Ask The Experts: Retirement

By Reg Jones

CSRS or FERS

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Q. I had 10 years of employment covered under CSRS, then resigned. I came back in 2007 under FERS. I also have two years, five months and 21 days military service. Would it be to my benefit to change to CSRS offset. I plan on retiring May 2015 when I will be 62 with 20 years of service.

A. You can’t change your coverage now. You are a FERS employee who will have a CSRS component in his annuity. If your active-duty service was performed before you first became a federal employee (or while you were covered by CSRS), you could make a deposit and get credit for that time in your CSRS component. If it was between the time you left and were covered by FERS (or while you were covered by FERS), it would apply to your FERS component.

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Health care premiums

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Q. My ex-husband is retiring from the post office and right now he covers our 21-year-old daughter on his insurance plan. Will he still be able to keep himself and her covered with the same cost he is paying now, or will the cost be higher? Read the rest of this entry »

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Adding husband to insurance

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Q. I work for the Federal Bureau of Prisons, and I will be mandatory in 2-1/2 years. I got married in December and my husband is covered by VA. If I add my husband to my health insurance during open season in 2014, will he be able to remain when I retire in January 2016? I’m wondering because he will not have been on my insurance for five years. Read the rest of this entry »

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Retirement under CSRS

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Q. I am a CSRS offset, full-time, Term (NTE April 2015) federal employee. I am also a formal federal employee (all permanent positions) with breaks in service. My service comp date is 1983 and I am 60 years old. Can I apply for retirement now as a Term employee? I have paid into CSRS in my previous and current position. Read the rest of this entry »

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Benefits for ex-spouse

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Q. My divorce decree doesn’t mention retirement. We made no claim for each other’s retirement nor did we waive any rights. It just wasn’t mentioned. Can my ex-spouse claim any of my FERS retirement benefits? If so, would it only be half of what I put in during our marriage? Read the rest of this entry »

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Deferred retirement

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Q. I am 50 and I have been in government for 27 years. I am going to apply for a deferred retirement at age 60 or 62.  I thought I read somewhere that the “high-3″ was consecutive. If I was a GS-13 and due to BRAC had to come back into the government at a much lower grade, could I still use my high-3 including grades 11-13 or am I required to use the last grade I held?

A. Yes. Your high-3 is the highest three consecutive years of average basic pay (78 pay periods), regardless of when they occur in your career.

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Deferred vs. postponed retirement

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Q. I am a FERS (non-LEO) employee and plan to leave government service at age 50 with 26 years of service. Do I elect to defer or postpone my retirement? At what age do I draw from my retirement; 56, 60 or 62? At what age would I qualify for life insurance to be included again? Read the rest of this entry »

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Sick leave

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Q. I have an estimate of 13 years, three months and eight days service credit. I have 43 hours of sick leave accrued. I’ll accrue 40 more by retirement. Would I be better off using them as needed for medical appointments as they will not add any time to service credit?

A. Assuming that your numbers are correct, those hours wouldn’t add up to the 174 needed to create an additional month and be used in your annuity computation.

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Civil service redeposit

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Q. My wife was told she could apply for a redeposit of service credit funds. The state agency she worked for has a program that let’s her file for retirement on funds she withdrew. This program will then take a portion of her monthly retirement to repay the withdrawn amount. I worked for the Defense Department civil service from 1977-1991 but withdrew all funds. Does the civil service retirement system have a similar program?

A. No, it doesn’t. You could only redeposit that money if you returned to work for the federal government.

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Retirement coverage

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Q. I plan to retire in approximately a year at age 55. I have been covered by my wife’s insurance and we thought that I could stop coverage with my wife in the next open enrollment and go on FEP, but they told me in my office that I had to have five years on FEP before I could have coverage upon retirement. Is this true? Why wasn’t this ever brought to my attention? Do I have any options? Read the rest of this entry »

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Re-employment after disability retirement

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Q. I was removed from my agency due to becoming “Medically Unqualified” after 4 years, 9 months under FERS and given disability retirement in 2007. I am considering returning to federal service with a job at the Defense Department. With the disability retirement, I understand that if I maintain the retirement until I am age 62, the time I was on disability retirement would count as time in service for computing my regular retirement. Does that mean the time I have been a disability annuitant will count as service time for a new federal job? Would I/could I buy back the time? I understand my annuity will cease on the date of re-employment. Read the rest of this entry »

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Comp time

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Q. When I retire, will i get paid for compensatory time?

A. Any comp time you have to your credit when you retire will be paid at the hourly rate in effect when it was earned.

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Unused annual leave

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Q. I am considering retirement under the MRA+10 provision and postponing my annuity until I reach age 62. If I follow this course, am I eligible to sell back any unused annual leave without penalty?

