Ask The Experts: Retirement

By Reg Jones

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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CSRS and Social Security

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Q. I am retired under CSRS. I am 60. I have four years of military time that I have not paid back.

I have 22 quarters of Social Security. If I start working in the private sector, I will not acquire 40 credits by my 62nd birthday. Can I still have my CSRS retirement reduced if I acquire 40 credits after my 62nd birthday?

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CSRS, Social Security and WEP/GPO

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Q. My husband worked for the government for 25 years under CSRS and receives a pension. When he retired, we applied for spousal benefits because I had no qualifying employment. He then went to work in the private sector and will complete his 30 years of substantial earnings for Social Security next year. When he retires, he will receive another pension from his private job. As we understand it, we should not be affected by the windfall elimination provision. However, we are confused by the government pension offset. Will he not be entitled to draw his full Social Security at age 66 or later? How will it affect my half of his Social Security payments? How will it affect my spousal benefit of his federal pension should he die before I do? Am I correct in understanding that the pensions are not considered earned income and should not reduce the Social Security amount?

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Windfall elimination provision

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Q. I retired on disability in 1981. I have 30 years of Social Security, 27 substantial. I understand the windfall elimination provision does not apply to me, as I retired on disability before this law took effect, in 1984.

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USPS survivor annuity and Social Security

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Q. My husband died at age 51 in 2000. He worked 28 years for USPS, plus four years in the military, for 32 years (he paid no Social Security taxes for the 28 years in USPS). I have received widow’s death benefit annuity payments since his death, in addition to purchasing the USPS medical insurance plan. I worked full time in the medical profession until his death and have worked part time since 2000. I would like to take my Social Security at age 62 (in 3 years). Am I still eligible to receive the USPS death benefit annuity (and insurance option) once I start collecting my Social Security?

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CSRS offset and not collecting Social Security

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Q. I am under CSRS offset. I am going to retire in three years at age 62. I know my government pension will be reduced by $213 when I turn 62. According to my Social Security statement, I should receive $888 if I collect at age 62. It states: “At your current earnings rate, if you continue working until 66, you will receive $1,366 a month.” What happens if I don’t collect Social Security at age 62 and wait until full retirement age? Will I receive $1,366 a month minus the $213 offset reduction, minus the windfall elimination provision? (I will have only 20 years under Social Security.) Or will the $1,366 be recalculated since I won’t be paying Social Security from age 62 to age 66? Also, I am divorced and not remarried. My ex-spouse is retired military and under FERS. He has remarried, but I am still entitled to his Survivor Benefit Plan under his military retirement plan. If something happens to him and I start receiving SBP, will my Social Security be affected?

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FERS, the WEP and Social Security

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Q. I have 22 years of service under FERS and 10 years under straight CSRS before 1977. I will be 64 this month. The windfall elimination provision chart on the Social Security site estimates the WEP reduction based on age 62 (and the number of years paying into Social Security at that age).

Does that mean that no matter how many more years I work, the WEP reduction will remain as it would have been at age 62 and less than 20 years paying into Social Security? Does it also mean the extra years worked will not count toward reducing the WEP reduction? I called Social Security, but the agent was not sure.

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CSRS offset and Social Security

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Q. I am in CSRS offset, and I am eligible to retire now.

I expect to be working past age 66, when I can collect full Social Security benefits. If I collect the benefits and continue to work, how will my retirement calculation change when I retire? Most, but not all, of the Social Security benefits were earned while I was under CSRS offset.

Also, how would my retirement be affected if I collect the Social Security before age 66?

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CSRS offset and retirement timing

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Q. I am a FERCCA case. I was inadvertently placed in FERS when hired by my agency after eight years in the legislative branch.

I have elected CSRS offset coverage. I have 28 years, eight months of creditable service and am eligible to retire now.

My annual salary and high-3 are not likely to change in the next few years. Are CSRS offset annuities helped by length of service? Would it benefit me to work two or three more years?

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Forms and federal agency certification

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Q. I recently retired from the Veterans Affairs Department and applied for Medicare Part B coverage. My FEHBP is still in effect. The Social Security office sent forms that appear to need agency certification. Who does this? The employing agency or OPM? I’m not getting answers. OPM’s number is constantly busy, and my former human resources office isn’t returning calls. I’m trying to get the coverage and avoid any financial disaster.

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Social Security quarters and CSRS benefits

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Q. If I retired with 34 years of CSRS benefits and have now earned 40 quarters Social Security, will I be able to draw Social Security benefits?

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Military buyback, federal retirement and Social Security

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Q. I retired from the FAA in 2003 with 21 years of service, and I receive 50 percent of my base pay. I also am qualified for Social Security. I bought back my military service. I know my Social Security benefits will be lowered as I receive a pension from OPM. I am planning on taking my Social Security benefits when I turn 62. Will I still receive my 50 percent pension from OPM?

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Catch-62 questions

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Q. I retired in 2010 with 40 years of service, including four years of military service (1972-1976) that I did not pay back. While I am 62 and don’t qualify for Social Security yet, I recently received a notice that I now qualify for survivor benefits. Will this affect my CSRS annuity? Second, is the one-time Catch 62 check at age 62 in law or process? My concern is that if it is process, then it could easily be changed because of the budget situation to check every year after age 62 or when you start to draw Social Security if you qualify after age 62.

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CSRS, Social Security and the windfall elimination provision

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Q. I started work at 16 during the summer to help pay for college.

From 1966 to 1974, I made very low incomes but contributed to Social Security. Then I worked for the Forest Service and became a CSRS employee for five years. I resigned and got a refund on my retirement because I did not think I would work there again. But because I had five years in, the Forest Service says I still have a vested interest in CSRS and will pay me $202/month for that vested service when I retire.

Between 1990 and 1999, I stayed home with my children and occasionally worked as a substitute teacher — once again, low wages that contributed to Social Security. That means I have only about 11 years of substantial earnings toward Social Security. The windfall elimination provision states that my Social Security benefits cannot be reduced more than half of my pension. What pension? The $202 I get from CSRS, the $901 combined pension from the government or the $647 from Social Security? Can’t government brochures be more specific?

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CSRS offset, temporary work and FICA

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Q. I am retiring under CSRS offset. In 2007, I worked as a temporary employee for four months. During that time I paid FICA, but not the additional 0.8 percent toward my retirement. OPM states that I need to pay the full 7 percent to get full credit toward my retirement.

Given that the CSRS offset contribution is 7 percent, divided by 6.2 percent toward FICA and 0.8 percent toward CSRS, wouldn’t paying an additional 7 percent be a double payment toward FICA? Shouldn’t I just be liable for the 0.8 percent deposit? If I must pay a full 7 percent, will this affect my SS offset amount?

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Government pension offset and windfall elimination provision

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Q. I’m trying to understand how my retirement income will be affected by the government pension offset and windfall elimination provision.

I’m a CSRS Offset employee (55 years old) contemplating retirement in the next year with more than 32 years’ service. I also receive a monthly spousal annuity from my deceased wife’s CSRS service. I understand that when I turn 62, my own CSRS pension will be reduced by whatever Social Security amount I’m eligible for (should be more than 30 years of Social Security earnings), but I just read something indicating that my spousal annuity also might be reduced at age 62 due to the windfall elimination provision. Can you shed light on how this will unfold?

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