Ask The Experts: Retirement

By Reg Jones

Pre-MRA retirement annuity, and where sick leave goes

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Q. I am 51 and was born in 1961. I work in FERS. My MRA, I believe, is 56. I have 28 years in federal service. Will I get an annuity if I retire now before my MRA? If I do get an annuity, how big a reduction will it be from the pension I would get if I retired at 56?

Also, I have seven months of sick leave. Do I lose it all when I retire, or does it get applied as service credit?

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FERS and cashing out annual leave

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Q. Recent legislation entitles FERS-eligible employees to have sick leave credited to their time in service: 50 percent until 2013 and 100 percent in 2014. At the same time, FERS annual leave hours past 240 are not lost but paid in full in completing your last year of employment.

Can you clarify that if you retire Jan. 1, 2014, you lose the hours in excess of 240? (I was informed by an HR employee that if you don’t retire Dec. 31, your hours in excess of 240 are not paid even if you retire the next day, Jan. 1 — I have my doubts.)

But if you didn’t and retired Dec. 31, you would lose 50 percent of your sick leave.

I have four months of accrued sick leave, whereas I would have about $20,000 in unused annual leave paid if I retired Jan. 1.

If the information from HR is true, I would have to choose between losing 50 percent of my 700 hours of accrued sick leave for retiring before Jan. 1, 2014, and losing more than 240 hours.

What is the better financial decision? Accruing four months of time in service and losing all my leave in excess of 240 or taking the full lump sum and getting credit for only two months?

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FERS retirement and leave

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Q. I am a FERS employee and was hired in January 1984. I will reach MRA (56) with 31½ years of service in early July 2015.

What is the best day for me to retire in 2015 to get credit for the most annual and sick leave?

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Benefits for retiring at 65 with 29 years

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Q. I’m a FERS employee thinking of retiring at the end of 2014.

I’ll be 65, and with time served, military and sick leave (barring any lengthy illness between now and then), I’ll have 29 years, plus a couple of months. I know I’ll be losing some benefits from Social Security, leaving a year early, but what would the loss be from leaving before the 30-year mark?

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FERS, CSRS Offset and service

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Q. After serving 12 years in the military, I went to work for the federal government Jan. 13, 1982, and left federal service in October 1987, having served five years and nine months. I was in CSRS that entire time. I withdrew my CSRS contributions when I left. I came back to work for the federal government in July 2006 and was placed in CSRS Offset, with the option of going into FERS. I opted to be in CSRS Offset. At that time, I paid the deposit plus interest to get credit for my military time for pension purposes. I read the “Ask the Experts” response of March 30, 2010, where it said that as of Jan 1, 1987, any current employee with fewer than five years of service under CSRS was automatically converted to FERS. On Jan. 1 1987, I was 13 days short of five years, although I had previous military time and more than 13 days of annual leave and sick leave on the books. The “Ask the Experts” answer of Jan. 18, 2012, seems to say that I was correctly placed in CSRS Offset. Other pamphlets I read say you need five years as of Jan 1, 1987. I was 13 days short, excluding military time. I think my military time counted because my service computation date is in 1969.

Now I am concerned that my agency might have placed me incorrectly into CSRS Offset and I might be in for a surprise when I retire. Am I correctly in CSRS Offset? Do I need to take any action?

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Basic annuity calculation

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Q. I started working for the federal government March 10, 1975. If I retire Dec. 31, 2015, by my calculations, I will have 40 years, nine months and 21 days.

Right now I have 1,142 hours of sick leave but have no idea how many I will have when I retire. Will any of that be counted toward year and months of service? I’m only a GS 7, step 10, so I need to know what percentage of my retirement pay I would get. My high-3 is more than $50,400 with locality pay. I understood that where you are living and getting locality pay would be figured toward the annuity. If they change our retirement to the high-5, in two years I will still be at the same salary.

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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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Retiring early on sick leave

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Q. I work for USPS under FERS. On Feb. 4, 2015, I will be 57 and have 30 years of service. I will also have approximately six months of sick leave. Can I use my sick leave as days worked and retire six months earlier?

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Recharacterizing leave after retirement

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Q. After 35 years with the federal government, I retired Feb. 29, 2012.

During my last full pay period, I used 16 hours of sick leave. I discovered after a call from OPM recently that a correction to my final sick leave balance was made by my former employing agency, modestly increasing my sick leave balance. OPM informed me today that after the correction, my sick leave balance was six hours short of the number of hours needed to bring my total creditable working hours up by one more full month.

