By Reg Jones
May 15th, 2012 | Uncategorized
Q. My father was a retired (1979) federal employee receiving monthly retirement payments via direct deposit. He died last week.
1. What do I need to do?
2. Who do I notify to stop his monthly retired pay and to initiate the process for obtaining his government life insurance?
A. You need to call the Office of Personnel Management’s Retirement Information Office at 888-767-6738. Make sure to have your father’s full name, Social Security number, date of birth and Civil Service Annuity number at hand when you do that. The benefits specialist will send you the paperwork you need to close out his account.
April 19th, 2012 | Uncategorized
Q. I have asked Medicare directly why I need Medicare Part B. I am a 100 percent disabled veteran and a retired federal employee. As a 100 percent disabled veteran, I receive all medical care and prescriptions directly from the Veterans Affairs Department. No one seems to know if I do or do not need Medicare Part B other than to give the government a $100-a-month premium. Why can’t anyone answer this question?
A. The reason no one can answer that question is because one size doesn’t fit all. Whether Medicare Part B is right or wrong for you is something you’ll have to figure out for yourself. You’ll have to compare the benefits Part B offers with your other medical coverage. In short, Part B helps cover medically necessary services such as doctors’ services, various kinds of therapy, outpatient care, durable medical equipment, home health services, including part-time and intermittent nursing care, and other medical services. Part B also covers some preventive services. If you find that these benefits fill gaps in your present coverage or enhance those that you can already receive, and it makes financial sense to pay the premiums, sign up for Part B. If not, don’t.
February 20th, 2012 | SOCIAL SECURITY
Q: I retired under CSRS in 2005 after 23 years with the Secret Service as an 1811 LEO. Private employment has permitted me to acquire enough earned SS credits to qualify for $1,028 per month at 62 years of age. My wife has also been privately employed for 35 years and has earned Social Security credits to qualify for $923 per month at 62. What impact will GPO and WEP have on my Social Security benefits? Does it make a difference if I apply for Social Security benefits before my wife (I’m six months older) with respect to survivor benefits?
A: The government pension offset will likely eliminate any Social Security spousal benefit to which you would otherwise be entitled. That’s because it will reduce that benefit by $2 for every $3 you receive in your CSRS annuity. On the other hand, the windfall elimination provision will reduce but not eliminate your earned Social Security benefit. As for who applies first for a Social Security benefit, I’m not aware that it would make any difference. Neither the GPO or the WEP will apply to your wife. And while your earned Social Security will be reduced, any Social Security spousal benefit to which she would be entitled would not. However, she would only get the larger of the two benefits.
February 14th, 2012 | SOCIAL SECURITY
Q: I retired in 2010 from the Defense Department with 40 years, four months and 13 days of service under CSRS. I”am 62 and have 23 Social Security quarters, so I need 17. My wife of 23 years is 59 and getting Social Security Disability. Could I borrow the remaining quarters from her?
A: No, you cannot. You’ll have to earn them yourself.
January 11th, 2012 | Uncategorized
Q. I’m planning to retire early this year. After carrying a 240-hour leave balance into 2012, I’d like to work until mid-February, then use up the 240-plus hours of leave until I return to the office on my separation date the last Friday of March. Over the past five years, my unit has consistently hassled me when I request leave well in advance of the desired dates; I’ve reason to be concerned it could be much worse this time.
November 2nd, 2011 | Uncategorized
Q: My spouse and I are retired federal employees with an annuity.
I retired in 2001 with 12 years of service. We have had continual coverage with FEHB for the past 40 years. We have the Self & Family plan with my spouse as the member and I am the dependent. I would like to know if I am eligible for coverage under my own self only policy? If eligible, when can I request the change, any time or just during open season?
A: You can only change to a self only policy if your spouse changes his/her coverage to self only at the same time. If that’s what you both want, you can do that during any open season.
September 27th, 2011 | Special retirement supplement
Q: I retired on May 31 at age 57. I have 22 years of law enforcement service with the Bureau of Prisons. I have just taken another job and realize I will lose about $12,000 a year because of the means test for the supplemental. A friend told me I will lose the supplemental forever once I exceed the limits. I want to retire from this non-government job in two years. Can I collect the supplemental for the last three years until I become eligible for Social Security at age 62?
A: Your friend is misinformed. While it’s true that your special retirement supplement will be reduced or suspended if you exceed the Social Security earnings limit, which is currently $14,160, if your earnings from wages or self employment fall below that level, the SRS will be restored. FYI, the earnings limit also applies to your Social Security benefit once you reach age 62 and the SRS stops.
