Ask The Experts: Retirement

By Reg Jones

CSRS and Social Security

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Q. I retired at 60 under the CSRS Offset program 18 months ago which, I think, I understand fairly well.  Still: At 62 (this summer), I understand my CSRS amount will be reduced by my Social Security benefits amount. I want to confirm that the total I will receive will be substantially the same. But also, will my bank then begin receiving two deposits? Or does OPM somehow intervene so that there is but one monthly payment? Also, while I worked under the CSRS Offset program for 25 or so years (six under pure CSRS), what about the Social Security benefits that I should have accrued when I was a young man working for a grocery, a bank (during the lapse in service), and other full- and part-time jobs outside of government service? Read the rest of this entry »

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WEP effect

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Q. I served 5 years, 8 months, in the military, then 30 years in the Post Office. I had roughly 6 months of sick leave to use, so 37 years total. Military time was repaid prior to VERA in June 2011. My Social Security statement is 38 credits as of 2012. My VERA incentive was calculated under Social Security. If I become employed before I’m 62, how will my annuity be affected and how much will my Social Security benefits be? Is there a calculator to determine this amount using specific amounts?

A. