Ask The Experts: Retirement

By Reg Jones

Military service and leave accrual

Bookmark and Share

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?

Read the rest of this entry »

Tags: , ,

CSRS, Social Security and military service

Bookmark and Share

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.

Read the rest of this entry »

Tags: , , , , , ,

Leave without pay and creditable service

Bookmark and Share

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?

Read the rest of this entry »

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

Medicare coverage for pre-1983 federal retiree

Bookmark and Share

Q. My father retired from the federal government in 1976. For whatever reason, he does not have Medicare Part A. My mother recently suffered a stroke, and because my dad did not have Medicare Part A, rehab at a nursing facility will not be covered. Apparently federal workers did not pay into the Social Security system back then and therefore have had to pay separately for Part A. It took hours of calls to SSA, OPM and Medicare to unravel this bureaucratic mess! BCBS (federal) is his secondary insurance and would not pay because Medicare A is primary.

(BCBS was no help — we tried to get a special benefit created for her, which they could have done, but it was denied.) My dad will be 93 soon, so I do not know how many of these retirees are still alive and were in similar situations and did not know nursing rehab would not be covered.

I wonder if at some time Medicare Part A did not cover nursing rehab and since BCBS is primary for inpatient hospital care, he was advised not to sign on for Part A, which also covers inpatient hospital care.

It is a sad situation for the last of his generation of federal retirees.

Read the rest of this entry »

Tags: , , , ,

Service academy attendance and leave accrual credit

Bookmark and Share

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?

Read the rest of this entry »

Tags: , , , ,

Special retirement supplement

Bookmark and Share

Q. I took a job last year. After reporting my earnings to OPM this year, I will not be receiving a FERS Social Security supplement in the future.

What happens to the money? Do I simply lose the funds? Does this increase my future Social Security payments?

Read the rest of this entry »

Tags: , , ,

Postal Service retirement, employment and Social Security

Bookmark and Share

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?

Read the rest of this entry »

Tags: , , , ,

FERS, military service and civilian status

Bookmark and Share

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.

Read the rest of this entry »

Tags: , , , ,

Military leave without pay and retirement

Bookmark and Share

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?

Read the rest of this entry »

Tags: , , ,

Pension for working at VA hospital

Bookmark and Share

Q. I worked for the VA hospital in San Francisco for six years as a registered nurse from 1991 to 1997.

I was vested, but how do I find out if I have a pension and how and when I may be able to collect it if I am eligible?

Read the rest of this entry »

Tags: , ,

Pension after four years of Post Office work

Bookmark and Share

Q. I worked for the U.S. Post Office for around two years in the late 1960s, enlisted in the Air Force and served for four years, and returned to work at the Post Office for around two years in the early 1970s after being honorably discharged. Am I entitled to a pension or benefit? If so, how do I apply for them?

Read the rest of this entry »

Tags: , , ,

Military personnel records and service computation date

Bookmark and Share

Q. I am concerned about the calculation of my service computation date in two directions.

I was on active duty for about 5½ years and got off active duty in 1971.

That time is easily documented. I later joined the Army Reserve in 1979. After that, I had some periods of active duty, including one about four months long. I didn’t keep documentation. Then in 1981, I entered civil service. I gave them my orders for some of the active-duty time, and they adjusted my SCD to include it.

Many years later, the agency I worked for changed policies for those of us who took military leave. They said orders were no longer good enough; they wanted pay statements too. That made me worry that I might come to the end of my time with civil service and have OPM suddenly demand pay records for my active-duty service between 1979 and 1981. I don’t have pay records. I can’t figure out where to get them.

There is an Army pay center that kept records, and it sent me all of my records. However, it only kept the payments from the Reserve time that don’t count toward the SCD. The active-duty payments came from whatever pay center was near where the active duty was done.

But I can’t find those records. How can I find them? Should I even worry about them? Then, above and beyond that, I have figured out that I shorted myself about three weeks of active-duty time. I don’t even know what the days were, but I can tell by my consolidated Army Retirement Points Accounting System record that I did more active duty between 1979 and 1981 than I got credit for in my SCD. That is really no big deal.

I’m happy to spot the government those days. I’m mostly worried about the bigger chunk of time.

