Ask The Experts: Retirement

By Reg Jones

FERS, special retirement supplement and reduction in force

Bookmark and Share

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?

Read the rest of this entry »

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Windfall elimination provision and foreign work

Bookmark and Share

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?

Read the rest of this entry »

Tags: , , ,

Social Security disability and CSRS retirement

Bookmark and Share

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?

Read the rest of this entry »

Tags: , , , ,

CSRS offset retirement money question

Bookmark and Share

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.

Read the rest of this entry »

Tags: , , , ,

CSRS and Social Security survivor benefit

Bookmark and Share

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?

Read the rest of this entry »

Tags: , ,

Windfall elimination provision wording

Bookmark and Share

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.

Read the rest of this entry »

Tags: , ,

CSRS and Social Security for spouse’s survivor

Bookmark and Share

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?

Read the rest of this entry »

Tags: , ,

FICA withholdings for re-employed CSRS annuitants

Bookmark and Share

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.

Read the rest of this entry »

Tags: , , , ,

Social Security, CSRS and survivor benefits

Bookmark and Share

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?

Read the rest of this entry »

Tags: , , ,

Social Security benefits for survivor of CSRS employee

Bookmark and Share

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?

Read the rest of this entry »

Tags: , ,

CSRS, Social Security and annuity

Bookmark and Share

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?

Read the rest of this entry »

Tags: , ,

Early retirement and pension

Bookmark and Share

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?

Read the rest of this entry »

Tags: , , , ,

Foreign citizen and FERS, Social Security

Bookmark and Share

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.

Read the rest of this entry »

Tags: , , , , ,

Disability

Bookmark and Share

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.

Read the rest of this entry »

Tags: , , ,

CSRS, Social Security and retirement

Bookmark and Share

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?

Read the rest of this entry »

Tags: , , ,

CSRS employment and Social Security

Bookmark and Share

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?

Read the rest of this entry »

Tags: , , ,

Three annuities

Bookmark and Share

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 »

Tags: , , , , , ,

CSRS offset and annuity

Bookmark and Share

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?

Read the rest of this entry »

Tags: , , , ,

FERS, disability and Social Security

Bookmark and Share

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?

Read the rest of this entry »

Tags: , , , ,

Special retirement supplement and earnings test

Bookmark and Share

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?

Read the rest of this entry »

Tags: , , , ,