Ask The Experts: Retirement

By Reg Jones

CSRS offset retirement money question

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Q. A friend has run into some hard times, and I am trying to help him. He says he has worked here as a civil service employee for some time (I can get that info).

When he was hired, he was put into CSRS but was supposed to be in FERS. When that was discovered, he was put into CSRS offset. He says while he was looking at a statement of his retirement money, he noticed a difference of some $40,000 from one of his other statements. He is a WG-10 step 5.

Whom could we talk with to get answers? HR has no answers.

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CSRS and Social Security survivor benefit

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Q. I understand about my retirement being offset by my Social Security when I retire as a federal employee. I want to know what will happen if I choose instead to draw my deceased spouse’s Social Security benefit, which is based solely on his nonfederal work history. Will my federal retirement still be offset by what I receive from his Social Security benefit?

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Windfall elimination provision wording

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Q. The Windfall Elimination Provision states: “The only work you did where you did not pay Social Security taxes was before 1957, or you have 30 or more years of substantial earnings under Social Security.”

Are these statements separate or combined? What does the year have to do with it? What is the formula for calculating substantial earnings? Take into consideration that at the time, single mothers with three dependents did not earn “substantial earnings.” By the way, how much is substantial? It seems to me that the date I began work eliminates the windfall, along with my almost 30 years of Social Security earnings, which should not be subject to the WEP. Starting in 1956, the college I attended helped me work two jobs to cover all my expenses.

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CSRS and Social Security for spouse’s survivor

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Q. I retired from the Department of Veterans Affairs on Nov. 4, 1994, after 38½ years. My husband worked under Social Security for many years. After he passed away April 26, 2010, I was informed that I could not draw on his Social Security, as this would be considered double dipping. I am constantly asked, “Why are you not drawing on Bob’s Social Security?” I will be 75 on Sept. 24. Why can’t I?

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FICA withholdings for re-employed CSRS annuitants

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Q. I am a retired pure CSRS employee working part time as a rehired annuitant with no annuity offset. I am coming to the end of my third year. When I first began working, HR was not taking out FICA. Two years ago, HR said it had been told at some payroll class that it should be taking out FICA, so it started doing so. About 12 months later, HR sent a demand letter for the FICA it had failed to collect in the beginning. I filled an appeal immediately and have heard nothing.

Three of us here are in this predicament. We do not think FICA withholding is proper. We will never be able to collect Social Security.

Their total justification seems to be that we were hired as rehired annuitants after 1983.

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Social Security, CSRS and survivor benefits

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Q. I am a retired CSRS postal worker and have opted for a survivor benefit. I do not qualify for Social Security. My spouse has about 24 years of SS payments from her jobs. If I die, are her benefits, either CSRS survivor benefits or Social Security, affected? If she dies, am I entitled to any of her Social Security benefits?

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Social Security benefits for survivor of CSRS employee

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Q. I am a retired CSRS employee, not eligible for any Social Security benefits. When I die, will my spouse’s survivor annuity be reduced because she is receiving her own Social Security benefits?

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CSRS, Social Security and annuity

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Q. I retired in 2001 from the FAA under CSRS. I have 33 quarters of Social Security. If I go back to work and earn an additional seven quarters and apply for Social Security benefits, will that same amount of money be subtracted from my annuity?

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Early retirement and pension

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Q. In 2004, I resigned as a GS-0132 with 17 years of federal service. In 2009, I started drawing Social Security disability.

I am 57. I did not withdraw my retirement when I separated. Can I draw my FERS retirement early based on my Social Security disability, or will I have to wait until I am 62 to begin drawing it?

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Foreign citizen and FERS, Social Security

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Q. A little over three years ago, I retired under FERS.

I was a widower at the time, so no survivor benefit was being withheld from my pay.

I now intend to remarry a French citizen and will reside here in the states for a time, then move to France. I would like her covered by my Federal Employees Health Benefits, at least while we are in the U.S.

Can I sign up now for a full survivor benefit for her? How much will it cost me? I read somewhere that it costs 10 percent of my current annuity plus the difference between the new annuity and old annuities paid to me for the number of months retired, plus 6 percent interest on that money.

Since she is at least not yet an American citizen, when I die, can she still receive the survivor annuity, whether continuing to reside here or if she returns to France? Would she receive COLAs on her portion of the annuity? If she returned to France, would she be obligated to pay taxes in both countries? Of course, as part of FERS, I also receive a Social Security benefit, based on my length of service and work record. Would a new spouse be entitled as a beneficiary to any or all of my Social Security when I die? She, of course, has never worked here in the states and so has not contributed to Social Security.

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Disability

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Q. The requirements for Social Security disability are much higher than for FERS disability retirement, so what happens to FERS if you are approved by OPM but denied by the Social Security Administration? Can you still receive your FERS disability retirement? Must you continue to reapply with SSA regularly? I have 15 years in FERS and am only 42.