After hearing this, I realize that had I used six hours LESS sick leave (instead of 16 hours) in my last full pay period in pay status, and used just 10 hours of sick leave plus six hours of annual leave for the time I took off during that last full pay period, I would have had enough creditable work hours to complete another full month toward the calculation of my annuity.

My question to you now is whether or not leave I used in my last full pay period can be recharacterized almost a year since retiring because that would initiate another updated correction to my sick leave balance, which would be forwarded to OPM via the National Finance Center, and subsequently permit a recalculation of my final annuity amount.

I was paid a lump sum for unused annual leave a few weeks after retiring but would gladly reimburse the agency for six of those hours if possible if a correction to my time and attendance report for the last full pay period could be done, allowing for a recharacterization of leave I used during my last full pay period, which would increase my annuity, even if only a little.

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Sick leave and CSRS and FERS annuities

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Q. I am a FERS transferee with more than 29 years in federal service.

When I transferred from CSRS to FERS in 1998, I had 103 hours of sick leave (under CSRS). I am planning to retire in 2014 and will have almost 1,700 hours of sick leave. I am being told that the only sick leave I will get credit for as a FERS transferee is the 103 hours of sick leave that was on the personnel action when I transferred — not the almost 1,700 hours of sick leave that have accumulated since. Can this be correct?

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Workers’ compensation and leave

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Q. I was injured in September 2010 and was out of work until I retired on disability in March 2011. I exhausted my annual and sick leave, since my initial workers’ compensation claim was denied.

After numerous appeals, my workers’ compensation claim was approved in October 2011. I began receiving interim retirement payments in September 2011 but have yet to receive payment from OPM for annual and sick leave I would have accumulated during that period. I have contacted DFAS and OPM, along with filing two congressionals regarding this issue, but no resolution.

Shouldn’t I be paid for the time I would have been on workers’ compensation? Shouldn’t OPM pay the lump sum after receiving notification that my workers’ compensation claim was approved? I have contacted OPM, and it seems to lack adequate professionals to decipher this mess.

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Retiring while on sick leave

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Q. May a federal employee retire with all earned benefits while on sick leave, or must he return to work for a specified amount of time?

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FERS rehire sick leave accrual rate

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Q. As a FERS rehire, I know that I will get my previous sick leave reinstated, but at what rate? The new rate or at the rate at which I earned it?

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Best day to retire in 2015

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Q. I’ve been in CSRS since Feb. 10, 1975, and I turned 65 in January.

1) Which day, in late leave year 2015, would be the best day to retire?

2) What should be my schedule for submitting retirement documents?

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Sick leave and creditable service

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Q. I understand that credited sick leave will not influence how the high-3 is calculated. But will credited sick leave count toward annuity calculation in meeting age or service requirements to receive the 1.1 percent factor? If a person has 19 years and six months day-for-day in FERS and adds/applies eight months of unused sick leave, will this qualify for the 1.1 percent calculation factor (high-3 x .011 x 20 years two months)?

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Leave, USPS and retirement benefits

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Q. A Postal Service employee had to use all his sick and annual leave because of illness. He used leave without pay. When he retired, he was not entitled to benefits. He received only his contributions. Why did he get back only his funds and not the complete package because of LWOP? Read the rest of this entry »

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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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Sick leave and creditable service

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Q. I am a CSRS Offset employee in a law enforcement position. I plan to retire Sept. 1 at the age of 50 with eligibility service credit of 23 years, nine months, and 12 days. I have over 650 hours of sick leave. My computation service credit is 30 years, 11 months, and nine days without including the 650 hours of sick leave. Does including the 650 hours of sick leave to my computation service credit provide me with any additional annuity? Also, will my annuity be based on my eligibility service credit or my computation service credit?

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FERS postponed retirement

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Q. I am planning on taking a FERS MRA+10 postponed retirement in 2016, when I will be 56 and have 25 years of federal experience.

a) What is the earliest age I can receive unreduced benefits? Can I start at 60 since I will have more than 20 years of federal service? b) Will any unused sick leave be credited toward my years and months of service at that point? c) How do I start receiving benefits when I am ready?

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Sick leave and special retirement supplement

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Q. I can retire in three years at age 56 (my minimum retirement age) with 33 years of service.

I should have more than a year’s worth of sick leave at that time. I know the unused sick leave will be added to my total years for annuity computation purposes, but will it also be added to my total years for the special retirement supplement computation?

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