Ask The Experts: Retirement

By Reg Jones

Active-duty military service and leave accrual

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Q. Does active-duty time for basic training, AIT and PLDC (now WLC or some such thing) count for leave accrual in a GS job with the USDA when it was done as a member of the National Guard? Is it generally done under title 32 or title 10? I assume my one-year deployment to Iraq also counts for leave accrual and for buyback purposes. I have no idea where the orders are for the three periods in question (yes, I could request copies), but they appear to be included in box 12d (total prior active service) of the dd214 from the deployment.

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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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Military service and leave accrual

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Q. I retired from the Army with less than 20 years (18). How does this affect my civilian leave accrual (4, 6 and 8 hours) level times/stages?

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CSRS, Social Security and military service

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Q. I just retired from the federal government Dec. 28 under CSRS at age 66. My service comp date is March 3, 1975. Now I am told I have only 31 years in federal service because they are not counting my six years on active duty with the Army. They say it’s because I’m eligible for a Social Security benefit, and I’m receiving one. I thought they went by the service computation date. If I am required to buy back my military time, of six years, to get a larger monthly annuity, can I still do that? How much will I have to pay to buy back the six years of military? Does it have to be paid all at once? The Social Security Administration representative said my Social Security benefit will be reduced because I’m a CSRS retiree.

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Leave without pay and creditable service

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Q. In 2011, I left my civil service job for 175 days to deploy to Afghanistan as an active-duty officer. While deployed, I used a day or two of annual or military leave every pay period to pay for my health care benefits. FERS payments also were made on the days I was on paid leave.

When I got back from my deployment, I was told I had to buy back the time, and I put in paperwork with DFAS to do so. However, I just read in my agency’s furlough FAQ that: The amount of a CSRS or FERS annuity paid by the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) is based primarily on the amount of creditable service an employee performs and the employee’s high-3 average salary.

Both CSRS and FERS allow service credit for up to 6 months of nonpay status in any calendar year. If a furlough period does not cause an employee to be in a nonpay status for more than 6 months in a calendar year, the furlough period will be included as creditable service in determining the employee’s total creditable service used in the annuity computation. If the total amount of time an employee spends in a nonpay status in a calendar year exceeds 6 months, the amount of nonpay status in excess of 6 months in the calendar year will not be creditable for retirement purposes.

Based upon this, it looks like as long as I was not in a nonpay status for six months that calendar year, I do not have to buy back that time for it to count toward my retirement. Am I correct in my interpretation of this? If so, is there a way to verify how many creditable years I have?

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Earliest retirement age

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Q. I am a dual-status federal technician age 43, with 14 years of federal service and 21 years of military service. I am trying to determine how early I could retire and receive an immediate annuity. There seems to be wording that age 50, with 20 years of federal service (which I would achieve in seven years), surpasses a threshold where this is possible, but additional wording is confusing (see below).

Does this mean I can voluntarily depart the military (and, thus the dual-status federal technician job) at that time, or do I need to be involuntarily separated to receive the immediate annuity? The law states: “(2) after becoming 50 years of age and completing 20 years of service as such a technician, is entitled to an annuity, if the separation is by reason of either separating from the Selected Reserve or ceasing to hold the military grade specified by the Secretary concerned for the position involved, and is not by removal for cause on charges of misconduct or delinquency.”

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Service academy attendance and leave accrual credit

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Q. I’m confused about receiving service academy credit toward leave accrual for retired military members. The personnel servicing agency has denied request for credit based on Title 5 and 38. Title 5 of US Code 6303 states, “An employee who is a retired member of a uniformed service as defined by section 3501 of this title is entitled to credit for active military service only if — (A) his retirement was based on disability — (i) resulting from injury or disease received in line of duty as a direct result of armed conflict; or (ii) caused by an instrumentality of war and incurred in line of duty during a period of war as defined by sections 101 and 1101 of title 38.” The US Air Force Academy time cannot be considered for people who retired from active duty.

It makes sense that the military time should not be double-counted toward government retirements except in exceptional situations. However, the service academy time is not creditable toward military retirement and should not be held to the standard set under Title 5 section 6303. Is the personnel servicing agency correct that the time is not creditable for leave accrual even though the service academy time is creditable toward retirement in FERS?

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Military buyback and reserve retirement

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Q. I served in the Air Force on active duty for nine years, from 1994 to 2003, and have continued to serve in the Air Force Reserve since separating from active duty. I plan to work at least 25 years in the Air Force (combined active duty and Reserve).

I have been a civilian federal employee since 2003.

I am 45. My minimum retirement age is 56 years and 6 months.

If I buy back my nine years of active-duty time toward a FERS retirement, will I lose anything from my eventual Reserve retirement? Will my nine years of active duty count toward both retirements?

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Employment and military retired pay

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Q. I retired as a CWO-3 (USMC) after serving 21 years. I am receiving retirement pay and received a 20 percent disability rating from the Veterans Affairs Department and get payments from VA. If I take a position with a federal agency, will I lose any of my military retirement?

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Postal Service retirement, employment and Social Security

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Q. I am planning to retire at age 60 from the Postal Service after 34 years.

I also have five years of military service, which I never paid back. I have 31 quarters in Social Security. If I decide to work after I’m 63 to get the 40 quarters, will it affect the amount of my CSRS retirement?

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DoD and VA benefits

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Q. I am a Navy Reserve 05 with 33 years of service, 12 of them active duty.

I was recalled to active duty and have completed eight years of active duty in direct OIF/OEF Presidential Recall. I turn 58 in November and have been accepted to a job at the VA. I could have retired in September and collected money, but I stayed on active duty.

