Ask The Experts: Retirement

By Reg Jones

Annuity calculation

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Q. I worked 22 years for the federal government, and five of those years were as a CBP officer with 6C coverage. I retired at age 62. My high-3 salary used to calculate my annuity was $88,115, which means that 17 years should be calculated using 1.1 percent and the other five using 1.7 percent. I have been calculating my numbers but they don’t match up with the $1,892 annuity I receive monthly. I wrote a letter to OPM asking for the formula they used, but I have not received an answer. According to my numbers, I should receive about $400 more each month. What can I do to receive a copy of the calculation used for my pension? Read the rest of this entry »

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Retirement age

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Q. I am a federal law enforcement officer. I am aware that I can retire at age 50 if I have 20 years experience in a primary law enforcement officer position. If I have 20-plus years primary law enforcement officer experience, but separate from the government at age 47 or 48, can I still receive benefits beginning at age 50?  Would I still be able to receive my pension, health benefits, etc., beginning upon my 50th birthday? Or am I required to work for the government up until my 50th birthday?

A. If you don’t wait until age 50 but instead resign, you’d be eligible for a deferred retirement at your minimum retirement age. MRAs range between 55 and 57, depending on your year of birth.

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Military and law enforcement service and retirement

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Q. I am a veteran with six years of active-duty service, and I am employed as a federal law enforcement official with seven years of service under FERS. I am considering leaving federal service. Am I eligible for any retirement benefits after age 62, or do I simply lose the 13 years that I have in military and civilian service?

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Law enforcement retirement as early as possible

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Q. I’m 44 with 16 years in a covered federal law enforcement position plus three military years (which I haven’t bought back yet). How soon can I retire? When I reach 20 years in service, I’ll be only 48, or do I have to wait to reach 50? Could I retire then, and if so, what would I be leaving on the table?

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Law enforcement employment and retirement

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Q. I am planning on retiring when I am 60. I will have 16.5 years of law enforcement employment (age waiver for entrance). I also have bought back 9¼ years’ active-duty time. Will I get the special rate of 1.7 percent for my law enforcement time and then 1 percent for the buyback time?

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Annuity computation

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Q. I am a legacy U.S. Customs officer. When we switched over to law enforcement officer status, we were told we would be grandfathered in and therefore our retirement computation would go like this: high-3 x 10 years x 1 percent plus high-3 x 6 years x 1.7 percent. Is that true? Someone said I would have to work 20 years in a law enforcement position to get the enhanced 1.7 percent computation. I thought that was for those hired under the 1.7 percent enhanced retirement.

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Law enforcement job, other jobs and retirement at 50

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Q. I am an 1811 criminal investigator with 21 years of covered law enforcement service. I am 48. Have I locked in my law enforcement retirement such that I can pursue another noncovered federal job while maintaining the option to retire when I turn 50?

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Formula for calculating LEO and non-LEO retirement benefits

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Q. I have 23 years of covered service under CSRS: 16 years are in a law enforcement officer covered position, and seven in a non-LEO covered position.

What is the formula for calculating my retirement benefit?

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Part-time service and law enforcement retirement

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Q. I am a GS-1811 employee with 32 years of service, 25 under law enforcement coverage. I worked 14 of the law enforcement years part time, four days a week. Will I still be required to retire at the end of the month in which I turn 57, or will my mandatory age retirement be extended by the amount of time I worked part time?

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Sick leave and creditable service

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Q. I am a CSRS Offset employee in a law enforcement position. I plan to retire Sept. 1 at the age of 50 with eligibility service credit of 23 years, nine months, and 12 days. I have over 650 hours of sick leave. My computation service credit is 30 years, 11 months, and nine days without including the 650 hours of sick leave. Does including the 650 hours of sick leave to my computation service credit provide me with any additional annuity? Also, will my annuity be based on my eligibility service credit or my computation service credit?

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Social Security reduction

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Q. I am a retired GS-1811 (federal law enforcement) CSRS retiree (2005) with 25 years civil service and 7 years military I bought back. I’m 59 now and when I reach 62 or older and want to collect Social Security, I know my CSRS retirement will be reduced, but by how much? I used SSA.gov/estimator and got the figures, but there was no place to enter the fact I have a federal retirement. Do the figures I received on SSA.gov/estimator already factor my federal law enforcement retirement?

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Waiver for mandatory retirement age?

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Q. Are there any situations and/or waivers that would allow someone under FERS to continue to work after reaching mandatory retirement age?

A. CSRS and FERS law enforcement officers and firefighters are subject to mandatory retirement at age 57 if they have 20 years of service. An agency head can retain an LEO until age 60 if he finds that the employee’s continued service is in the public interest. The FBI has limited authority to raise the age to 65. While a CSRS LEO can be retained above age 60, it may only do so with the Office of Personnel Management’s permission. A FERS LEO may only be retained with the permission of the president.

