Ask The Experts: Retirement

By Reg Jones

Military and federal service and retirement

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Q. I served four years in the Navy and four years in the Army consecutively, and two tours in Vietnam in the Navy. In mid- to late 1987, I began working at the Federal Bureau of Prisons under FERS as a correctional officer.

I worked for 11-plus years in the prison system and left. I cashed out my TSP. I am 59.

With nearly 20 years of service, if I were to return to federal employment and work for several more years, would I qualify for retirement and a federal pension?

A. Yes. If you didn’t take a refund of your contributions when you left, you’d get credit for that period of service. If you did, you’d have to redeposit that money, plus accrued interest, to get credit for it.

You didn’t mention whether you had made a deposit to get credit for your periods of active-duty service. If you did, those years would be included in determining your total years of service and in your annuity computation. If you didn’t, they wouldn’t. You could get credit for them by making a deposit to the retirement system, plus accrued interest.

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Reinstatement to civil service job

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Q. I quit my civil service job after 29 years. Can I be reinstated?

A. You could check with your former agency to see if it would be willing to either reinstate or hire you. Or you could go to www.usajobs.gov, find a position for which you are qualified, apply for it and, if hired, pick up where you left off. However, if you withdrew your retirement contribution when you left, you’d have to redeposit that money plus accrued interest to get credit for those 29 years of service.

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Leave without pay to test private sector

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Q. I am career permanent in federal government employment as GS-14. I wish to leave to take a private-sector job to see if I like it. How long can I remain on unpaid leave of absence and still have return rights back into federal employment?

A. You are asking about leave without pay, the granting of which is solely at the discretion of your management. Your management would be unlikely to grant LWOP to someone who wants to test private-sector waters. It would provide little or no benefit to them and would tie up a position they would be better off recruiting for and filling.

If you want to resign from the government and take another job, you are free to do so. If you leave your contributions in the retirement fund and later return to government employment, you’ll get full credit for your years of service in your leave accrual rate, determining your eligibility to retire, and your annuity computation. If you withdraw your contributions, you could redeposit that amount plus accrued interest to get retirement credit for that time.

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Retirement refund and annuity

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Q. I am with USPS and am in CSRS. I began working in 1973 and quit in 1977, at which time I withdrew my retirement money. I returned to USPS in 1983 and am still with them. Do I need to redeposit the money I withdrew to get credit for 33 years of service? If I do not redeposit the money, will my annuity be decreased and if so by how much?

A. Because you took a refund of your retirement contributions before Feb. 28, 1991, you’ll still get credit for that time in determining your years of service; however, if you don’t redeposit that money plus accrued interest, your annuity will be actuarially reduced. I can’t tell you by how much. Your personnel office may be able to help you do that.

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Disability retirement and redeposit

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Q. I am a CSRS employee and withdrew all pension contributions in 1995 after 15  years of service.  No redeposit has been made.  I now have another 15 years of continuous service since that withdrawal and I am now 57  years old. If a redeposit is not made:  (1) Since I am over 55 with more than 30 years of service, can I receive a disability retirement if approved or must I take a regular retirement; and (2) what is the impact on the annuity for a disability retirement (assuming it would be authorized and approved), if no redeposit is made?

A. If you were approved for disability retirement, your annuity would first be computed under the general formula, as follows:

0.015 x your high-3 x 5 years of service, plus
0.0175 x your high-3 x 5 years of service, plus
0.02 x your high-3 x your remaining years of service (5 years+)
Since that amount would be less than the guaranteed minimum, you would instead receive the lesser of:
- 40 percent of your high-3, or
- the amount obtained under the general formula after increasing your actual creditable service (15+ years) by the time remaining from the commencing date of your annuity to the date of your 60th birthday.

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Retirement eligibility basics

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Q: I worked for the federal government for about 18 years. I resigned in 1985 and withdrew my retirement contributions. Is there any way that I might be eligible to receive retirement benefit for these years of service? I am now 65 years old.

A: The only way you would be eligible for a retirement benefit would be if you returned to work for the federal government. While you would then get credit for that time in determining your length of service, you would receive no benefit unless you either redeposited the refund, plus accrued interest, or worked long enough to build up a basis for an annuity.

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