Ask The Experts: Retirement

By Reg Jones

Terminated before retirement

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Q. I was an air traffic controller. My Federal Aviation Administration hire date was Sept. 30, 1990. I was terminated March 8 — 261 days from being eligible for retirement because I lost my medical. My 50th birthday is Nov. 24. I have over 22 years of “good time” and five years of military time, which I bought back, for a total of 27 years of government service. The FAA says I can file for a disability retirement, but otherwise I am entitled to nothing. Can this be right? Even if I get the disability retirement, it will be less than what I would have received at age 50.

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Discontinued service retirement

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Q. I was injured in a severe motor vehicle accident and unable (because of doctor’s orders) to return to work.  The agency sent me a letter stating that I should return to work and violate the restrictions, apply for FERS disability, or be terminated. I chose to apply for FERS disability and was denied, and now the agency is in the process of terminating me. I am still under doctor’s restrictions. I am over age 50 and have 21 years of combined service: 16.5 military, which I bought back, and seven civil service if they count my leave without pay (six if not). Will I be entitled to discontinued service retirement?

A. Yes.

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Termination and disability retirement

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Q. I saw this exchange on your site:

“Q. I am 60 and was hospitalized in March. I used all my sick and vacation leave because of a medical condition that will last more than a year, used all my [Family Medical Leave Act time] and have applied for disability retirement. I got a call from the nurse executive that if they don’t receive a letter from me within five days that I am resigning, they will have to terminate my federal service, since they say I am AWOL. This same executive in May completed the supervisor portion of my disability retirement application. Can they fire me even though I have applied for disability retirement?

A. Yes. However, whether you resign or they separate you, it won’t affect your application for disability retirement.”

Can you tell me if, when the retirement application is approved, the termination is then converted to a retirement action?

A. No, it wouldn’t. The SF-50 action would have already been effected, so whether it was a termination or separation, etc., if you later receive a disability retirement, this wouldn’t affect the SF-50 action that was already done.

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Buying back retirement credits

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Q. I worked for the Postal Service from late 1979 until about 1991. I had a lot of personal and work-related problems and was also given a letter of termination. I decided to quit. I also tried to pursue a disability, but I dropped that because of stress and depression.

I withdrew my retirement to pay an accumulation of four months of bills and rent that I was behind in. I vaguely recall reading that there was a buyback of retirement. Is this true? I am applying for Social Security benefits. I am only 58, but, due to health concerns, am not able to work. I have 31 Social Security credits and need 40 for full benefits. If I could buy back those years of retirement, I would have the full number of credits.  I honestly don’t know how all this works.

A. If you took a refund of your retirement contributions when you left, you wouldn’t be entitled to any retirement benefit nor could you redeposit that money, plus interest, to get credit for that service unless you returned to work for the government. If you left your contributions in the retirement fund, you’d be eligible for a deferred annuity at age 62.

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Deferred retirement after termination

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Q. I was terminated from my position due to unacceptable performance (not misconduct or delinquency). I was a FERS employee with 12 continuous years of service. Will I be eligible to collect a deferred retirement?

A. As long as you leave your contributions in the retirement fund, you can apply for a deferred annuity at age 62. That annuity will be based on your years and full months of service and your high-3 on the day you were terminated.

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Termination/resignation and disability retirement

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Q. I am 60 and was hospitalized in March. I used all my sick and vacation leave because of a medical condition that will last more than a year, used all my FMLA and have applied for disability retirement. I got a call from the nurse executive that if they don’t receive a letter from me within five days that I am resigning, they will have to terminate my federal service, since they say I am AWOL. This same executive in May completed the supervisor portion of my disability retirement application. Can they fire me even though I have applied for disability retirement?

A. Yes. However, whether you resign or they separate you, it won’t affect your application for disability retirement.

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Firing and annuity payments

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Q. If you are fired, does this make you ineligible for federal retirement annuity payments? I have the option to resign or be fired; would going the firing route make me ineligible for federal benefits? I have 21 years of federal service under FERS.

A. If you don’t take a refund of your retirement contributions, you’d be eligible for a deferred annuity at age 60.

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