Ask The Experts: Retirement

By Reg Jones

Job overseas and high-3 calculation

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Q. I am an FERS GS with four years until I get my 20 under 6(c) law enforcement officer and a year and half after that until mandatory retirement. I have been offered a 6(c) job overseas — how is the high-3 calculated? Is it on the base level GS schedule (plus LEAP) I actually earn, or is it based on a modified amount of what I would have earned in DC — which is how the overseas postings on Foreign Service retirement seems to work? I am pretty sure all the COLA, post allowances and danger pays don’t calculate in either total.

If it is the lower amount basic GS schedule, my high-3 would instead be these last three years — but I was mobilized to military duty for the first of those. How is that year I was on LWOP-US calculated into the total?

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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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Mandatory retirement

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Q. Since I am forced to retire this year from the Bureau of Prisons at age 57, do I have to fill out the retirement paperwork, or is it automatic in my case? When will I be notified that I can no longer report to work? Will it be from the Office of Personnel Management or my institution?

A. Yes, you have to fill out the paperwork. If you look at a copy of the Standard Form 3107, Application for Immediate Retirement, you’ll see why. Among other things, there are decisions on it that only you can make. Further, your agency personnel and finance offices need to review and certify your case before sending it to OPM. Finally, OPM won’t process your case and put you on the annuity roll without it.

It’s up to your agency to notify you that you will be separated. By law, that separation will occur no later than the last day of the month in which you turn 57.

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Mandatory retirement

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Q. I am facing mandatory retirement from a covered law enforcement position after 25 years. I would like to take a noncovered position in a different job series that’s nonlaw enforcement. Can I collect my full retirement? How would my retirement be affected?

A. You could either retire and begin working in another position or transfer to another position and continue working. In the first case, the salary of your new position would, in most cases, be offset by the amount of your law enforcement officer annuity. In the second, you would continue to be a salaried employee. You could retire from that position at any time and begin receiving your LEO annuity. Depending on how long you worked, you might be entitled to a supplemental annuity or a redetermined annuity.

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LEO retirement

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Q. I am a GS-1811 law enforcement officer in FERS who is scheduled for mandatory retirement in December 2013. If I retire then or, say, retire before 62 (in the event I get another federal position), is there an earnings test on the Social Security supplement payable to me before I reach 62?

A. If you retire before your minimum retirement age (not age 62), you’ll be able to earn as much as you want without it affecting your special retirement supplement. However, as soon as you reach your MRA, the earnings test will apply. MRAs range between 55 and 57 depending on your year of birth. In 2012, the earnings limit is $14,640.

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Firefighter annuity

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Q. I am a federal firefighter GS-12 and am facing mandatory retirement in 15 months. I have been offered another job on base that is not in the 0081 category but is still a GS-12. I could work past 57 in this position, but will I lose my 1.7 percent annuity for my first 20 years if I accept this position? I have 26 years and am only getting 1 percent per year now.

A. Your 1.7 percent annuity multiplier for 20 years of firefighter service is locked in. No matter what kind of job you take, it won’t have any effect on that.

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Mandatory retirement

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Q. I worked 20 years and two months in a covered firefighter position. I then worked two years in a non-covered position.  I have returned to a secondary covered position.  Do I face mandatory retirement?  Or does my break in service allow me to work past 57?  Where would I find the answer in the federal regulations or is this decided by case history.

A. Yes, you will face mandatory retirement. Go to www.opm.gov/retire/pubs/handbook/C046.pdf and scroll down to Section 46A3.3-2B1, which applies to both CSRS and FERS LEOs and firefighters. Note: That section hasn’t been updated to show that the mandatory retirement age for firefighters is now 57.

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Air traffic controller mandatory retirement

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Q. I am an air traffic controller subject to mandatory retirement at age 56. I am under FERS. When I reach age 56, I will not have 20 years of service. Can I continue as a controller until I reach my 20 years of service even though I will be past age 56?

A. Yes.

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Forced retirement and special retirement supplement

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Q. I am a federal air traffic controller facing forced retirement at age 56. There is a Social Security “bridge” supplement to cover the  gap between 56 and the age when I can draw full Social Security. Is any portion of my retirement subject to earning restrictions?

A. Yes. Your special retirement supplement will be reduced or suspended if you earn more from wages or self-employment in a calendar year than the annual Social Security earnings limit. In 2012, that limit is $14,640.

