Ask The Experts: Retirement

By Reg Jones

Tricare vs. FEHB

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Q. I am a new federal employee with Tricare Prime that I am paying for since I am retired military. Is there any advantage in taking Federal Employees Health Benefits. If so, what would it be? Second, can I only sign up for the Federal Flexible Spending Account Program to take care of my co-payments and additional dental cost if I don’t sign up for FEHB?

A. As to your first question, I have only anecdotal advice to give you. Some employees who are covered by Tricare have told me that they enrolled in the least expensive FEHB plan as a backup in case they lost their Tricare coverage or decided to leave the program. As to your second question, you don’t have to be enrolled in an FEHB plan to sign up for FSAFEDS.

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Unused flexible spending

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Q. I have about $1,500 in my flexible spending account. Typically, you have until March to use the funds. What happens in my case? Is the unused amount refunded to me on Jan. 1? Do I still have until March, or do I lose the unused amount?

Also, Dec. 31 is a Monday and New Year’s Day, a federal holiday, is Tuesday.  If the president gives federal employees all day off on Monday, will the Office of Personnel Management still count the 31st as my last day of work even though I will do all the paperwork in my agency on the Friday before (Dec. 28)?

A. 1. No, the unused money won’t be refunded to you.

2. Your final date of separation will be the one you state on your retirement application.

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Flex-spending balances and retirement

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Q: I am planning to retire next year and I am attempting to make my Flexible Spending Accounts open-season decision. I know that if I have money left in my FSA and do not have enough expenses before I retire, I lose that money. However, I don’t know what happens in the reverse situation: If I have received payments that exceed the amount that I have had deducted from my payroll, what happens? An example would be if I elected $2,500 for the year, had paid in $800 from payroll deductions but already had received $1,200 in claims when I retire. What happens with the difference?. What I get from FSAFEDS is that the government eats the difference. Is that correct ? Also, I assume even though I elected $2,500 for the year I am only responsible for what is deducted from the payroll before I retire. Correct?

A: Although I can find nothing that confirms your conclusion, I can’t find anything that says you are wrong. As far as I can tell, FSAFEDS will have to eat the loss. If anyone out there has a better answer, please let me know.

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