September 21st, 2011 | SOCIAL SECURITY
Q: I am a retired federal employee and I was receiving a monthly annuity of $4,200, but when I recently turned 62, OPM reduced my annuity to $3,550, and told me it was because I was eligible to collect Social Security benefits, even though I am not collecting Social Security benefits and do not plan to do so until I am at least 65. I did have two years of active military service, which I paid for while I was working, so that those two years would be figured into my annuity calculation. It appears to me that the federal government is almost forcing me to take my Social Security benefits at the younger age of 62, otherwise, I lose the $600 and some dollars that they have deducted from my annuity. I read information at “catch-62,” and how your annuity can be recalculated downward if you did not pay toward your military service time prior to retirement. But catch-62 makes no mention of a reduction at age 62, based on the sole fact that I became eligible for Social Security benefits, yet did not elect to collect those benefits. I am very confused by all this, and I am not getting much cooperation out of OPM. I worked at the Defense Supply Center Philadelphia, which is part of the Defense Logistics Agency.
A: Apparently, you were a CSRS Offset employee, with deductions for CSRS and Social Security taken from your pay. When you became eligible for a Social Security benefit at age 62, the law required that your CSRS annuity be offset by the amount of Social Security benefit you earned while covered by CSRS Offset. That reduction was automatic and is not connected to when, or if, you apply for a Social Security benefit.
September 13th, 2011 | Uncategorized
Q. Here is a question that nobody seems to know the answer, I am hoping someone on staff can answer the question. I retired from the U.S. military and am receiving retired pay and VA disability at 60 percent. I am paying monthly allotments to buy back my military time. So I am getting military retirement /CPRD & VA disability (service connected). When I retire from federal service under FERS and waive my military retired pay, do I still keep my VA payments for service disability?
August 16th, 2011 | Uncategorized
Q. I took my retirement money in 1990 after 15 years of service. Now they want $40,000 to get that time back. If I pay $20,000, will the interest keep going up on the $40,000 or $20,000? I’m in the offset program; should I pay this back or not?
A. Interest only accumulates on the unpaid balance. Whether you should redeposit that money is a financial decision, one that comes in the answers to two questions. First, how much more will you get in your annuity and for how long? Second, how much could you earn with the money if you invested it instead of making the redeposit?
Q: I worked for the Navy as a GS-11 for five years but left in 1991. I have an SF-50 that says “completed service requirement for Career Tenure from 07-17-88 to 07-17-91.” However, I actually started with the Navy on Aug. 28, 1986 and my resignation papers have an effective date of Sept. 24, 1991. I’m hoping to return to federal service but want to know if I am eligible for any future retirement benefits.
A: If you completed at least five years of creditable service and didn’t take a refund of your retirement contributions in the retirement fund when you left, you’d be eligible for a deferred annuity when you reach age 62.
April 7th, 2011 | Uncategorized
Q. I retired on Jan. 2, 2010, with 219.75 hours annual leave under CSRS with over 45 years of service at GS9, Step 10 for over 20 years at that step. DFAS said I should be paid 62.25 hours at a 31.05 salary rate and 157.5 hours at a 32.27 salary rate. I disagree but they said it was correct. I feel my annual leave should be paid out at the 2010 salary rate for GS9, Step 10.
Also, can you answer the legality of receiving base pay times 26 pay periods that is short a couple hundred dollars instead of the salary on the salary table for that year?
A. Because the 2010 pay increase was effective on Jan. 3, 2010, all your hours of unused annual leave should have been paid at the 2010 rate. That’s because annual leave is always projected forward as if you were still on the payroll. Based on what you’ve written, there would be no basis for part of your annual leave to be paid at one rate and the rest at another. The annual rate on a pay table is an approximation. The actual basic pay you receive during a 12-month period is what you are entitled to. It may be the same, a little more or a little less than what’s on the pay table.
March 17th, 2011 | Uncategorized
Q. I was married to my husband for almost 25 years. I worked under CSRS for 42 years. I have been divorced since 1998. My ex-husband recently passed away. I believe he was on disability retirement. He was not a government employee. Can I draw anything from his pension. I am 69 years old.
A. We don’t know anything about nonfederal benefits, so we can’t comment on whether you’d be entitled to anything from his former employer. On the other hand, you may be eligible for a a former spouse Social Security survivor benefit. The only way to find out is to call at 1-800-772-1213 and talk to a benefits representative.
March 9th, 2011 | Government pension offset
Q: On Oct. 31, 2007, I reached mandatory retirement age of 57 and retired as a FERS law enforcement officer with more than 33 years experience. I have a blended retirement of both CSRS and FERS. For whatever reason, I did not receive my lump sum vacation pay of $25,742 until early January 2008. Just recently, I received notice from OPM that because I exceeded the Social Security earnings limit of $13,560 for 2008, I was overpaid in the supplemental security portion of my pension. I did not have any other earned income for 2008. Since I could not have controlled when I got my vacation-leave payout, I do not feel my annuity should be reduced. OPM is requesting repayment of $4,392, and it cancelled my FERS annuity supplement of $366 per month beginning March 1. I feel this is unfair. My situation could be duplicated by anyone in my circumstances that retires late in a calendar year and receives lump sum vacation pay in the next year. A nonauthoritative person told me that a lump sum leave payout is taxable but not counted in determining Social Security income limits. Is this true, or do you have another suggestion?
