Ask The Experts: Retirement

By Reg Jones

Special retirement supplement extension

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Q. I retired from the Postal Service on July 1, 2011, under FERS and am receiving a FERS annuity supplement of $746 per month. I also was awarded Social Security disability in April 2011, with payments starting in November 2011. Can I still receive an annuity supplement when I am 62?

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Leave, USPS and retirement benefits

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Q. A Postal Service employee had to use all his sick and annual leave because of illness. He used leave without pay. When he retired, he was not entitled to benefits. He received only his contributions. Why did he get back only his funds and not the complete package because of LWOP? Read the rest of this entry »

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Personnel records

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Q. I worked as an on-call substitute clerk carrier at the Kenilworth substation at 6270 Kenilworth Ave., Riverdale, MD 20737 from June 1965 to April 1967. How can I document for my retirement?

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Creditable service

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Q. I am 43 years old with 20 years of federal service: nine years as Border Patrol agent and 11 as an 1811 (Postal Inspector). Will my Border Patrol time count as out at any age with 25 years?

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Survivor annuity

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Q. My father who lives in Puerto Rico, is retired from the Postal Service, and is 64 years old. He told me that if he passes, I’m listed to get his pension which would be $1,200 a month, what he gets now. He is not married, and I’m curious if it’s that simple. Am I eligible? Will I get that much? For how long? I am 34.

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Deferred annuity

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Q. I am a Postal Service employee under FERS, I am over 55 years old and have about 26½ years of service. If I left USPS to work somewhere else in the private sector, would I be able to collect my annuity payments from USPS every month, or would I have to wait until I retire completely to start collecting?

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Disability compensation and annuity

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Q. I’m a 100 percent disabled veteran, effective April 2008, with war-incurred injuries.

In 2010, I applied for disability retirement while working for the Postal Service with 14 years of service and did not buy back my military time.

The Office of Personnel Management calculated my high-3 on my postal salary alone. Should they not have calculated my Veterans Affairs Department compensation income from 2008, since it was a war-incurred injury that led me to retire? Is there a statue that protects vets who have war-incurred injuries? And does OPM allow special compensation for this matter?

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Catch-62

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Q. I was told I am included in the catch 62 provision. I served four years in the Air Force from 1974 to 1978 and began Postal Service employment in 1979 (to present). I’d like to retire this year. I also have 2,282 hours of sick leave, and my service computation begins in 1975.

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Age limit for life insurance?

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Q. When I retire from the Postal Service (under FERS), can I continue paying for life insurance for my husband and me when we are over the age of 80 or 90? Or does the Office of Personnel Management not allow me to continue paying for life insurance when I reach a certain age?

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Reduced hours and high-3

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Q. I am a full-time Postal Service employee covered under CSRS. I have more than 30 years of service (active Postal Service + military buyback). I am still too young to retire, and will probably work another seven to 10 years. Recently, I changed to a nontraditional full-time position (NTFT) of 35 hours per week. Can you tell me how this reduction in weekly hours will effect the calculation of my high-3 in regards to my retirement? How far out from my retirement date would I need to change back to a full-time (40 hours per week) position to regain any benefit lost by the reduced hourly position?

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Re-employed annuitant

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Q. I am 55 years old and took an early retirement offer with an incentive from the Postal Service in August of last year. I had 26 years of full service. I am considering an opportunity to become re-employed part time with the U.S. Forest Service as a GS4 information receptionist at the local visitor center. This is a seasonal position lasting six months a year. How will this affect my Thrift Savings Plan withdrawals and my special retirement supplement when I turn 56? I retired as an EAS-18 postmaster.

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Buyout eligibility

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Q. I’m retiring at the end of this month. If there were to be an announcement of a buyout before 5 p.m. of my last day, would I qualify? I’m 62 with 29 years in the Postal Service.

A. Highly unlikely because the purpose of a buyout is to encourage employees to leave who wouldn’t do so without a financial incentive. Since you have already made the decision to retire and are on the verge of departing, your agency would have no reason to either offer or approve a buyout for you.

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12 questions on VERA

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Q. I am a letter carrier, age 52, started in 1985 and have 28 years of creditable service.

If I understand what I’ve gleaned from the posts here and the Postal Service were to offer me a Voluntary Early Retirement Authority this year,

1.  Would I begin my annuity immediately?

2.  Would I have no reductions in calculations of my annuity? (average high-3 x 1 percent x 28)

3.  Would I receive credit for half of my sick leave and all of my annual leave? (How are these applied?)

4.  Would I receive the special retirement supplement beginning at age 56 (my minimum retirement age), and receive it until I reach age 62?

5. Would I be able to continue carrying my current health and life insurance at non-USPS rates? (I couldn’t find how long these could be carried. Until death?)

6.  Could I begin receiving Social Security as early as age 62?

7. Any withdrawal from my Thrift Savings Plan prior to age 59½ would be penalized 10 percent as per Internal Revenue Service regulations? (Can I continue to contribute to TSP after retirement?)

8. As a FERS annuitant, is there no limit to what I can earn after separation from the Postal Service as it pertains to my annuity payment?