Air traffic controllers must be separated from the service on the last day of the month in which they become age 56. However, that requirement doesn’t apply to someone appointed as an ATC by the Department of Transportation before May 16, 1972, or by the Defense Department before Sept. 12, 1980.

Foreign service officers are mandatorily retired at age 65.

There isn’t any mandatory retirement age for regular CSRS and FERS employees.

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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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Law enforcement retirement confusion

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Q. I am 40 and entered law enforcement service at age 35 in a primary special agent position under FERS (retirement code M). I was selected as a supervisory special agent (ASAC) five months and some days shy of three years into my primary position. I was unaware until I had been selected and moved to the new position that I was no longer eligible for the special law enforcement 20-and-out retirement. I am still in the secondary position, but the question has been raised that at age 57 (I may now be ineligible for retirement per my employee relations office), I will be mandatorily separated. Since I am now in a secondary position and in FERS (retirement code K), does this no longer apply? I cannot find it in writing anywhere, and if it is in writing, I would like it so I can provide it if necessary.

A. You are either entitled to a law enforcement retirement or you aren’t.

If you are, you will be mandatorily separated at age 57 and have your annuity computed using the more generous formula. If you aren’t, then you can continue working as long as you want and have your annuity computed under the standard formula. Go back to your employee relations folks and ask them to show you, in writing, which scenario applies to you.

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Law enforcement time

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Q. I retired after 21 years in the Air Force as a Security Forces member. I recently started working for the federal government in a nonlaw enforcement position. Can my law enforcement time as a cop in the Air Force be used for the law enforcement retirement system?

A. No.

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Leaving federal service early

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Q. I am 51 years old and have 16 years of 6c time in federal law enforcement. I am also a veteran and bought back 11 years of active-duty time, bringing my total federal time to 27 years. I am considering leaving the government for a position with a private company. I want to make sure I understand what I would give up before I leave, and it is my understanding that my benefits would be based on a straight 1.0 percent per year vice 1.7 percent since I will not have completed 20 years of 6c time. I am not concerned about Social Security since I would be working anyway. Also, I will need to defer my benefits until age 60, with 26 years of service. I have also retired from the reserves, so I am not concerned about health insurance. So, by my estimates, I would be giving up 45 percent for 26 percent. Do I have this correct, or am I missing something?

A. Yes, you are correct. Note: If you had 27 years of service, you’d be giving up an annuity worth 41 percent (0.17 x your high-3 x 20 years of service = 34 percent) + 0.01 x your high-3 x 7 years of service = 7 percent) for one worth 27 percent (0.01 x your high-3 x 27 years of service = 27 percent).

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Retirement eligibility

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Q. I am 52 years old and have 22 years of federal employment. Can I retire? If so, how soon can I receive monthly payments, and how much would they be reduced by?  How would this affect my Social Security benefits later? Also, how would this affect my medical insurance?

A. Unless you are a special category employee, such as a law enforcement officer or a firefighter, you don’t meet the age and service requirements to retire.

For FERS employees, these are: age 62 with five years of service, 60 with 20, at your minimum retirement age (MRA) with 30, and at your MRA+10, but with a 5 percent-per-year age penalty for every year you are under age 62. Your MRA is 56.

There is an option. Because you have at least 20 years of service, you could resign and apply for a deferred annuity at age 60. After 31 days of free health benefits coverage, you’d be able to continue it for up to 18 months under the temporary continuation of coverage provision of law. However, you’d have to pay the entire premium plus 2 percent.

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Mandatory retirement

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Q. I will be forced to retire at age 57 in January 2014. I am no longer working in a prison, and I am working beside nonlaw enforcement employees who are doing the same job. There are many employees here that were hired after they reached 57 and they can work until they want to retire. With the economy being the way that it is, I do not want to retire at 57. It makes no sense for me to be forced to leave with 25 years of experience, and yet they are going to hire a replacement that will need training. Why would they want to pay me retirement and then have to pay someone to replace me? Why not just pay one salary? It does not make sense.

A. Whether you think it’s sensible or not, it’s the law.

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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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Mandatory retirement

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Q. I am a law enforcement officer with 25 years of FERS service as an 1811 and recently (Feb. 1) turned age 50. I am eligible to retire but have no plans or desire to. I will be forced to retire at age 57. Do I have to retire on Dec. 31, 2019, when I am still 56, or can I retire the year I turn 57, which would be Dec. 31, 2020? Also, I would like to know, now that I have the 25 years of 1811 service time in, can I switch job series, to intelligence officer or other (non-6C coverage) and work as long as I want? I have five kids and want to work until I am at least 62, if not 65.

A. You will be separated on the last day of the month in which you turn age 57. Since you have already met the minimum requirements for an enhanced law enforcement officer annuity (age 50 with 20 years of service), you could look for another job at any time. When you finally retired, any years of service above 20 would be computed using the standard formula.

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