Ask The Experts: Retirement

By Reg Jones

FEHB re-enrollment

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Q. I was a federal employee for 26 years and, from 1987 onward, was under FERS. I left my last federal job in June 2009 at age 58, after having passed the minimum retirement age and having been enrolled in the Federal Employees Health Benefits plan over the entire 26 years of my federal employment. In June 2009, I said that I intended to take a postponed retirement, some time after I reached age 60. It is my understanding that my enrollment in FEHBP was suspended at the time I left my last federal employment, in June 2009.

I had health insurance coverage under temporary continuation of coverage, ending in December 2010.

I applied to the Office of Personnel Management for a postponed retirement on Dec. 28, 2011, by filing Form RI 92-19. OPM acknowledges having received my application in February 2012, and I have been in interim status since that time. I began receiving interim payments in March 2012.

In a phone conversation I had with OPM in February 2012, I was told that I would not be able to re-enroll in FEHBP until my retirement was finalized.

Another year has passed, and my retirement is still not finalized. I am still in interim status. Is it really impossible for me to re-enroll with FEHBP before my retirement is finalized? Does the word “annuity” apply to my interim pay? If so, it seems that I can re-enroll in FEHB now.

An article by Reg Jones on your website says, “…if you were enrolled in FEGLI or FEHBP for the five continuous years before you retired, you may re-enroll in them when your annuity begins.” This suggests that the statement made to me on the phone in February 2012 was incorrect. Could you please clarify this? If I am eligible to re-enroll in FEHBP, what procedure should I follow to re-enroll?

A. You could only have re-enrolled in the Federal Employees Health Benefits program if you retired and postponed the receipt of your annuity to a later date. You didn’t do that. Instead, you resigned from the government and later applied for a deferred annuity. Deferred annuitants cannot re-enroll in the FEHB program.

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Special retirement supplement

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Q. Do you receive your special retirement supplement in your first check after retirement? I am retiring with my minimum retirement age and 31 years of service?

A. No, you won’t receive the special retirement supplement until your annuity is finalized. Then you’ll receive a retroactive payment for the SRS you should have received and any additional annuity that you are owed for the time you were receiving interim pay.

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Interest on annuity underpayments

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Q. When a federal employee retires, his “interim payment” in lieu of the final determination, is 20-30 percent  less than it appears the final amount will be.  Also, the interim payment includes zero for the annuity supplement.  The supplement, when they finally start paying it, is hundreds of dollars. The above two reductions are deliberate, they go on for months, and they are a significant inconvenience, sometimes hardship, to the retiree. Currently, when the Office of Personnel Management  makes the final determination and “catches up” the underpayments, they do NOT include interest. Should OPM pay interest?  Isn’t there a federal law requiring them to pay interest?

A. I don’t know if they should pay interest.  What I do know is that they can’t. There is no provision in law that would allow them to do that.