is no one best date to retire. There are too many factors involved for that. However, as a FERS employee, you are mistaken if you think you can retire any time after the last day of a month and be on the annuity roll in the following month. If you retired on October 18, you wouldn’t be on the annuity roll until November, with your first annuity payment due on December 1.

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Buyback age limit

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Q. I am 65 and still working but at this time, I have not or did not buy back my military time, is there an age limit where I do not have to buy it back, or yes, if I want the extra money, I will have to buy it back?

A. There isn’t an age limit on when you may make a deposit to get credit for your active-duty service. The only requirement is that you make that deposit before you retire. Note: If you are a CSRS employee who doesn’t make a deposit, you’ll still get credit for the time in determining your eligibility to retire; it just won’t be used in the computation of your annuity. If you are a FERS employee, you won’t get any credit for it unless you make a deposit.

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VERA/VSIP

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Q. I am 53 years  and eight months old, I have 28 years and eight months civil service. I am in FERS. My agency is offering the VERA/VSIP. If I submit an application and I am accepted for either of these would this affect my Social Security supplement? My MRA is 56. Does the MRA change with the VERA/VSIP?

A. No, your MRA doesn’t change nor does the amount of the SRS you’re entitled to. They remain the same.

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Eligibility to receive benefits

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Q. I worked for the post office for 23 years under FERS and resigned at the age of 48 to work in the private sector. I am 53 and would like to know when I would be eligible to receive retirement benefits. Also, I worked for four years with the state government. Would those years count towards retirement?

A. If you didn’t receive a refund of your retirement contributions when you left, you’d be eligible for a deferred annuity at age 62. That annuity would be based solely on your years of FERS service.

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FERS or CSRS?

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Q. I’m under FERS, and my Service Computation Date is Nov. 26, 1983. A co-worker in my organization has an SCD of Nov. 7, 1983 and is under CSRS. What is the SCD cutoff date for FERS vs. CSRS? Read the rest of this entry »

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Disability retirement

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Q. I am a retired FERS employee — 59 years old, with 25 years of federal service. I retired two years ago under VERA VSIP. My employer (Defense Department) was reducing the workforce due to budget cuts and abolished my job.

I paid into Social Security for 42 years. I have some health issues and am considering applying for Social Security disability. My question is: Will Social Security disability retirement affect my FERS annuity? Read the rest of this entry »

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Early retirement

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Q. I’m a FERS postal carrier with 26 years of service. I am about to turn 49. What penalty will I face if I leave the post office at age 54 with 31 years of service? Read the rest of this entry »

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Credit for state service

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Q. I have been employed in New York and I’m under the NYS Employee Retirement System. Would any portion of my New York civil service time count as creditable service in the FERS system if I were to gain employment under the federal retirement system?

A. No, it would not.

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Military buyback

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Q. I am retired Army with 22 years and nine months being paid my monthly retirement check. I retired in May 2011. I started as a GS FERS employee in February 2013. I am in a target GS 12 position, which basically means that I will be a GS 12 in February 2017. I did the DFAS Payback estimator for military time and it stated that I would owe about $18,000. My monthly retirement check right now is about $2,200 a month. I know that I will have to waive that once I retire from civilian service in order to combine the civil service time and the military time. How much more in retirement would I get as a GS FERS employee, and is it worth the $18,000? I have heard that retirees don’t buy back their time because it is not worth it. I heard that this program is designed for the person who did any number of years but did not retire. Is that true? Do you know of retirees that buy back their time? Read the rest of this entry »

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Early out and offset waiver

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Q. I retired last year under FERS at age 56 with 28 years and seven months service. I took an early out. I would have had my full 30 years in January 2015. I applied as a rehired annuitant this month with the same agency and everything looked like I was going to be hired, but the manager called and said I didn’t qualify for the annuity offset waiver because I had taken an early out, and they were only allowed to hire those people who qualified for the waiver at this time. Is it true that if you take an early out, you do not qualify for the waiver?

A. Yes.

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FERS after resignation

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Q. I resigned from the federal government May 21 with a retirement SCD date of March 22, 1988, so I am vested in FERS. When I elect to apply for a refund of my FERS, do I get everything that I have in my FERS account or just the portion that I put in?

