Ask The Experts: Retirement

By Reg Jones

Pre-MRA retirement annuity, and where sick leave goes

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Q. I am 51 and was born in 1961. I work in FERS. My MRA, I believe, is 56. I have 28 years in federal service. Will I get an annuity if I retire now before my MRA? If I do get an annuity, how big a reduction will it be from the pension I would get if I retired at 56?

Also, I have seven months of sick leave. Do I lose it all when I retire, or does it get applied as service credit?

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Service computation date and FERS retirement

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Q. I am contemplating retirement with a separation date of Jan. 6, 2014. Under FERS, my creditable service for retirement (on Jan. 6, 2014) will be 29 years and two months (service computation date of Oct. 24 1984). My creditable service for RIF and leave (on Jan. 6, 2014) will be 31 years and seven months (service computation date of June 20, 1982). The estimate I have indicates the MRA+10 provision, reducing my annuity by approximately 35 percent (5 percent each year under 62; I will be 57 in January). From an eligibility standpoint, which would be the correct creditable service date to use? I understand the annuity formula (1 percent x high 3, etc); if I have at least 30 years of service and have reached MRA, why such a huge penalty when the annuity is already based on the years I was able to contribute to the annuity portion of FERS?

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FERS retirement options

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Q. I have some vague idea that some benefits are linked to completing 10 years of federal service, but I can’t find details or facts.

I’m under FERS, have a service computation date of 2004, have worked full time since 2007 and worked TERM appointment 2004-2007.

I thought I would last until 2014. However my elder parent and young grandchild could both use my service and time, and thus I am considering leaving before my 2014 date and working from home in a nonfederal job.

How would that affect my benefits — just resigning before 10 years? I’m only 55 and won’t be submitting for retirement benefits until 63 or later.

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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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Retirement and rehiring under FERS

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Q. I am a 51-year-old Defense Department employee with 13 years of continuous service under FERS and am considering relocating out-of-state and working in the private sector. Since my MRA is 56, I am not eligible for the optional (voluntary) retirement or MRA+10. My plan is to apply for a deferred annuity and leave my FERS retirement untouched after separation to avoid benefit reductions. However, I plan on returning to federal service.

Having recently attended the FERS midcareer retirement planning workshop, I am aware of the pros and cons of each retirement option.

More specifically, under MRA+10, FEHB and FEGLI are terminated upon separation and can be reinstated when the postponed annuity begins; however, under the deferred retirement option, FEHB and FEGLI are not reinstated.

My questions are: 1. If I return to federal service at age 56, is there a minimum duration I need to work before I can retire under the MRA+10 option? 2. Once I return to federal service, will my contribution to FERS remain at 0.8 percent? (I realize employee contributions to FERS may be increased based on recent proposals in D.C.) 3. Is there any other scenario where, upon returning to federal service, I would not simply be picking up where I left off?

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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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MRA and special retirement supplement

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Q. I have a question about MRA+10 retirement. I am a FERS employee, age 58 with 26 years of service. Can I retire now on an unreduced annuity and also collect the special retirement supplement until I reach age 62? Or do I have to deduct 5 percent for each year I am under the age of 62? Or is the 5 percent deducted from age 60 because I have at least 25 years in? In any case, the ability to collect the supplement would be key for me.

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Military buyback

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Q. I am a retired soldier with 21 years of service being paid my retirement. I am also a GS FERS employee with 13 years of service. I am 56 and would like to retire in about two years. I have asked for my calculation to see if I should buy back my service time. I assume that if I buy back my time, my military retirement stops immediately. I used your calculator to check my FERS retirement and believe I got the right number for just the 13 years. If I retire under the MRA+10 provision, will I basically get my current military retirement pay plus the 13 years of civil service calculations together, or do you use a different formula? I also assume even if I buy time back, I will retain my military benefits. Should I immediately buy back the time or wait until I’m closer to retiring?

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FEHB coverage after retirement before age 59

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Q. Will I still be able to keep my FEHB coverage at the employee rate with 20 years of service under FERS if I leave federal service at age 59? Do I have to wait until age 62 to get my full annuity with 20 years of service under FERS ?

