Ask The Experts: Retirement

By Reg Jones

Mandatory retirement and further federal employment

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Q. I am a federal firefighter under FERS. I have 25 years in position and will reach mandatory retirement age in 4.5 years. I want to stay with the federal program where I work. Is it legal for me to retire from the fire service and move to another government position here at the base where I am employed? If so, where is this in print, or under what regulation? I know in years past this was not allowed unless you came back as a contract employee.

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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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Transferring to noncovered position after 20 years

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Q. I’m 54 with more than 20 years in a FERS 6c law enforcement officer covered position and am considering a transfer to a noncovered position as a Department of Defense civilian. This will allow me to continue federal service beyond the age 57 mandatory retirement for LEOs. Can I expect the transfer between agencies to be smooth? Are there any transfer pitfalls I should be aware of? Will an agency transfer adversely affect my LEO retirement?

A. While there is no guarantee, there’s also no reason to think your transfer to another agency wouldn’t be smooth. Because you already have 20 years of covered service under your belt, transferring to a noncovered position will not affect your entitlement to have those 20 years calculated using the more generous formula for law enforcement officers when you finally retire.

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Covered vs. noncovered LEO

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Q. I am a covered law enforcement officer (6c), and I am thinking about taking a promotion to a noncovered position that has a promotion potential to GS-14. I have six years in the 6c covered position and four years in a noncovered position in another agency, plus I bought back my military time (four years). If I were to jump ship, work the noncovered position for a few years, with the intention of coming back to a covered position, would I still be able to retire with special coverage as long as I have 20 years total in a covered position?

A. Yes.

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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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Selling back travel comp time

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Q. I have heard that, upon retiring, there is a 24-hour limit on selling back credit hours, and one could accumulate about 448 hours of unused annual leave, if done exquisitely; and that religious comp time may not be sold back. What about travel comp time? May that be sold back? Is there a cap?

A. Compensatory time off for travel is forfeited:

* If not used by the end of the 26th pay period after the pay period during which it was earned;

* Upon voluntary transfer to another agency;

* Upon movement to a noncovered position; or

* Upon separation from the federal government.

Under no circumstances may an employee receive payment for unused compensatory time off for travel.

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6c retirement

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Q. I will have 20 years of 6c covered service at age 43.  If I accepted a noncovered law enforcement position at that time and worked until I was 50, could I collect right away, or would I have to wait until I reach my minimum retirement age?

A. You’d have to wait until you reach your MRA.

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Credit toward law enforcement retirement

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Q: I will have been in federal law enforcement for 25 years as of April 2011. I will be 46 years old at that point. In my first 15 years of service, I was in a covered law enforcement position. The next two years, I was in a law enforcement position that was not covered. In last seven years, I again have been in a covered position. Will I be eligible to retire in 2011 at the age of 46, or do I have to add the two years I was in the uncovered position onto the 25 years?

A: Any period of service when you weren’t in a covered position won’t count when determining your eligibility to retire under the special provision for law enforcement officers. You need to have 20 years of covered service to retire at age 50 or 25 years of covered service to retire at any age.

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