Read the rest of this entry »

Tags: , ,

Federal law enforcement officer working past age 60

Bookmark and Share

Q. Can an 1811 who doesn’t have 20 years and is 60 or older continue to be employed as an 1811 without the president’s approval? I have noticed plenty of 1811 employees were hired in their second law enforcement career when they were 47 to 50. Some of the 1811s will not have 20 years of covered service until they are 67 to 70. The bulk of these employees are former United States Secret Service employees previously covered under the Washington Plan and are receiving their full retirement benefits since they worked for that agency for 20 years.

Read the rest of this entry »

Tags: ,

FERS retirement and disability

Bookmark and Share

Q. I retired in June 2010 at 56 with more than 30 years’ service. I receive a regular FERS retirement, not disability.

But I do have a disability — an above-the-knee amputation.

If I apply for and receive Social Security Disability Insurance, how will my FERS retirement be affected?

Read the rest of this entry »

Tags: , , , ,

CSRS survivor benefit and FEHB coverage

Bookmark and Share

Q. I am a CSRS employee. I understand that to continue my wife under my Federal Employee Health Benefits, I must elect a survivor benefit of at least $1.

My medical insurance payments will, of course, be taken out of my monthly annuity. Will she be able to continue these payments at the same rate if I die before she does?

Read the rest of this entry »

Tags: , , , ,

Disability retirement, rehiring and rights restoration

Bookmark and Share

Q. I was injured on the job in 1998. I applied for OPM disability retirement and Office of Workers’ Compensation Programs. OPM was approved first. I took that. Later, OWCP was approved and I spent nine years on OWCP. After that ended, I went back to retirement. Later, I was rehired by the government as a disabled annuitant. Am I entitled to a restoration of rights (5 USC 8151) for that time spent on OWCP (this would add nine years to my federal record)? I now work for the VA but was injured at INS. Can I apply to have the tenure of nine years restored by either VA or INS, or have I lost that nine years on OWCP? I note 5 CFR 353 seems to suggest I should get those nine years back not on retirement.

I applied for re-employment at INS when I recovered, and officials there never responded.

Read the rest of this entry »

Tags: , , ,

Basic pay for retirement

Bookmark and Share

Q. As a WG/WL shift worker who change days off every four weeks and works Sunday premium days and all holidays, can I count on these extras in my retirement pot? I am almost certain that overtime and bonuses are not included. I have looked in 2012/2011 almanac for the answer. To me, the almanac is geared toward the GS side of the family. I am planning on retiring soon after 41 years. From what I can see, my high-3 is based on straight M-F day shift base pay.

Read the rest of this entry »

Tags: , , ,

Obama health care law and FEHB changes

Bookmark and Share

Q. I am a CSRS retiree. I retired in 2005. I am a subscriber to the Federal Employee Health Benefits program, specifically Blue Cross-Blue Shield’s Standard Option with family coverage. My wife and I are also qualified for Medicare Parts A and B. That makes Medicare the primary coverage and FEHB/BC-BS the secondary coverage for any health benefits paid.

1. What (if any) changes in the plan’s coverages are anticipated for 2014 and beyond, due to the health care law? 2. Does OPM anticipate that current retirees/program members will be forced into a health care provider’s coverage offered under the law? Starting in 2014, will federal retirees be forced into that law’s coverage rather than having the option to choose our own coverages under current program?

Read the rest of this entry »

Tags: , , , ,

Options after losing job-required license

Bookmark and Share

Q. I am a FERS employee, 54 years old with almost 30 years of service. My performance has been above average, and I am a good employee. I am a licensed (medical field) therapist, and unfortunately, I just got a third DUI, which calls for mandatory jail time and is a class 6 felony. With a class 6 felony, I will lose my medical license and, I am told, my job. I was told by human resources I should resign and then wait until I am 62 to collect a deferred retirement. However, I still need to pay my bills and need my health benefits. Can they make me resign? Or would it be better to let them fire me? Without my medical license, I would no longer qualify for my job — which is why they are telling me to resign (and they said it looks better on my record than being removed from service). Do I qualify for discontinued service retirement? Do you know what HR would have to provide me with if I do not choose to resign?

Read the rest of this entry »

Tags: , , , ,

FERS retirement contribution gap

Bookmark and Share

Q. I am under FERS. If the human resources office states that I did not pay into the retirement system from 1985 to 1986 and OPM says deductions were made into the retirement system, when the retirement package is submitted and if OPM was wrong in its initial determination, will I be afforded the opportunity to make that payment after the retirement package has been submitted?

Read the rest of this entry »

Tags: , ,