Ask The Experts: Retirement

By Reg Jones

Service computation date and temporary position

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Q. I was originally hired in a temporary position by the federal government. I have heard that temporary time doesn’t count toward retirement. However, on my leave and earnings statement, the service computation date is from the time of hire into the government system. Does my time toward retirement count from my service computation date, or does it begin when I transferred into a nontemporary position?

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Service computation date and FERS retirement

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Q. I am contemplating retirement with a separation date of Jan. 6, 2014. Under FERS, my creditable service for retirement (on Jan. 6, 2014) will be 29 years and two months (service computation date of Oct. 24 1984). My creditable service for RIF and leave (on Jan. 6, 2014) will be 31 years and seven months (service computation date of June 20, 1982). The estimate I have indicates the MRA+10 provision, reducing my annuity by approximately 35 percent (5 percent each year under 62; I will be 57 in January). From an eligibility standpoint, which would be the correct creditable service date to use? I understand the annuity formula (1 percent x high 3, etc); if I have at least 30 years of service and have reached MRA, why such a huge penalty when the annuity is already based on the years I was able to contribute to the annuity portion of FERS?

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Military personnel records and service computation date

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Q. I am concerned about the calculation of my service computation date in two directions.

I was on active duty for about 5½ years and got off active duty in 1971.

That time is easily documented. I later joined the Army Reserve in 1979. After that, I had some periods of active duty, including one about four months long. I didn’t keep documentation. Then in 1981, I entered civil service. I gave them my orders for some of the active-duty time, and they adjusted my SCD to include it.

Many years later, the agency I worked for changed policies for those of us who took military leave. They said orders were no longer good enough; they wanted pay statements too. That made me worry that I might come to the end of my time with civil service and have OPM suddenly demand pay records for my active-duty service between 1979 and 1981. I don’t have pay records. I can’t figure out where to get them.

There is an Army pay center that kept records, and it sent me all of my records. However, it only kept the payments from the Reserve time that don’t count toward the SCD. The active-duty payments came from whatever pay center was near where the active duty was done.

But I can’t find those records. How can I find them? Should I even worry about them? Then, above and beyond that, I have figured out that I shorted myself about three weeks of active-duty time. I don’t even know what the days were, but I can tell by my consolidated Army Retirement Points Accounting System record that I did more active duty between 1979 and 1981 than I got credit for in my SCD. That is really no big deal.

I’m happy to spot the government those days. I’m mostly worried about the bigger chunk of time.

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Law enforcement and non-law enforcement work

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Q. My service computation date is Dec. 1, 1990, and I am 45 and a Customs and Border Protection officer. I bought back my military time, and as of 2008, we are considered law enforcement and have a better retirement. I will have 30 years’ government time and be 52 in seven years. Can I retire when I have 30 years in government, or do I have to wait till I am 56 and 9 months? Am I eligible for the Social Security supplement, and if so, when?

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Military buyback and service computation date

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Q. I am a former civil servant with six years’ civil service who bought back military service. My service computation date for leave is September 1993. Is there a different SCD for retirement? Also: If I return to civil service, can I buy back military service completed since my previous civil service and military buyback? If so, would this also adjust my SCD further? (I am an Air Force reservist who has had several activated tours, including a recent six-month deployment.)

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FERS early retirement

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Q. My service computation date is April 1983. I am 51 and a veteran. I did seven years on active duty. Am I eligible for the $25,000 early retirement? I am under FERS.

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Retirement requests and HR inaction

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Q. I recently was hired by the VA National Call Center as a legal administrative specialist after many years of separation from the federal government. I worked as a senior personnel management specialist for three federal agencies in Boston and left in 1986 when my husband was dying. I have been waiting for more than five months for my service computation date and leave category to be adjusted. When I left federal service, we did not have the benefit of computers, but such adjustments were typically made in less than a month for our employees. As I am a senior, having my time properly credited for CSRS retirement and having access to my correct accumulated leave is important. Repeated contacts to our HR liaison are fruitless. I’m laughingly told by management that some people have waiting four years for their leave to be corrected. I will be retired in four years. I have been researching the regulations and cannot find any required timelines for these actions. Is this correct? Do I have any recourse? I am also appalled that employees are told not to contact HR directly at our VA Columbia National Call Center. We are told to submit a request by email to our supervisors.