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Leave and special retirement supplement

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Q. I started in a 6(c) covered position on April 30, 1986. I will be mandatorily retired July 29, 2016. That will give me 30 years and three months of service. I hope to also have one year and three months sick leave to give me 31.5 years total. Will the sick leave time count toward my years on my supplement (31.5 / 40 = 78.75 percent of Social Security estimate)?

A. No. Your special retirement supplement will be based solely on your years and full months of actual FERS service.

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Mandatory retirement

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Q. I am currently in a CSRS “covered” special agent law enforcement position with the Department of Homeland Security and will turn 57 this month, thereby being mandatorily retired April 30. I have not received any written notification from DHS management of my pending mandatory retirement.  If I understand 5 USC 8425(b) correctly, isn’t my employing agency required to serve me with written notification at least 60 days prior to April 30? Also, aren’t I permitted under this law to remain at work “until the last day of the month in which the 60-day notice expires”?

A. Yes. According to OPM, “Once the date of mandatory separation is determined for a law enforcement office or firefighter, the employing agency must notify the employee in writing of the date of separation at least 60 days in advance of the date. Action to separate the employee is not effective, without the consent of the employee, until the last day of the month in which the 60-day notice expires.”

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Offset and rehire

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Q. I am, a 1811 employee who will be 57. I face mandatory to retirement  in 2012, with 23 years of service under FERS. Two questions:

1) Regarding the supplement from OPM, is there a earnings test/limit associated with the benefit? Or can I make more then the $14,000 without any reduction to the supplement?
2) Regarding  returning to federal service, law enforcement or non-law enforcement position, is that possible and what is the process to prevent a reduction in my pay/annuity? Is there a special term/classification I need to address in the application process?

A. First, because you will have reached your minimum retirement age when you retire, you will be subject to the Social Security earnings limit. Any earnings you have from wages or self-employment that exceed that limit ($14,160 in 2011) will cause your special retirement supplement to be reduced or suspended. Second, if you return to work for the federal government, there isn’t any “process” that will prevent the offset of your salary by the amount of your annuity. However, under existing laws, agencies have limited flexibilities to waive that requirement. As you shop around for another job, you’ll have to ask if you’d qualify for such an exemption.

 

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Unemployment after mandatory retirement?

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Q: I work in the area of law enforcement with the Bureau of Prisons. We have a mandatory requirement to retire at age 57. We are forced out without any rights to stay. My question is: Are we eligible for unemployment compensation benefits because we no longer have a job? Even though we are able to work and it is not our decision to leave. If so, how long are we allowed to claim unemployment benefits?

A: While it’s unlikely that you’d qualify for unemployment compensation, such determinations are made by the state in which you reside. Once you have been separated from your government job, you should go to the nearest public employment and claims office of your state’s employment security agency and register for work and claim unemployment benefits.

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Transferring to a non-LEO position

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Q: I am a federal law enforcement employee with 20 years covered by the Federal Employees Retirement System FERS plus five years worth of military buyback time. I have six more years before I will face mandatory retirement at my 57th birthday. I want to transfer to a non-LEO position with another federal agency so I can keep working. Please confirm that if I do transfer to a non-LEO position with another federal agency that I can keep working past 57 and not face mandatory retirement, and that my 20 years of FERS LEO service will transfer over at the 1.7 percent per year retirement rate as a part of my overall pension. Neither the Office of Personnel Management nor my human resources office have confirmed this for me.

A: If you transfer to a noncovered position, you can continue working as long as you want. When you retire, your 20 years of covered service will be computed using the special, enhanced formula. The rest of your service will be calculated using the standard multiplier of 0.01 percent, unless you retire at age 62 or later. In that case, those years would be multiplied by 0.011 percent.

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Law enforcement retirement

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Q: I was told that in October, regulations on the maximum age for law enforcement pay were changed to read that if you are over 37 years old with a DD 214, you may apply for law enforcement jobs (prison guard, fedearal marshal, etc.). Is this correct information?

A: No, it isn’t. However, Section 1086 of Public Law 111-84 did increase the maximum age limit for an original law enforcement or firefighter appointment to 47 for anyone receiving retired or retainer pay for military service or premium or compensation from the Veterans Affairs Department instead of retired or retainer pay. Anyone appointed under this provision still will be subject to mandatory retirement at age 57; however, he may retire at that age with 10 years of covered service.

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