Ask The Experts: Retirement

By Reg Jones

CSRS Offset and Social Security

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Q. I am under CSRS Offset. I am eligible for Social Security under my own record, but also under my husband’s.

Can offset in CSRS be taken from my record if I take my husband’s record, or will it take the offset off my husband’s record? Social Security said I would get more under my husband’s record than my own. So I am wondering if I never apply for my record if my offset will increase each year I don’t take it.

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CSRS retirement and Social Security

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Q. I have been a federal employee with the Department of Veterans Affairs covered by CSRS since October 1977 and have four years of military service (I paid the military deposit in full). I am 75 and have started receiving Social Security. I will be retiring in about one year and eight months, having reached 41 years and 10 months years of service, including military service, hoping to have earned or reached the 80 percent retirement annuity. I am at the top level of my GS-12 grade step 10. What will my civil service and Social Security benefits be? Or, how I can estimate the figure?

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Retiree returning to federal work

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Q. I am planning to retire at age 62 with 22 years in the federal government and in FERS as a Title 38 employee. I am aware that there will be a limited amount of money I can make without affecting Social Security benefits.

If I came back to work in my agency as a contract, fee basis or a consultant, would there be a penalty or offset in my federal FERS annuity?

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Survivor annuity for widow

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Q. I’m trying to help a prospective retiree. She is 77 and is receiving a Social Security survivor annuity from her deceased husband. She is in CSRS Offset. The Social Security office seems to be unfamiliar with CSRS Offset and is answering her questions by telling her she’s FERS, which she is not.

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FERS survivor benefits

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Q. I am revisiting my life insurance needs and want to ensure I understand FERS survivor benefits. I have more than 20 years of 1811 experience, but I won’t turn 50 until next year. If I die before I turn 50, will the survivor annuity be calculated at 10 percent for my first 20 years of 1811 experience or at 17 percent for those years? If I die after I turn 50 but am still employed by the federal government, will the survivor annuity be calculated at 10 percent for my first 20 years of 1811 experience or at 17 percent for those years? If I die before I retire, will my sick leave be added to my years of service for the survivor annuity calculation; if so, will it be 50 percent of my sick leave balance before Jan. 1, 2014, and 100 percent of it after?

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CSRS, survivor annuity and Social Security

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Q. I have two questions about the Reg Jones article in the Feb. 18 Federal Times issue, titled “2013 brings changes to Medicare, survivor benefits” (Page 22).

1) Under death benefits, it says, “under CSRS, if you die while still employed, your widow will be entitled to a survivor annuity.” When I retired in 1995, I signed an agreement to take a reduction in my annuity so that when I die, my wife will get a percent of my annuity. Please explain what is wrong with one of these two statements.

2) Under the same topic, he says, “the spouse will get a survivor benefit equal half of my basic Social Security if I had 10 years of payment.” I fully qualified for a full Social Security benefit; however, the government sees fit to steal most of my earned benefit because I receive an annuity. Please clarify the status.

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Social Security and FICA deductions

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Q. I receive FERS benefits but am now applying for Social Security, which will be my main retirement. I got to a question on the application process that asks whether I ever earned money where FICA was not taken out. I worked for two and parts of two other year for Gallaudet College, which was at the time a quasi-government and Civil Service. Those earnings do not appear on my Social Security statement of benefits I assume for that reason. I took the retirement in a lump sum when I left that position.

I was federally employed (FERS and Social Security) from 1984-97. When computing my years of service, I inquired if I could buy back those few Gallaudet years so as to count for years of service, and I did. So the Social Security benefits application asked if I benefited from in terms of pension or annuity by the earnings I didn’t pay FICA for. So do I benefit from years of service though no credit for money earned having bought back those years for greater benefit based on years of service? Will this influence the amount of retirement due me from Social Security?

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FERS, special retirement supplement and reduction in force

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Q. I have 29 years of federal service and am 50 and under FERS.

If I am involuntarily separated by a reduction in force at age 50, do I get the FERS Social Security bridge along with my Discontinued Service Retirement, or do I have to wait until I turn 56 to collect the bridge portion of my retirement? Does this start automatically with the DSR, or do I have to apply for the bridge with SSA when I am 56?

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Windfall elimination provision and foreign work

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Q. I lived and worked in Canada, earning income from 1969 through 1994.

I am a U.S. citizen, but my father was transferred to Canada when I was very young, and we became naturalized Canadians. I moved to the U.S. in 1994 and began earning income. I retired Jan. 31, 2013, and went to the local Social Security Office to apply for early benefits (I will be 62 this summer). I understand the reduction because I am taking early benefits; however, I was told that my benefit would be reduced if I was also going to take Canada pension. I can’t understand this, as I worked in Canada and contributed to Canada pension, and I worked in the U.S. and contributed to Social Security. The time periods (1969 through 1994 and 1994 through 2013) do not overlap. How can my Social Security be reduced? I could make no sense of it, and they were not very helpful in explaining it. Thus, even though I have earned my Canada pension, if I take it, my U.S. benefits are reduced, which I can’t afford. How is this possible, and how can I eventually get my Canada pension without a penalty to my Social Security?

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Social Security disability and CSRS retirement

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Q. I started getting Postal Service and Social Security disability in 1994. I am in CSRS Offset, not FERS.

I started a job, and they stopped my Social Security disability because my earnings were substantial. I am 65.

I applied for Social Security, since I will be 66 in July. My Social Security is 30 percent less than I received under Social Security disability. The clerk at Social Security said they had been paying me too much disability each month, but since it had been more than four years since the error on their part, they would not try to recover the overpayment. My problem is I am not able to do the job; my disability has caused me to get two warnings that I am underperforming. I am close to being fired. Since I have a ticket to work, my Social Security disability can be restarted without my having to reapply. Do you know if they will start me at my old amount without the 30 percent reduction?

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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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