Some HR issues are none of my supervisor’s business. This is totally inappropriate. Please advise on recourse for this issue also. I tried to access an email the VA’s Office of HR Management but could not find one.

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Service computation date

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Q. Can a person who is retired from federal civil service and receiving a retirement check keep their service computation date upon rehire?

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Catch-62

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Q. I was told I am included in the catch 62 provision. I served four years in the Air Force from 1974 to 1978 and began Postal Service employment in 1979 (to present). I’d like to retire this year. I also have 2,282 hours of sick leave, and my service computation begins in 1975.

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CSRS annuity

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Q. My service computation date is Oct. 15, 1979, and I was eligible for my CSRS annuity on Sept. 23, 2008 (60 years old; 29 years of service). My plan is to retire Sept. 30. This will give me 34 years, one month and 23 days of service, counting sick leave. Is my retired pay based on my age now (65 years old, five years or 10 percent over the 60/20 requirement) or my years of service (34 — four over the required 30 years or 8 percent over the requirement)?

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Best date to retire

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Q. My service computation date is April 24, 1971, and I plan on leaving at the end of April after 42 years with a load of annual and sick leave. I have always been told to leave at the end of the year because of the annual leave business, but I want to start a consulting firm and devote my time to it. My father-in-law, a former federal employee, says just get out because it is time and I should not miss the beach and I can always bring my laptop.

A. As I’ve said over and over, the best date to retire is the one that fits your financial and emotional needs.

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Negotiate an early-out?

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Q. I will have 30 years with the U.S. government on May 24 (28 years with the Navy as a civilian employee).

My minimum retirement age of 56 will not be met until Nov. 25. With the budget fiasco going on, might I be able to negotiate an early-out with the following at my 30-year service computation date:

1) A waiver of the MRA and retire in May.

2) Full Voluntary Separation Incentive Pay.

3) Full special retirement supplement.

What do you think of this?

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Service computation date

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Q. I got hired by the Postal Service on July 6, 1985. I’m not sure what retirement system I was with then. On Jan. 1, 1987, I was automatically transferred into FERS. I was hired by the FAA and started work there Oct. 3, 1988. I resigned from the USPS on Oct. 2, 1988, so I wouldn’t have a break in service. My service computation date for retirement shows Oct. 3, 1988.

How come my SCD for retirement isn’t July 6, 1985? I’m still employed with the FAA. I always thought my total federal government time would be from the time I was hired July 6, 1985, for my retirement.

A. You need to check with your personnel office to be sure it is aware of your previous service. If you were having retirement deductions taken from you pay, your period of Postal Service employment would be creditable for retirement purposes. If they weren’t, you’d have to make a deposit to the retirement system to get credit for that time.

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Retirement date calculation

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Q. My service computation date is Oct. 14, 1994, and I did military buyback (eight years). I entered federal civil service in August 2002. What is my retirement date? At age 57, I will have 20 years of civil service. This is without the military buyback. What would my total time be for retirement?

A. Because you made a deposit for your active-duty service, your SCD is correct for both leave accumulation and retirement purposes.

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Annual leave and retirement date

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Q. I work for a Veterans Affairs hospital under CSRS Offset. I was employed at the Postal Service from 1980 to 2001. I was reinstated at VA in 2008. I work Monday to Friday, 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. I am a GS-5. I have 178 hours of annual leave and 1,027 hours of sick leave. My service computation date is Feb. 12, 1987.

I am eligible to retire on my 60th birthday, which is March 28. I have planned a European vacation from March 21 to April 9. I want to take annual leave March 21-29. I have annual leave approved by my supervisor for March 21-31. (I used March 31 on my annual leave slip to coincide with my retirement date.)

The local human resources department is telling me that I must be physically at work on March 29 to use a retirement date of March 31, to clear the facility, that to be in an annual leave status on your retirement date is a violation of the terminal leave law at VA. Is this correct?

Can you please help me provide a reference that I am eligible to retire March 31 without being physically at work? They are saying the soonest I can retire is April 10 because that would be the soonest day that I could physically be at the facility after I am eligible to retire, due to being out of the country.

