Ask The Experts: Retirement

By Reg Jones

Eligible for SRS after voluntary early retirement?

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Q: I was recently offered voluntary early retirement from the U.S. Postal Service. I have 30 1/2 years of credible service, I am under the Federal Employees Retirement System, and I am 51 years old. I am also considered a reduction-in-force employee because our district office has been closed. Do I qualify for the special retirement supplement?

A: You would be eligible for the special retirement supplement when you reach your minimum retirement age, which is 56.

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Disability retirement and nonfederal re-employment

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Q: I receive federal disability retirement from the U.S. Postal Service after 27 1/2 years of service. My disability was approved for anxiety and severe depression. During my postal career, I was a city letter carrier. I have an opportunity to take a job as a medical courier. Do you think this job will jeopardize my continuing to receive disability? The two jobs are a bit similar in nature, however the stress level of the new job would be far less. I do not want to jeopardize my disability in any way. There is no way I could ever return to the stress of the Postal Service with my mental conditions.

A: If you are under age 60 and accept a nonfederal position, your disability annuity would only be discontinued if your income from wages or self-employment was 80 percent or more of the current rate of base pay for the position you held when you went on disability retirement. If you accept a federal job, your salary will be reduced by by the amount of your disability annuity and will also be subject to the 80 percent limitation.

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Retroactive buyouts for USPS retirees

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Q: According to the American Postal Workers Union, the grievance to give postal employees who took early out in 2008 and 2009 severance pay is now 15 months old. Is this going to happen? I voluntarily left, moved over for the next person, then in October 2009, they came out with the $15,000 buyout. I feel that postal employees who retired early really got the shaft.

A: No one who accepts an offer to retire early is eligible for severance pay. On the other hand, what you may be asking is whether the U.S. Postal Service is going to give a buyout payment to those employees who weren’t offered one when they retired in 2008 and 2009. To the best of my knowledge, there is no basis in law for them to do that.

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USPS and disability retirement

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Q: My husband has been working for the U.S. Postal Service for 26 years. He is 53 years old. He is entitled to Federal Employees Retirement System benefits at age 56, but he wants to retire now due to health issues. Can he do that?

A: The only way he could retire before reaching his minimum retirement age would be if he was approved for disability retirement. To find out if he is eligible, he’d have to file for disability retirement and, at the same time, file for Social Security disability benefits. His personnel office can help him do that.

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Post office survivor annuity

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Q: My husband passed away Jan. 25, 2009, and I’m receiving his Social Security benefits, as well as benefits from the U.S. Postal Service. If I remarry, will I lose the benefits from the USPS? I know I will still collect his Social Security.

A: Unless you were to remarry before age 55, your survivor annuity wouldn’t be affected. If you did remarry before age 55, that annuity would be suspended. It could only be restarted is the marriage were ended by annulment, divorce or the death of the new spouse.

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Taxing disability benefits

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Q: I am need to clarify whether disability retirement becomes nontaxable once a person reaches retirement age. I cannot get a clear answer from the Office of Personnel Management or the Internal Revenue Service. I have gone over IRS Publications 721 and 525. My father left the Post Office on disability in 1972. He is now 78 years old, and I am trying to file his tax returns. He is not eligible for Social Security.

A: There isn’t a tax break for a federal disability retiree unless he is totally disabled for all gainful employment. The retiree’s age has no bearing on that. Because OPM only determines whether an employee is no longer able to provide useful and efficient service in his current job or one at like grade and pay, and he isn’t eligible for a Social Security disability benefit, the Internal Revenue Service is the only agency that can make a determination on taxable disability income. You need to talk to an IRS representative in your area to find out how do that.

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MRA+10 and the special retirement supplement

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Q: I have been working at the U.S. Postal Service for 26 years. I am 58 years old, and I will retire very shortly. I know that I cannot collect the special retirement supplement under these conditions, but will I start to receive the supplement when I turn 60? Or does retiring under the Minimum Retirement Age +10 provision require me to forfeit the SRS totally?

A: No one who retires under the MRA+10 provision is eligible to receive the special retirement supplement. That’s the law.

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Military time and retirement

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Q: I was retired medically from the Army with less than 20 years of service. My health improved enough for me to work at the U.S. Postal Service. I was then called back to active duty to complete my 20 years of service, serving an additional three years and eight months. I returned to the USPS in 2005. I retired from the Army with a military pension and Veterans Affairs Department disability of 50 percent. Can I still receive my military pension and VA disability and buy back only those years I returned to active duty to get credit for those years for federal retirement?

A: Because you are receiving military retired pay based on an active-duty career in the armed forces, your only option would be to make a deposit for all your periods of active duty service and, at retirement, waive your military retired pay.

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USPS and disability

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Q: I’m a U.S. Postal Service employee. For more than two years, I’ve been on periodic roll with the Labor Department. My physician’s report was disputed, and the Labor Department sent me to its physician. Eventually there was a referee physician picked by the Labor Department. The referee physician determined that I was unable to work until I had knee joint replacement.

I’ve had five knee surgeries, four of them job-related, and at this time will not have the surgery. My question is, is it possible to be put on permanent periodic roll by the Labor Department, or do I have to apply for disability? I live in New Jersey and would like to relocate out of state, and I fear that the Labor Department will try to employ me after I move.

A: Only your agency can tell you whether you could be put on a permanent periodic roll. As for disability retirement, you’d need to work with your agency to determine if you are eligible to apply for that benefit. For starters, your agency would need to certify that you are unable to perform the duties of your current position or any other position for which you are qualified at the same grade or pay in your commuting area.

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FERS credit for part-time hours

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Q: I started working for the Postal Service in January of 1995 as a PTF clerk. Now I am a full-time employee. Under the Federal Employees Retirement System, how do my part-time hours get counted for retirement time? Over 14 years, I have between 12,000 and 13,000 hours.

A: Go to to Office of Personnel Management’s chapter on the computation for part-time employees and scroll down to Subchapter 55B, Part 55B2.

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