Ask The Experts: Retirement

By Reg Jones

Separation before NTE date and unemployment compensation

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Q. If a federal re-employed annuitant is let go prior to his “Not to Exceed” date not for cause (i.e. to save money), is he entitled to unemployment compensation?

A. Highly unlikely because you are already receiving an annuity. However, you would have to check with your state employment office to be sure.

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Retirement processing, retroactive pay and unemployment benefits

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Q. I was a re-employed annuitant who officially retired Jan. 3 from another federal agency. The human resources specialist at the last federal agency informed me that I would receive my full retirement benefits beginning Feb. 1, since my SF 2801 and additional paperwork was submitted to the Office of Personnel Management prior to their Jan. 18 deadline. I have approximately 37 years of combined federal service: 27 years with the first federal employer and 10 years with the second and final federal employer.

Thanks to OPM’s severe backlog, I have received nothing except the annuity from my first annuity, which I’ve been receiving since January 2003. During this interim, am I eligible for unemployment compensation? Will I receive retroactive pay for the months prior to final my redetermined annuity?

A. Yes, your redetermined annuity will be retroactive to the date on which you retired for the second time. No, you aren’t eligible for unemployment compensation.

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Voluntary vs. mandatory retirement

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Q. I am eligible for retirement March 21 as a law enforcement officer under FERS. I will have 20 years of law enforcement experience and am age 56. Because I turn 57 in October (seven months later), I will be forced to retire Oct. 31.

Aside from the extra approximately $8.56 per month I will get in my annuity for each month I stay after March and the benefit of having a full salaried job for seven more months, is there any advantage to me retiring under mandatory retirement age versus voluntary?

The combination of my projected annuity and special retirement supplement provides me with a net of approximately $500 per month less than what I currently take home.

My intention is to get a part-time job to bridge the $500 gap not to exceed the maximum allowed wage of $14,640 so as not to affect my Social Security.

Also, I heard from a retirement counselor who said if you wait until you are forced out, you might qualify for unemployment benefits depending on your state.

A. While the final decision is up to your state, it’s unlikely that you’d be eligible for unemployment benefits.

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Special retirement supplement

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Q. I retired on a FERS pension in August 2008. I also began receiving the FERS special retirement supplement as of the payment made Jan. 4, 2010.

I obtained a job in the private sector on April 12, 2011, but was laid off on Feb. 28, 2012. I will have received unemployment insurance benefits from mid-March through this month.

My special retirement supplement was offset by earnings over the annual exempt amount in 2011. (The “overpayment” is being deducted from my current FERS supplement payment.) My earnings in 2012 are well under the annual exempt amount. Is the special retirement supplement offset by unemployment insurance benefits over the annual exempt amount?

A. No, it isn’t.

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Early retirement and unemployment compensation

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Q. I am 62 years old working for Postal Service with 21 years in and have received an offer of early retirement with compensation/incentive ($15,000). The deadline to submit the early retirement is Dec. 3 and retirement date is Jan. 31, 2013. If I take the offer and retire, will I still be able to claim for unemployment compensation? If I am, can I claim an unemployment benefit? Up to how many weeks?

A. While the matter is one for the employment bureau of your state to decide, as a rule, no one who retires is eligible for unemployment compensation.

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Unemployment and Social Security earnings limit

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Q. Does income from state unemployment compensation count toward the Social Security earnings limit?

A. No, it doesn’t.

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Special retirement supplement

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Q. I am a civilian with the Department of Defense and have almost 28 years under FERS. I will be 59 years old in June. If offered a voluntary early retirement at the end of 2012, will I be eligible for the special retirement supplement earlier than my 60th birthday (six months prior to June 2013)?  If I will be eligible for SRS before my 60th birthday, will I remain fully eligible until I am 62? Additionally, if a person goes out on a voluntary early retirement, are they eligible for unemployment insurance compensation, or is that a state issue?

A. Because you have already reached your minimum retirement age, if you accept an offer of early retirement, you would be immediately entitled to receive the special retirement supplement. The SRS would continue until you reached age 62, when you’d be eligible for a regular Social Security benefit.

While the determination of whether someone should be paid unemployment compensation is up to each state, it’s highly unlikely that anyone who has retired and is receiving an annuity would be entitled to it.

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Unemployment and federal pension

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Q. If one is federally retired but actively seeking employment, does this disqualify him based on the of his pension from unemployment benefits.  I live in Texas.

A. Since you haven’t been laid off, the odds of your being eligible are next to zero. However, that decision will have to be made by your state’s employment office.

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FERS disability retirement

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Q. I was placed on a FERS disability retirement by the FAA after suffering a stroke in 2005. The FAA revoked my class II medical, otherwise I would be able to return to my previous position. All my work for the FAA was conducted in either Kansas or Utah. In 2008, I obtained a job with a private company in N.J. In 2011, I was terminated and I requested unemployment benefits. The New Jersey unemployment office is stating I am not entitled to unemployment benefits due to my FERS retirement. Is this true?

A. Because this isn’t a question about federal employee and retiree benefits, you’ll have to take the matter up with the State of New Jersey unemployment office and ask them to show why you are barred from receiving that benefit.

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Buyouts and collecting unemployment

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Q. If I do a full retirement under the Civil Service Retirement System and accepted a buyout offer as an inducement for electing voluntary early retirement, will I be able to collect unemployment compensation insurance if I look for employment outside of federal service?

A. No.

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Unemployment benefits

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Q. I am a full-time Air National Guard technician. I have decided to retire from the military after 22 years of service. I have only 10 years as a full-time federal technician under the FERS system. In order for me to keep my full-time position, I must be in the Air National Guard. After my military retirement, I will have to resign my full-time position. Will I be eligible for unemployment benefits?

A. The rules for unemployment compensation vary from state to state. You’ll have to check with your own state’s unemployment office.

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Unemployment after mandatory retirement?

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Q: I work in the area of law enforcement with the Bureau of Prisons. We have a mandatory requirement to retire at age 57. We are forced out without any rights to stay. My question is: Are we eligible for unemployment compensation benefits because we no longer have a job? Even though we are able to work and it is not our decision to leave. If so, how long are we allowed to claim unemployment benefits?

A: While it’s unlikely that you’d qualify for unemployment compensation, such determinations are made by the state in which you reside. Once you have been separated from your government job, you should go to the nearest public employment and claims office of your state’s employment security agency and register for work and claim unemployment benefits.

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RIF, DSA and unemployment benefits

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Q: If I am eligible for a discontinued service annuity and I am separated due to a reduction in force, would I be eligible to receive unemployment benefits in addition to the DSA?

A: Probably not, but you’ll have to check with your state employment security agency to be sure.

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