If I must be at work on my retirement date, could you suggest the least expensive date to retire?

A. Because the Office of Personnel Management’s leave regulations don’t address this one way or another, it’s been left to agencies to establish their own rules when it comes to granting requests for annual leave and determining whether an employee must be present on the day he or she retires or separates. Even then, there are exceptions — for example, if the retiring employee is too ill to come to work or when an activity is closed because of weather conditions.

Some agencies have more restrictive rules than others, probably a result of their response to earlier Comptroller General decisions that prohibited people from burning off their leave before retiring or separating (The Government Accountability Office calls this terminal leave). If your agency has such a rule governing the period before separation or a last-day rule, it should be in writing. Ask to see it.

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Sick leave and annuity computation

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Q. I plan on retiring June 28. I have a service computation date of Sept. 14, 1978. I will have 795 hours of sick leave. Are my calculations correct that I will have 35 years and two months for retirement?

A. To confirm how much service time you’ll have for annuity computation purposes, go to www.opm.gov/retirement-services/publications-forms/csrsfers-handbook/c050.pdf and scroll to Section 50A3.1-4.

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FEHB enrollment date

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Q. I am 64 years old and have nine years in CSRS. Four years were 1972 to 1976. At that time, I took my retirement out, then another seven months in 1985-86. I was reinstated in the federal government in February 2008, working for the IRS under seasonal but worked full time. I transferred in September with no break in service, accepting a position for the Defense Department. My service computation date gives me Feb. 4, 2004, under FERS. I signed up for Federal Employees Health Benefits at that point. I want to retire, but I need to take my FEHB with me when I do. What date would I be eligible to use as my retirement date and take with me my FEHB?

A. The law requires that you be enrolled in the FEHB program for the five consecutive years before you retire. Breaks in service won’t have a negative impact if you were enrolled when you left and immediately re-enrolled when you returned to government service. You’ll need to check with your personnel office to see if that was the case for you. If it wasn’t, the five-year period will start over from the date that you re-enrolled.

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Service computation date

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Q. My husband entered military service June 14, 1988, and has 24 years and 23 days of active-duty service, according to his DD 214. He retired as of Jan. 1, 2012. He worked as a Defense Department civilian from May 14, 2012, to Aug. 7, 2012. How much time does he get added to his service computation date for his 24 years of military service?

A. He won’t receive any credit toward his service computation date unless he makes a deposit to the civilian retirement system. The deposit would be a small percentage of his basic pay while on active duty. His personnel office can tell him how to find out what he would owe. Then he can decide if he wants to do that.

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FERS employment and computation dates

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Q. I am a FERS employee with approximately 28 years of service. Do service computation dates for leave normally vary substantially from service computation dates for retirement? What factors might cause an SCD for leave to be different from an SCD for retirement? At the beginning of my career, as an AF dependent, I worked GS jobs overseas on excepted appointments. I know I received credit for SCD for leave for that service, and I assume I received credit toward retirement from the time served in those appointments as well.

A. The rules governing leave accrual rates and retirement are different.

Those for leave are more encompassing, while those for retirement are more restrictive. For example, periods of employment after Jan. 1, 1989, from which retirement deductions weren’t taken are never creditable under FERS.

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Unused sick leave

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Q. I am retired military with 27 years in. Since that time, I have been a civil servant and am coming up on my 10-year anniversary under FERS. My service computation date is Aug. 10, 2003. I am planning to resign from my civil position Dec. 31, prior to my 62nd birthday. (I was born Dec. 11, 1952.) I plan to ask for a lump-sum check for my unused accrued leave. But it looks like I will not gain anything for having been such a healthy individual and that my many days of sick leave will simply go wasted. Is my sick leave balance used in any form to accrue additional deferred benefits or can I get paid for my unused balance?

A. If you leave your retirement contributions in the fund when you leave, you’ll be eligible for a deferred annuity. However, deferred annuitants receive no credit for their unused sick leave. FYI: If you stayed on until your 62nd birthday, you’d receive full credit for that unused sick leave in the computation of your annuity.

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