Ask The Experts: Retirement

By Reg Jones

New job and allowances/raise

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Q. I’ve been offered a position with the Defense Intelligence Agency as a GG-13, step 6. I’m a GS-13, step 6, and have been for nearly a year. I accepted my position last year, going from my previous salary as a GS-13, step 4. Can I ask for a raise in the new position? Or, since I’ve been a step 6 for only around a year, am I ineligible? Also, with DIA, will my leave award of six hours per pay period apply? Should it? My new position with DIA will be outside the contiguous United States, so the allowances and leave days are different. And DIA is offering all applicable OCONUS allowances.

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Step increases during disability

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Q. I am a veteran of the armed forces and a civilian federal firefighter of Hawaii and have about 13 years government time under FERS.

While on duty in 2010, we were in route in the fire engine and an oncoming vehicle lost control and collided with the fire engine, causing substantial injuries to myself and the crew. The majority of the kinetic energy was absorbed by me because the point of impact was where I was seated.

I sustained injuries to my lumbar area in my lower back and injuries to my left limb, for which I’ve undergone a major back surgery, countless doctors’ visits and therapies, etc. I am still recovering from the injuries and presently on modified light duty at four hours a day, five days a week. I was on total disability for about 2 years and noticed that my retirement investment into my Thrift Savings Plan was at a freeze or standstill, where an injured employee could not invest into their TSP while on leave without pay. I also noticed that while on total disability, an injured employee goes into LWOP status, which human resources said affects your within-grade increases to where you are not entitled to move up in step increases.

Is there a new law that helps with retirement benefits for workers hurt on the job? After intensive research, I stumbled across an article by Stephen Barr dated Oct. 10, 2003, informing that President Bush signed legislation that will help make up any shortfall in retirement benefits for federal employees who are disabled or injured while on the job. It mentions the new law will change the way a federal employee’s benefits are calculated during a disability by increasing the pension benefit provided under FERS to cover any shortfall.

Is there also any new law or standard act that helps with entitlements for step increases for workers hurt on the job? Ever since I was injured on the job in 2010, and because of the injuries I sustained I was on total disability in LWOP status not by choice, the opportunity to move up in step increase passed me over twice. As co-workers who were hired the same day as me moved up in step increase, I was denied. Can you advise?

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Step increase, retirement and high-3

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Q. In February 2014, I will have 33 years of government service. If I receive a step increase in February 2014 and retire in March 2014, will the step increase be factored into my high-3?

A. Assuming that it is part of your highest three consecutive years of average pay, it will be included in the 78 pay periods used to calculate your high-3.

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Step increase, retirement and high-3

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Q. I am planning to retire the month after I receive a step increase. Will this increase be factored into my high-3 for retirement annuity purposes, or must I extend my retirement date to take advantage of this? If so, for how long?

A. Yes, it will be included. However, since you high-3 is made up of 78 biweekly pay periods, the impact it will have on your annuity depends on how long you are receiving it. If you only received the increase for one pay period, its effect on your annuity would be marginal at best.

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Lateral employment move and retirement changes

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Q. I am in an 0802 series position and am considering a lateral move to another government agency (1670 series). How, if at all, would this affect my CSRS plan? And would I get a step increase if I made the change?

A. Moving to another agency in another series would not affect your retirement benefits. Whether you would receive a step increase is something you’ll have to discuss with your new agency.

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Step increases

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Q. Have step increases been frozen?

A. No.

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