A: OPM has made a mistake. According to the Social Security Administration, “If you work for someone else, only your wages count toward Social Security’s earnings limits. If you are self-employed, we count only your net earnings from self-employment. We do not count income such as other government benefits, investment earnings, interest, pensions, annuities and capital gains.
“If you work for wages, income counts when it is earned, not when it is paid. If you have income that you earned in one year, but the payment was made in the following year, it should not be counted as earnings for the year you receive it. Some examples are accumulated sick or vacation pay and bonuses.” You can download a copy of the official document at www.socialsecurity.gov/pubs/10069.html.
Q: What were you thinking? No COLA for two years, now a tax increase, causing my check to be $38 less. I am barely surviving. Do something. This is no way to repay veterans, or their widows, for their service.
A: You’ve come to the wrong place to point the finger of blame. The fact that no cost-of-living adjustments are being made on retiree annuities is a product of the same law that routinely gave you COLAs in the past. When the economy tanked, the index on which they are computed fell below zero. Just be thankful that this same law protected you from having your annuity reduced. As for the increase in federal tax deductions from your annuity, the answer is simple. The “Making Work Pay” credit expired Dec. 31. The IRS issued a notice in December saying withholding tables for 2011 would no longer be adjusted for the Making Work Pay tax credit and there is no longer an optional additional withholding adjustment for pensions.
January 21st, 2011 | Uncategorized
Q: I am a retired CSRS federal employee (Navy civilian) with 35 years service. I also earned 40 quarters under Social Security and receive about half of the Social Security benefit I would get if I were not getting CSRS retirement pay. My wife did not work enough to have 40 quarters, but I understand that she is entitled to half my Social Security benefit. Question: Is she entitled to half my non-reduced Social Security, or half my reduced Social Security?
A: She is entitled to half of your unreduced Social Security benefit.
January 14th, 2011 | Medicare
Q: I am a retiree under the CSRS who cannot get Social Security benefits. Are the COLA’s for federal retirees and Social Security benefiiciaries determined under the same law? If so, why are they not both subject to the “hold harmless” provision in that law? For the past two years, there have been no cost-of-living allowances, yet my Medicare Part B premiums have increased both years while those on Social Security benefits haven’t.
A: There are two separate laws at work here. While both laws protect retirees from having their benefits reduced when the numbers go negative, only the Social Security act has a “hold harmless” provision that prevents Social Security benefits from being reduced when the cost of Medicare Part B premiums rise. The “hold harmless” provision doesn’t protect those who aren’t receiving a Social Security benefit from experiencing an increase in their Part B premiums.
January 11th, 2011 | RETIREMENT
Q: My uncle retired from the U.S. Postal Service in or around 1982 after 30 years of service. He is 92 and will be moving into an assisted living facility. Is he entitled to any financial assistance to cover the cost? He has been receiving his pension of $2,400 a month since his retirement, but it does not cover the cost.
A: No, the retirement system doesn’t provide such assistance. However, if he is enrolled in the Federal Employees Health Benefits program or Medicare, he may be eligible for some benefits from them.
January 7th, 2011 | Uncategorized
Q: My Aunt passed away in October. She was never married and had no
children. She was retired under the CSRS, and I was named with two others
(one is deceased) as a beneficiary to receive a lump-sum retirement payment. How is the lump-sum amount calculated, and will it be divided
equally between the two living beneficiaries?
A: The lump-sum payment would consist solely of those retirement contributions your aunt made to the retirement fund that had not already been returned to her in her annuity payments. If anything does remain, it would be divided equally among the still-living beneficiaries she named.
November 18th, 2010 | Uncategorized
Q: I retired as a federal law enforcement officer (Series 1811, Treasury IRS Criminal Investigations) during 2010, and accepted a federal excepted service, law enforcement position with Department of Defense’s Inspector General the very next day. Do I have to worry about cashing out my annual leave (approximately 350 hours) with Treasury? Do I need a break in service equal to the annual leave time before I begin/began work with DoD, before the annual leave is cashed out? Both HR departments did not mention any such treatment of annual leave. An employee in my similar situation advised that I may have to pay the annual leave cash out back because I’m continuing federal service without a break, and that my annual leave would have to be transferred to DoD. Another employee, who is a co-worker, retired from the FBI and accepted the same position as I did with DoD. He cashed out last year and had no problems. Is there a difference in which federal agency you retire from (the first employee, who offered the warning worked as a Series 1811 with NCIS)? Any recommendations would be appreciated.
A: Because unused annual leave is projected forward as if you were still on the rolls, you are required to repay any money you received for hours that fall on days after you return to work for the government. Because you began working the day after you retired, you must repay the entire amount, plus accrued interest.