9. At age 56 (my MRA), the special retirement supplement from Social Security would begin and would be subject to yearly income limits. Would supplement payments be reduced by approximately $1 for every $2 I earned above that year’s Social Security income limit?

10. At age 65, I’d be eligible for Medicare parts A and B? (Would this affect my health insurance coverage through Federal Employees Health Benefits?)

11.  Would there be cost-of-living increases at any point for my annuity?

12.  Is there a date during the year that maximizes the benefits of retirement?

Did I get this right, and are there any other things I should know before considering a VERA if it is offered?

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Social Security disability and special retirement supplement

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Q. I took the Voluntary Early Retirement Authority on July 31. I am receiving the special retirement supplement. I have since applied for Social Security disability. If I am approved for SSDI, will I lose the supplement even though I did not file for Postal Service disability? And will I have to pay back the supplement for the months I receive back pay from Social Security? And will I need to notify the Office of Personnel Management that I am receiving Social Security disability?

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CSRS Offset

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Q. I’m looking to retire sometime this year. I turn 66 on April 2, have 13 years at the Veterans Affairs Department, from which I withdrew funds. I worked in the private sector until 1995, when I started working for the Postal Service. I am under CSRS Offset, and I have essentially bought back my four years in the military. So the total years at the Postal Service would be 18 years + 4 years military = 22 years. Can you explain to me how the offset will apply to me? Will I be able to receive Social Security?

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Federal retirement or Social Security eligibility

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Q. I worked for the Postal Service from March 1986 until August 1999.

Will I be eligible for Social Security or a pension for that time? Will I need to contact human resources in the state in which I resigned?

A. If you left your FERS contributions in the retirement fund when you left, you’d be eligible for an annuity at age 62. If you took a refund, you wouldn’t. Because you’ve earned at least 40 credits under Social Security, you’ll be eligible for a Social Security benefit at age 62.

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Early retirement, penalty, SRS and TSP

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Q. I have 27½ years in the Postal Service and I am 52½ years of age. If an early-out comes in the next few months, will I get a penalty for leaving? Do I get my special retirement supplement, or do I have to wait for that? Also, do I get to take my Thrift Savings Plan now, or do I wait for that?

A. Reg: If you were offered an opportunity to retire early, you have the age and service needed to accept it. If you did, you wouldn’t be subject to the age penalty and you’d be entitled to the special retirement supplement when you reach your minimum retirement age, which is 56.

Mike: The early-out has no effect on the Internal Revenue Service early withdrawal penalty. You will be subject to the penalty until you reach age 59½ unless you qualify for one of the exceptions listed on Page 7 of this notice: https://www.tsp.gov/PDF/formspubs/tsp-536.pdf

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‘Death benefit’ vs. ‘life insurance’

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Q. My mother is a Postal Service retiree residing in a nursing home. She had to use up all of her own assets to pay the nursing home until she qualified for Medicaid. Now, she has nothing left. I’ve been told that as a retired postal worker, when her time comes, there is a Postal Service “death benefit” that will pay out to her beneficiaries and that Medicaid cannot take that money from her estate because it is technically a “death benefit” as opposed to “life insurance.” Is this true?

A. I’ve never heard of such a death benefit and don’t believe there is one. That leaves only two possibilities. First, your mother has a Federal Employees’ Group Life Insurance policy that, at her death, would be paid to whomever she designated on a Standard Form 2808 (CSRS) or 3102 (FERS). If she didn’t make such a designation, the money would be paid out according to the standard order of precedence. Second, if all of the money she contributed to the retirement system had not been returned to her in her annuity payments when she dies, any residual amount would be paid out according to the standard order of precedence.

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RIF and special retirement supplement

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Q. I am a FERS employee, age 59, and have over 28 years in the Postal Service. Our facility is going through an accelerated transfer of function to a facility more than 100 miles away. If they cannot offer me a position in my same craft and I am given a notice to separate voluntarily or involuntarily, can I retire and receive an unreduced annuity and the special retirement supplement until age 62? If I retire, should I elect a discontinued service retirement or optional retirement since this is an organizational change involving reduction in force, transfer of function. Could I also receive separation pay?

A. Yes, you can retire on an annuity that wouldn’t be subject to an age penalty and entitled to the special retirement supplement. Since you would be eligible for either an optional or discontinued service retirement, you can decide which you prefer. If you elect optional retirement and later return to work for the federal government, the salary of your new position would be offset by the amount of your annuity. If you elect a DSR, your annuity would be terminated, and you would once more be a regular employee.

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Annuity

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Q. I spent 22 years with the Postal Service and quit in 2010 to take another career. I was under FERS. Do I get a pension from the Postal Service, or is that what the Thrift Savings Plan is? And can I collect it at 55?

A. Reg: If you didn’t take a refund of your retirement contributions when you left, you can apply to the Office of Personnel Management for a deferred annuity at age 60.

Mike: If you left FERS service before the calendar year in which you reach age 55, you will be subject to the early withdrawal penalty rules.

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