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CSRS, Social Security and retirement

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Q. I plan to begin collecting Social Security at age 66 in CSRS. I have met my 40 quarters and 30 substantial salary requirements. Additionally, I took a two-year break to work in the public sector. When I retire at age 69 with 40 years’ service and begin collecting my CSRS annuity, will I be able to collect Social Security?

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CSRS employment and Social Security

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Q. I retired under full CSRS (none offset) in January 2010 with 35 years’ federal service as a GS 14/10. I am 59 and don’t have the 40 credits required to receive Social Security benefits when I turn 62.

Is it worth it to take a part-time job just to get my 40 credits in, or will there be a reduction to my federal retirement that will hurt more than it will help? I haven’t earned very much in the private sector — just a few years before I became a CSRS employee in 1977, including the time I served in the Army, which I bought back to add to my CSRS time (included in the 35 years), but still paid a very small amount to Social Security while serving in the Army.

I have an opportunity to start a small business (~$10,000 per year).

Would it be better to have the business in my wife’s name to add to her Social Security rather than affect my CSRS? Or will I expect to see a small Social Security check when I hit age 62 if I get my 40 quarters in with Social Security?

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Three annuities

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Q. I retired from the military with full retirement in 1995. I think I understand that I cannot buy back any military time without forfeiting retirement pay when I retire from my federal job with the post office. Since the money comes out of my pocket, I have a hard time understanding this. However, I will have 20 years of service with the post office in 2017, when I am 56. If I take retirement, then why will I have a MRA+10 reduction till age 62 if I can retire fully at 60 with 20? Why would it be 30 percent instead of only 20 percent? Also, with the military pension and postal retirement, if Social Security is still around, how will this affect my annuity? Will I be able to pull all three full annuities? Read the rest of this entry »

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CSRS offset and annuity

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Q. I received a refund of my CSRS contributions when I separated from federal service in 1993. Four years later, I returned to federal service. I am CSRS offset.

Because I withdrew my contributions from CSRS, and federal service where Social Security taxes are withheld is not affected by the windfall elimination provision, will withdrawing CSRS contributions change my Social Security benefit when I retire?

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FERS, disability and Social Security

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Q. I am trying to understand the FERS disability retirement. My wife has 34 years of federal service but has not reached her MRA. I understand the high-3 and 60 percent the first year and then the 40 percent rule after 12 months and how it affects Social Security. If she applies now for FERS disability retirement and is approved, can she then go to Social Security and apply for her full disability entitlement? Also, if she receives her Social Security 100 percent disability entitlement within 12 months, how will her FERS retirement formulate? Will she still get 40 percent of her high-3 pay and 100 percent from Social Security?

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Special retirement supplement and earnings test

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Q. I am retiring at 57, the mandatory retirement under FERS for law enforcement. I know there is something called the first year rule; will the special retirement supplement I receive for approximately five years be subject to the earnings limit? I heard the supplement is not subject to it, but when I reach age 62 and the supplement ends, any Social Security I receive will be subject to it. Can you clarify if the supplement law enforcement officers receive under FERS if retiring at the mandatory retirement age is subject to earnings test? If so, when?

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FECA and Social Security

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Q. I retired Jan. 1, 1985, under CSRS with 25 years of federal service.

I also qualified for total and permanent disability under FECA benefits based on injury June 23, 1983. I had no employment under FERS.

I elected FECA benefits. Before my employment with the government, I also qualified for regular Social Security retirement benefits for work in the private sector with fewer than 15 years of substantial earnings. Can I receive full FECA benefits and Social Security retirement benefits at the same time? If so, would there be any reduction in the Social Security retirement amount?

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Deferring Social Security

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Q. At my MRA of 56 (with more than 30 years of federal service), I will be able to receive my FERS annuity, access my TSP and receive the special retirement supplement. The supplement is payable until age 62, at which time I will become eligible for Social Security.

Must I enroll in Social Security at age 62 if I’ve taken the special retirement supplement up until then? There are financial advantages to deferring Social Security. I understand the annuity will stop once I reach 62, but can I defer my Social Security to when my benefit will be greater? (I understand my overall income will drop after age 62 until I choose to start Social Security.)

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CSRS and Medicare

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Q. I retired in 2009 under CSRS. I am close to 65, and the answer to one of the questions asked states that people in CSRS are not eligible for Medicare because they didn’t pay into Social Security.

I was in CSRS before the change to FERS and stayed with CSRS. I had Medicare deductions taken from my pay from 1983-84 till I retired in 2009.

Do the Medicare funds I paid since 1983 make me eligible for Medicare or just part of it?

So which is right? I need to know so I can do what needs to be done — enroll or not. I’m currently insured under federal BCBS.

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