A. Your unused annual leave will automatically be paid to you in a lump sum when you separate from the government.

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Disability retirement

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Q. I am a 56-year-old retired military man. I have 10 years in with civil service. I have filed for military disability due to health problems associated with my military career. Can I draw 100 percent disability from the VA and file for disability from my civil service job and Social Security? If so, how does one calculate the resulting monthly payment?

A. If you are approved for disability retirement, your annuity for the first 12 months would be 60 percent of your high-3, minus 100 percent of any Social Security disability benefit to which you are entitled. After that, your annuity would be 40 percent of your high-3, minus 60 percent of any Social Security disability benefit. Assuming that you continued to be disabled, at age 60 your annuity would be recomputed to include all of your service and the years you were on disability retirement. Any VA disability benefit you might be entitled to wouldn’t affect your FERS annuity. However, since this is a site for federal employees and retirees, I don’t know if there would be any negative interaction between that military service-based VA disability benefit and any Social Security disability benefit.

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Eligible but holding

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Q: I am a 57-year-old CSRS employee with 35 1/2 years creditable service. I am eligible to retire now (since June 21, 2009) but enjoy the challenge of my job, so I have stayed on. I gave serious consideration to retiring Dec. 31, 2011, but I am not 100 percent certain that is what I want to do (my wife wants to work a while longer). Am I running a risk of losing any benefits by staying a while longer? What is the minimum amount of time required after mailing my retirement application, and the effective date I retire?

A: As to your first question, at this point, no one knows what risk you are taking by staying on. Only time will tell. On your second question, you can submit your paperwork up to the day you leave work. However, prudence suggests that you let your employer know what your plans are well in advance and that you take enough time to have your application reviewed by your personnel office. The consequences of putting your application in at the last minute include having it bounce because of errors or omissions and/or delays in processing by your agency that keep you from getting your initial interim annuity payment until months after you leave.

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Health benefits

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Q: My husband and I work for the post office – he will retire soon and I will carry the health insurance and leave with a deferred retirement in a few years – at 45 with 20 years – what happens to the health benefits?

A: Your husband would be able to continue the self and family coverage under Code 1M of the Table of Permissible Changes in Enrollment.

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Retirement and spouse Social Security

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Q: I plan to retire this year. I am under CSRS. I understand the WEP for me but have some doubts about the Social Security benefits of my wife. She has been paying Social Security all her life and never worked for a government with another type of pension. Is her Social Security retirement affected because of me? If I choose a survivor benefit, how is that going to affect her Social Security?

A: The fact that you will receive a benefit from a retirement system where you didn’t pay Social Security taxes will have no affect on her own earned Social Security benefit or on the survivor benefit you elect for her.

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FEHBP and Tricare

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Q: I will become eligible for Tricare in March. Is there a need for me to continue coverage with FEHBP and if not, can I drop my coverage before the end of the fiscal year? I don’t turn 60 until March, which is when I become officially retired from the military reserve.

A: You can apply to suspend your FEHB coverage at any time. To do that, you must submit a completed suspension form and provide necessary documentation to show eligibility for Tricare or CHAMPVA during the period beginning 31 days before and ending 31 days after the date you designate as using Tricare or CHAMPVA instead of FEHB coverage. You can get a copy of the suspension form at www.opm.gov/forms/pdf_fill/sf2809.pdf.

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FERS retirement and spousal Social Security

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Q.  My wife, age 63, is retired from FERS and draws a monthly retirement check. When I turn 67 in three years and begin drawing my Social Security benefit, is she able to draw a spousal Social Security benefit (50 percent of mine) as well as her full FERS retirement check?

A.  You’ll find the answer at www.socialsecurity.gov/OACT/quickcalc/spouse.html.

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Retirement dates

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Q: I am a CSRS employee who plans to retire on my 55th birthday Sept. 22 with 33 years of service. Can I retire at the close of business Sept. 21 or would it be better to retire at the end of the month on Sept. 29 at close of business with a retirement date set at Sept. 30? Does it make a  difference? Can I submit my retirement paperwork a year in advance or should I submit it later?

A: The decision is yours to make. If you retire at the end of a pay period, you will get credit for any annual and sick leave you earned during that pay period. If you retire before the end of a pay period, you won’t get any credit for it. Looked at another way, if you retire Sept. 21, there will be a nine day break in income before you go on the annuity roll. If you retire Sept. 30, there won’t be a break. You’ll seamlessly walk off the payroll and onto the annuity roll. While you should plan for your retirement a year in advance and, as part of that process, go to your personnel office to review your official personnel folder (OPF) to make sure everything is in order, you don’t need to submit your retirement application until a few months before you retire.

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