Ask The Experts: Retirement

By Reg Jones

Postal Service VERA

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Q. I am a 55-year-old Postal Service employee with more than 26 years of creditable service who has been on active duty under Title 10 for the past 10 years.  Late last year, I was offered the Voluntary Early Retirement Authority, which I accepted and submitted the irrevocable application along with all of the required documents.  On Jan. 31, I received a phone from the Postal Service human resources office to inform me that my retirement could not be processed because I am on active duty. I was also told that I had to return to pay status to be eligible for retirement.

1.  Is leave without pay or on military leave a pay status?

2.  Under the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act, my employer is obligated to rehire me after five years of military service. What would guarantee that I will be rehired after 15 years of military service?

3.  Since the Postal Service is offering the VERA because of reorganization, what precludes them from honoring the offer for retirement?

4.  Do I have any legal recourse to pursue this issue?

A. 1. No.

2. No.

3. You aren’t an employee.

4. No.

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Buying back military time

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Q. I am a U.S. Army reservist activated for 56 months and returned to federal service in November. I asked to buy back my active-duty time as a federal employee then and was instructed to fill out the form to DFAS and provide all my DD214s, which I did.

I just got a ridiculous letter from DFAS last week telling me to pay a whole lot for those months, and I know it is wrong.

I found a reference in USERRA that National Guard and Reservists do not pay either the 3 percent of base pay under FERS (or the 7 percent under CSRS) but only what would have been deducted for FERS from my base pay as a federal employee “just as if I had never been deployed.”

Now the letter from DFAS computed the 3 percent of base pay for the entire period and my payroll department doesn’t know any different, so how should I convince them to charge the correct amount? I got my USERRA info from http://www.opm.gov/retire/pubs/bals/1995/95-101.pdf.

A. Here’s what OPM had to say about that: “USERRA amended the law to provide that if the employee performs military service during a period of time that interrupts his civilian service, the amount of the military service deposit into the Civil Service Retirement and Disability Fund may not exceed the amount that would have been deducted and withheld from his basic pay during civilian service had the employee not performed the period of military service. See, specifically, 5 U.S.C. §§ 8334(j)(1)(B) and 8422(e)(1)(B) and Pub. L. 103-353, Sec. 5 (Oct. 10, 1994). Under section 8422(e)(1)(A), for example, the military service deposit is “an amount equal to 3 percent of the amount of [military basic pay] to the employee or Member for each period of military service after December 1956,” but the USERRA provisions provide that the deposit amount cannot exceed the amount that would have been deducted and withheld from his basic pay during civilian service had the employee not performed the period of military service.”

Feel free to print this out and send it to DFAS.

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Military buyback for former civil servant

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Q. I am a guardsman who has been on continuous active-duty orders since June 2004. Before 2004, I was employed as a civil service technician since 1981 (I am a FERS employee). When I went on orders in 2004, I was continued in leave-without-pay status in my Civil Service technician position by my Guard unit until my five-year USERRA rule ran out in 2009, when I was forced to give up my technician position or face being placed in absent-without-leave status. Now that I am nearing the end of my active-duty orders in October (I do not have enough active-duty time for a full active-duty retirement), I would like to buy back my military time for civil service retirement purposes but I am not sure how to do that since I am no longer a civil servant.

Can I buy back my military time now that I am no longer an active civil servant, but I do have a civil servant retirement coming?

A. No.

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