Ask The Experts: Retirement

By Reg Jones

Disability retirement

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Q. I am a GS-1811 with just over 16 years of federal service. I was grandfathered into federal service at 42 and will have to retire at 62 (I am 59). Additionally, I have bought back 12 years of Army active-duty time. My Agency has proposed my removal for performance reasons, which I can directly attribute to my worsening Adult ADD. They are leaning toward an involuntary disability retirement vice removal. If I am disability retired, will my 12 years of bought-back Army time be included in the annuity calculation? Will it also be included in the subsequent calculation when my disability retirement is converted to a regular retirement at age 62? Read the rest of this entry »

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Minimum retirement age

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Q. My wife is under CSRS with 31 years of service, but we are concerned that she may be moved into CSRS Offset upon retirement. What is the minimum retirement age for someone in this position?

A. CSRS Offset applies only to employees who had a break in service that exceeded a year and ended after 1983, and had five years of service as of Jan. 1, 1987. If that doesn’t describe your wife’s situation, then she is a pure CSRS employee. Like any CSRS or CSRS Offset employee, she can retire at age 55 with 30 years of service.

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Eligibility to receive benefits

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Q. I worked for the post office for 23 years under FERS and resigned at the age of 48 to work in the private sector. I am 53 and would like to know when I would be eligible to receive retirement benefits. Also, I worked for four years with the state government. Would those years count towards retirement?

A. If you didn’t receive a refund of your retirement contributions when you left, you’d be eligible for a deferred annuity at age 62. That annuity would be based solely on your years of FERS service.

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Federal vesting

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Q. I keep hearing that it takes five years to get vested in the federal government. However, no one seems to know what happens after five years of employment, and I keep hearing different stories.  Do you happen to know what happens at the five-year mark?

A. I can’t imagine what stories you’ve been hearing. When an employee has worked for the federal government for five years full-time (or its part-time equivalent), he has secured an entitlement to an annuity when he meets the age and service requirements to retire. If he leaves before having five years of service, he’s only entitled to a refund of his retirement contributions.

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Using sick leave

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Q. I am a CSRS employee and have worked about 40 years. I plan to retire by the end of this year. I have about 1,659 hours of sick leave. How many hours of sick leave is equivalent to one service month, so I could plan to use the remaining sick leave and not lose it?

A. Let’s get one thing clear from the beginning. You have no right to burn off your sick leave. It may only be used for legitimate reasons spelled out in law and regulation. If you want a rough estimate of how many hours it takes to make a retirement month, use 174. Note: Annuities are based solely on years and full months of service, so there are usually some stray hours left over. Add those leftover hours of actual service to your hours of sick leave when doing the computation.

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Refund of contributions

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Q. I went to work for the federal government in 1974 under CSRS and worked until 1984, when I resigned and drew my retirement out. I returned to federal service in 2007 under FERS. I will have 20 years service counting military next May 4th. How will drawing my retirement out affect my retirement check?

A. Although you got a refund of your retirement contributions before October 1, 1991, you’ll still get credit for that time in determining your length of service; however, your annuity will be actuarially reduced based on the amount you owe, including accrued interest, and your age on the day you retire.

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Location and high-3

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Q. I am a Defense Department employee in Washington D.C. If I change my locality three months before I retire Jan. 1, when I retire would the lesser locality pay kick into my base and be used as the high-3?

A. How may times do I have to say this? Your high-3 is your highest three consecutive years (78 pay periods) of average basic pay, regardless of when they occur in your career.

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Retirement date

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Q. I am a CSRS employee. If I retire on Friday, Oct. 31, will I accrue my annual leave for that pay period? I will have worked the 80 hours, but technically the end of the pay period is Saturday, Nov. 1.

A. You may retire at the end of the day on Friday, Oct. 31, be on the annuity roll the following day, and get credit for the annual and sick leave you earned during that pay period.

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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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