Ask The Experts: Retirement

By Reg Jones

Retirement eligibility

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Q. I am a CSRS employee who will have 34 years of federal service this September, and I will be 54 years old in October. I know the best scenario is 35 years and age 55. But I have a personal family situation that has me thinking I may want to retire at the end of this year. How much of a penalty would it be for me?

A. You wouldn’t be eligible to retire. The earliest you could do that would be when you reach age 55.

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Law enforcement retirement

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Q. I started my federal government career in September 1986 in a non-law enforcement position.  In November 1989, I became an 1811 and have remained in the job series to the present.  In September, I will have 25 years of federal service (three non law enforcement and 22 law enforcement). I will be 48 in October.

Am I eligible to retire this year with 25 years of government service, or do I have to wait until 2013 when I am 50?  I am getting conflicting information from my agency and  OPM, and then from retirement planning instructors working for the USDA Graduate School.

A: You will have to wait until you are age 50. Law enforcement officers can retire at age 50 with 20 years of LEO-covered service or at any age with 25 years of LEO-covered service. Non-LEO service doesn’t count when determining that retirement eligibility.

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Buyout info?

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Q: I am 61 years old and have 31 years of federal service under the Civil Service Retirement System. I plan to retire in April 2012. Does it look like we will be offered a buyout? If so, is there anything that would keep me from being part of the offer?

A: We have no information about which agencies, if any, will be offering buyouts, and even less information about which employees would be offered one. However, if you were offered one, nothing would prevent you from accepting it. The fact that you are already eligible to retire is irrelevant.

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Understanding survivor benefits

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Q: I have been married to my husband for 28 years. He worked for the post office the entire length of our marriage. He is going to continue working for another five years, even though he is eligible to retire now. What happens if he passes away before he retires? An I still eligible to receive half of his retirement? How do I protect myself to make sure I can depend on receiving half of his retirement?

A: You don’t need to do anything. If he were to die while still employed by the government you would be entitled by law to a full survivor annuity. If he was employed under the Civil Service Retirement System, it would be 55 percent of what he would be entitled to receive had he retired; if he was under the Federal Employees Retirement System, 50 percent.

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Buying time to get benefits?

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Q: If someone is going into his eighth year under the Federal Employees Retirement System and is eligible to retire in two years, is there any way he could buy two years of service so he could retire with benefits?

A: No, there isn’t.

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Counting injury leave toward retirement

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Q: If I received compensation for two years because of an injury at the U.S. Postal Service, does this delay my retirement for two years?

A: If you were in leave-without-pay status while in receipt of workers’ compensation benefits, you’ll receive full credit for that period of time in determining your length of service and your high-3. LWOP while receiving Federal Employees Compensation Act, or FECA, benefits isn’t subject to the six-month limitation in a calendar year, as is other LWOP.

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Retirement benefits after being fired

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Q: If I were fired from my Federal Employees Retirement System-covered position, would it affect my future retirement annuity and benefits, assuming that I have enough years of service to retire?

A: As a rule, when you have the right combination of age and service, you would be entitled to apply for and receive any retirement benefits you have earned. If you retired before being eligible to retire, the age and service requirement would be different than if you were already eligible. Note: if you were convicted of any of the offenses listed in 5 U.S. Code Chapter 83, Subchapter II, you would be permanently barred from receiving an annuity. These offenses are spelled out in Section 8312.

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Annuities and part-time service

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Q: I am a Title 38 Veterans Health Administration part-time registered nurse and will be going full time my final three years. I will be retiring with 31 years of service at age 58. Are my part-time years computed on a prorated basis for my retirement annuity?

A: Without getting into agonizing detail, your period of part-time service will be treated as if it were full-time service when determining your eligibility to retire; however, because you were less than full time, when computing your annuity, that period will be prorated. For example, if you had 30 years of service and you worked 20 hours a week during three of them, your annuity would be based on 28.5 years. It’s actually more complicated than that, but you get the idea.

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