Ask The Experts: Retirement

By Reg Jones

Furloughs vs. buyouts

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Q. Can someone explain why furloughing workers would be the first step to save money? I would think  buyouts would be first. There are thousands of CSRS employees just waiting for a buyout; why aren’t they being offered?

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Retirement options

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Q. I am so totally lost in all of this early retirement and buyouts and furloughs. I have 33 years of service with the government and am 55 years old under CSRS. Not sure which to apply for or wait until our office gives us reduction-in-force notices if our office is going to reorganize, restructure. Would I be eligible for early buyout with full benefits come May?

A. You really are lost! However, everything should be clearer when I tell you that you can retire anytime you want to. That’s because you have the age (55) and service (at least 30 years) needed to do that. As a result, you can keep working, retire now, wait until your agency offers you a buyout, or wait until you receive a RIF notice. The world is your oyster. Enjoy it.

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Special retirement supplement

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Q. I work for Customs and Border Protection. I am 59 years and eight months old with 20 years and three months of service. If I retire ASAP, can I receive the special retirement supplement? Any information for early buyouts for us? It would make more sense to give us early buyouts and not furlough the front-line officers.

A. If you are a law enforcement officer, you can retire at any time. If you aren’t, you can only retire under the MRA+10 provision unless you are offered an early retirement opportunity by your agency. If one is offered, you’ll learn about it before we do. As for the special retirement supplement, you’d be eligible to receive it as a retired law enforcement officer or as someone who retires under the Voluntary Early Retirement Authority. If you retire under the MRA+10 provision, you won’t.

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VERA eligibility

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Q. I am a federal agent with the Department of Homeland Security. I have 18 years on and am 47 years old. If the furlough goes into effect, and they offer early-outs, is there a way for me to take it? Will I lose a huge chunk of my retirement? Will the deferred annuity work for me? I have a couple of prospects for private-sector employment with great benefit packages. I just would like to know is it worth staying the last two years.

A. You don’t meet the age and service requirements for early retirement: age 50 with 20 years or at any age with 25. Your options are to stay until you are eligible for the enhanced law enforcement officer retirement benefit or leave and apply for a deferred retirement when you reach age 62, which would be computed using the standard annuity formula.

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Working during furlough

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Q. What are the rules/regulations for working while in a nonpay status, such as a furlough?

A. There isn’t any impediment to your working while on furlough. Once when I was furloughed for two weeks, I found a job at another agency.


Furlough and creditable service

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Q. If a person is furloughed, does time in furlough status count toward retirement? For instance, in the current iteration, the proposal is furlough people for 30 days. I reach 20 years on Aug. 19. If I am furloughed for 30 days, will that move the 20 years mark back 30 days, too?

A. No, it won’t. To affect your service credit, the furlough would have to exceed six months in a calendar year.

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Agency furlough

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Q: My small government agency lost almost 25 percent of its budget for FY11, and for FY12 it will be cut an additional 25 percent. From now until Sept. 30, they plan on reorganizing, offering VSIP and VERA, cutting back on all contractors and reduce contracts, etc. After all of this, they project that they will be $500,000 to $600,000 short for this year, and they are looking at furloughing everyone for one day each pay period for the last five pay periods of the fiscal year (total five furlough days). My question is, does an agency have the discretion to implement agency-only furloughs? I thought that RIF actions were used to eliminate this possibility?

A: Yes, an agency can furlough any or all of its employees when it doesn’t have the funds needed to pay their salaries. For a complete guide to furloughs, go to


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