Now that I am going to come off orders and work for the VA, how do I choose what to do with the joining of DoD and VA retirement? Can I retire from the Navy and collect retirement pay while working at the VA and collect VA benefits?

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Benefits for retiring at 65 with 29 years

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Q. I’m a FERS employee thinking of retiring at the end of 2014.

I’ll be 65, and with time served, military and sick leave (barring any lengthy illness between now and then), I’ll have 29 years, plus a couple of months. I know I’ll be losing some benefits from Social Security, leaving a year early, but what would the loss be from leaving before the 30-year mark?

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Military reserve service, civilian service and FERS

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Q. I am currently a GS-12 at U.S. Southern Command. I served 31 years in the Army National Guard, U.S. Army Reserve, and was called to active duty on and off for around 7½ years. I bought back most of this Army Reserve active-duty time, and the amount just showed up today in block 20 of my civilian leave and earnings statement (military deposit paid). This is the first time in my Army career where I see that a reservist has it over an active-duty soldier in that he doesn’t have to combine his retirement with a civilian retirement.

However, yesterday, the Army Benefits Center-Civilian called me at work and said it is shredding my FERS retirement packet! Months ago, when I began the military deposit process, I was told by two ABC-C retirement counselors that I could buy my years of active military service in the Reserve and add to my three-plus years of federal civilian service to qualify for a small FERS retirement annuity in that I’m older than 62 and would then have far more than five years of creditable service.

The counselor who shredded my packet told me there are a lot of “new people” at ABC-C and I was misinformed. So now, instead of retiring, I’m resigning very soon for a variety of reasons (one being that I’m one of three candidates selected for a GS-13 position in my “home state” but am on hold due to the hiring freeze).

What form do I fill out, and where do I mail it to reclaim my funds?

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FERS, military service and civilian status

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Q. 1. I am a FERS employee with seven years service with the VA (and three years bought back from active duty 1973-1976) totaling 10 years of federal government time. I started at the VA in Tampa on Feb. 21, 2006, at age 54. I was born on Feb. 6, 1952. Is my calculated retirement date Feb. 21, 2003? I had worked six months with the VA until the Army activated me from Aug. 29, 2006, to Aug. 28, 2007. I returned to the VA for six to seven months until March 30, 2008, when I was activated again with the Army for three years with no break in military service until I officially retired from Army Reserve on March 22, 2011. All of my active-duty time has been bought back while on military leave without pay; all SF-50s were coded correctly. I am now 61 and was looking to leave the federal government for a civilian job.

HR is telling me I do not qualify for MRA+10 because I have not worked a “total of five years with the VA in a ‘civilian’ status.” Is this correct? I thought that buying back the time counted toward retirement.

I am being told by HR that I need to wait until February 2015 to officially retire and begin drawing on my retirement. If I chose to leave the VA before then, I am being told that I would not be eligible for retirement pay but rather be paid a “lump sum payout or annuity”? Is this correct? What does the annuity look like? Is it only what I have contributed over the past seven years? Does it include what the federal government provides in the matching 5 percent?

2. How can I see what is in my retirement bucket? The VA does not have the EBIS system to keep eyes on retirement monies, etc.

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Military leave without pay and retirement

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Q. I was hired as federal civilian Feb. 21, 2006. I was called to active duty August 2006-2007.

I went back to my civilian job from August 2007 until the end of March 2008 and was then called back to active duty through March 2011. I returned to civilian service and have been there since the end of June 2011.

I want to retire under the optional five-year retirement. I was on military leave without pay during all my active duty and paid into FERS when I returned to federal service. Is my time on military LWOP creditable toward the five-year civilian service requirement?

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CSRS retirement and Social Security

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Q. I have been a federal employee with the Department of Veterans Affairs covered by CSRS since October 1977 and have four years of military service (I paid the military deposit in full). I am 75 and have started receiving Social Security. I will be retiring in about one year and eight months, having reached 41 years and 10 months years of service, including military service, hoping to have earned or reached the 80 percent retirement annuity. I am at the top level of my GS-12 grade step 10. What will my civil service and Social Security benefits be? Or, how I can estimate the figure?

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FERS, military service and disability

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Q. I’m 51 with 27 years of technician service in the Army National Guard and may be medically disqualified on the military side of the house. I’m wondering if this falls under the FERS discontinued service retirement formula or if it would be a FERS disability retirement and fall under the formula of 60 percent the first year and 40 percent after that.

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Military buyback deposit and FERS retirement refund

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Q. An employee is resigning with two years of service and has asked for a refund of his military deposit. Can a federal employee get a refund of his military deposit without taking a refund of his FERS retirement?

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Military buyback and retirement effect

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Q. I’ve been working for the Department of Veterans Affairs since February 1991 at GS 11. Before that, I was in the military from October 1981 to February 1988. I haven’t bought back my military time yet, but I am considering it. At what age would I be eligible for retirement with military time included versus without, and what would be the difference in earnings and benefits?

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6(c) coverage and retirement

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Q. I joined the Marine Corps in 1988, served until 1992 and bought back my deposit. I then worked under federal law enforcement — 6(c) coverage — until 2001, when I transferred to a non-6(c) covered position until 2004, with no break in service. I then immediately obtained a position under the 6(c) provisions with no breaks in service as a special agent and am still employed. I am 43 years old and will have 32 years of federal service at age 50.

At what age can I switch to a non-6(c) position and still retire with the law enforcement/firefighter retirement? Am I correct that I can switch to a non-6(c) covered position at 46 because I will have 20 years under the covered 6C provision and still retire at 50?

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