Ask The Experts: Retirement

By Reg Jones

NAF employment and federal rehire

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Q. I was a nonappropriated funds government employee from 1979 to 1990 holding UA7, UA8 and UA9 positions (AAFES and Army NAF). I resigned in 1990 and have worked in the private sector since.

Now I plan to return to federal government employment as a GS5 or GS7.

How will my service time count toward retirement, and is it possible to repay my NAF pension funds into the system? Also, how will my accrued sick leave be handled?

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Maxing out service time

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Q. What happens upon retirement when one’s total service time exceeds the max (41 years 11 months) with the retirement contributions made even though the max annuity time was reached?

A. You’ll receive a refund of your excess contribution, plus 3 percent interest, and be given the option of purchasing additional annuity that isn’t subject to the 80 percent limit.

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Annual leave and retirement computation

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Q. I am under FERS. I turn 62 in June 2014 with 15 years of service. If I retire at the end of June and if I have the maximum 240 hours of annual leave carried over from the end of December the year before, what happens to annual hours earned from January to end of June, when I retire? Will unused annual leave be added to my service time? If the answer is yes, is it 174 hours for each month, as it is with sick leave?

A. Annual leave cannot be added to your actual service time. Instead, when you retire, at the end of June, you’ll receive a lump-sum payment for any hours you have then.

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80 percent limit

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Q. I am under CSRS, and I would like to know if retirees with 41 years and 11 months are still limited to receiving 80 percent of their salaries as annuity. Can we still use our sick leave toward our retirement?

A. Yes. The 80 percent limit is based on actual service time and is still a matter of law. Likewise, sick leave can still be added to actual service time and used to increase the amount of your annuity, even if you’ve reached the 80 percent limit.

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CSRS service time

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Q. I retired from the Federal Aviation Administration on Dec. 31, 2011. Human resources told me I was going to retire with 38 years of service. The exact figure with sick leave was 38 years, two months and two days. I was surprised when I saw my retirement plaque for 37 years, since I was told it would be 38 years. The retirement paperwork from the region that arrived at my house after my retirement stated the same time as above. I also received a letter from the Office of Personnel Management confirming that the HR section in my region had the correct years as 38 years, two months and two days.

When I inquired about my plaque, I was told it was correct that I only had 37 years 10 months of federal time.  Does this seem correct that your sick leave does not count toward your service time for 38 years?

A. Think about it for a moment. You only worked for your agency for 37 years and 10 months. Since plaques are only issued for full years, you got credit for 37 years on your plaque. However, during those 37-plus years, you accumulated four months and two days of sick leave, which by law were added to your actual service and used in the computation of your annuity. If that unused sick leave had been added at the front end of your actual service and used on your plaque, it would have meant that you began working before you were hired; if at the back end, it would have meant that you were still on duty after you retired.

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Early out

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Q: I am a CSRS employee with 29 years, one month of service to date. I took the survey asking if I would consider early retirement and, if so, when. I said I would and would like to leave in December. I would be four months short of my 30 years. I have more than 600 hours of sick leave as well. What would happen to my sick leave?

A: After you met the criteria to retire, your unused hours of sick leave would be combined with any hours of actual service time that don’t add up to a full month and used to increase your total service time. You mentioned that you would be retiring four months shy of 30 years. In the initial calculation, your annuity would be 1/6 percent less for each of those four months. However, when your unused sick leave was added in, each additional month of credit would increase your annuity by 1/6 percent. For retirement purposes, 174 hours equals one month. So, if exactly 600 hours were added to your service time, your annuity would be increased by three months, with the leftover 78 hours discarded. Under this scenario, your final annuity would only be 1/6 percent less than it would have been if you had worked for a full 30 years.

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Maximum service time and ‘high-3′

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Q: I understand that under the Civil Service Retirement System, we can use unused sick leave toward federal service time that is used to determine the amount of time considered under the CSRS retirement pay formula.  Also, I understand that under CSRS, the maximum time allowed is 42 years, which translates to 80 percent of the average salary in a worker’s “high-3″ years.

My questions are, if someone is covered by CSRS, if they add up their military and civil service time and get 42 years, can unused sick leave be added to the 42 years to get more than 42 years, and thus more than 80 percent of the high-3? And, assuming someone’s salary for their 43rd, 44th and 45th years of service would make up the high-3, would they still be eligible for that amount even though they’ve passed 42 years of service?

A: The maximum earned annuity that a CSRS employee can receive is 80 percent of his highest three consecutive years of average salary, regardless of when those three years occur in a career. That 80 percent limit is reached when an employee has 41 years and 11 months of creditable service (actual service and service for which a deposit has been made). After reaching that point, retirement deductions will continue to be taken from his salary. At retirement, he will be offered a choice: He can either receive a refund of those excess deductions or use the money to purchase additional annuity. That additional annuity, just like unused sick leave, isn’t subject to the 80 percent limit.

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