A. You’d get what you contributed to the retirement system, plus accrued interest.

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Retirement benefits

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Q. I worked for the federal government from May 1985 to February 2005 as a FERS employee. My remaining annual leave was paid out to me, and I had more than 700 hours of accumulated sick leave. I moved all of my TSP contributions into another fund several years ago. As I plan for retirement, are there any retirement benefits I can receive or can I receive payment for sick leave? I saw in your column: “If you are already off the rolls, you can apply for a refund up to 31 days before your 62nd birthday.” That is fast approaching, and I wonder if there is anything I can recoup. Read the rest of this entry »

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VSIP ramifications

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Q. I’m a retirement eligible FERS employee also eligible for the supplement when I retire. I’m thinking of retiring this Dec. 31 since I may be offered a VSIP to retire due to force restructuring. Will a VSIP payment count against the 15K something minimum
level of earnings?

A. No, it won’t. The limit applies only to earnings from wages or self employment.

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FERS supplement

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Q. I retired from federal service in February 2010 under the FERS Special system and my MRA is Febuary 2016. I understand that if I work after February 2016, my FERS supplement will be means tested against how much I am making in salary. If I work after my MRA, making 150K for only two years and therefore lose my supplement during that time frame, would the supplement restart after I worked those two years, and would the supplement stay at the same amount as when I retired in February 2010? Read the rest of this entry »

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FERS rate following transfer

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Q. I was hired at the Defense Department in October 2012, and thus I contributed .8 percent of my pay to FERS. I transferred to VA in April 2014 with no break in service and now have 3.1 percent of my pay deducted, and I am told that it is increasing to 4.4 percent of my pay, as this rate applies to new hires after January 2014. Is it correct that I should be treated as a new hire, despite in all other areas being treated as a transfer (leave carried forward, no ability to change benefits until open season)? I checked and my SF-50 reflects the correct service computation date from 2012. My HR representative has informed me that I will be in the 4.4 percent group when I questioned why I was already paying the 3.1 percent. Read the rest of this entry »

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CSRS offset to FERS

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Q. I’m an air traffic controller hired in 1985 under CSRS offset as a flight service controller and later converted to FERS with no explanation. I’m coming up on age 56, does the CSRS exemption for flight service specialists appointed prior to Jan. 1, 1987 apply? If not, which law explains the differences between CSRS and CSRS offset?

A. You were actually hired as CSRS Interim employee (CSRS and Social Security). Because you had fewer than five years of CSRS coverage on Jan. 1, 1987, you were automatically converted to FERS. Therefore, the exemption you referred to doesn’t apply.

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Military retired pay, FERS, VA disability

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Q. I retired from the military with a 40-percent VA disability. I am now a government employee under FERS. If I buy back my military time and then retire under FERS, will I still receive my VA disability payments and, if so, will the VA payments be deducted from my FERS retirement in the same way as they are deducted from my military retirement today?

A. While you would have to waive your military retired pay when you retire from your civilian position, you wouldn’t have to waive your VA disability payments. They would have no affect on your FERS annuity.

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FERS retirement

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Q. My USPS retirement eligibility date is Dec. 30 (56th birthday).  My annuity projection shows about a $10,000 difference if retiring Dec. 30 vs. April 15 next year, which would be exactly 30 years.  Is this  correct?

A. If you retired at your MRA but with fewer than 30 years of service, you’d be retiring under the MRA+10 provision, which would reduce your annuity by 5 percent for every year you were under age 62. To avoid that hit, you’ll need to wait until you have 30 years of service to retire.

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CSRS or FERS

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Q. I had 10 years of employment covered under CSRS, then resigned. I came back in 2007 under FERS. I also have two years, five months and 21 days military service. Would it be to my benefit to change to CSRS offset. I plan on retiring May 2015 when I will be 62 with 20 years of service.

A. You can’t change your coverage now. You are a FERS employee who will have a CSRS component in his annuity. If your active-duty service was performed before you first became a federal employee (or while you were covered by CSRS), you could make a deposit and get credit for that time in your CSRS component. If it was between the time you left and were covered by FERS (or while you were covered by FERS), it would apply to your FERS component.

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