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Annuity after retiring at MRA+10

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Q. I worked for the Department of Defense as a civilian physician for 16 years and then transferred to the Veterans Health Administration. I understand physician comparability allowance is part of basic pay for retirement for VHA. So, if I worked for the VHA for two years and then retired because I am at minimum retirement age plus 10, how would my annuity be calculated?

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Military service and buyback

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Q. I am a traditional guardsman and am considering federal employment.

Does any of my inactive duty or mobilized time count toward retirement or leave accrual? I’m 43. What is the minimum number of years I would need to work to qualify for a pension, even deferred? Whom can I contact for more information?

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Three annuities

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Q. I retired from the military with full retirement in 1995. I think I understand that I cannot buy back any military time without forfeiting retirement pay when I retire from my federal job with the post office. Since the money comes out of my pocket, I have a hard time understanding this. However, I will have 20 years of service with the post office in 2017, when I am 56. If I take retirement, then why will I have a MRA+10 reduction till age 62 if I can retire fully at 60 with 20? Why would it be 30 percent instead of only 20 percent? Also, with the military pension and postal retirement, if Social Security is still around, how will this affect my annuity? Will I be able to pull all three full annuities? Read the rest of this entry »

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Retirement before 60

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Q. I would like to retire at between 56 and 58 with deferment until I reach age 60 and can draw my reserve retirement.

I am a gray area reservist with 20 creditable years of total service. This includes four years and two months of active duty that I bought back after I accepted a FERS position. I have been with FERS for 20 years, including buyback. Will I still be able to draw both retirements since my military retirement is a reserve retirement? In 2017, I will have 25 years, and I would like to retire no later than 2018 at 58.

How will my annuity be calculated? Do I have to retire at 60 to receive both retirements?

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FERS, postponed annuity and special retirement supplement

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Q. I’m a FERS employee considering retiring under the MRA+10 provision. I’m 59 with 20 years of service. If I postpone the start of my annuity until I reach 60, I know there won’t be any reduction in my annuity. Will I also be eligible for the special retirement supplement if I postpone my annuity?

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Early retirement’s effects on pension

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Q. I am a 55-year-old city mail carrier with 18-plus years of service. How much of a reduction from my full retirement funds would result if I retired at 57 with 20 years of service?

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MRA+10, annuity and FEHB

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Q. I am a 43-year-old attorney considering leaving federal service for the private sector. I have 9½ years of service, have been enrolled in FEHB for that entire time and am deciding whether any benefit would vest or accrue to me if I stay 10 full years rather than leaving a few months short of that. My human resources specialist says that if I have 10 years of service when I resign, then I would be eligible to apply for an early retirement annuity at age 57 (MRA+10, I think) and re-enroll in FEHB at that age. Is he correct? My primary concern is not the early annuity option but whether I would be eligible to re-enroll in FEHB upon retirement.

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RIF, special retirement supplement and penalty

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Q. If I retire at 59 years and five months with 28+ years of service, under a reduction in force, would I qualify for the special retirement supplement and only be penalized until I reach 60?

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FERS postponed retirement

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Q. I am planning on taking a FERS MRA+10 postponed retirement in 2016, when I will be 56 and have 25 years of federal experience.

a) What is the earliest age I can receive unreduced benefits? Can I start at 60 since I will have more than 20 years of federal service? b) Will any unused sick leave be credited toward my years and months of service at that point? c) How do I start receiving benefits when I am ready?

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FERS, military retired pay and special retirement supplement

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Q. I have completed 20 years in the Navy Reserve. I have been working as a GS for five years now and am 48. I am crediting my active-duty time to my GS service. It should total around seven years.

1) At age 56 (I was born in 1964), I will have 20 years of service (including the seven years of active duty I purchased). Can I begin my annuity then for the FERS retirement with no penalties?

2) At age 59, I can begin drawing my Navy Reserve retirement due to time served in a war zone. Are there any problems drawing the FERS retirement and my Navy Reserve retirement at the same time? Is that authorized?

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MRA+10, health benefits and annuity postponement

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Q. I am eligible for the MRA+10 provision of FERS. However, I want to continue federal health benefits immediately in retirement and postpone payment of the annuity so I can avoid the reduction in the annuity payment. Can I do this?

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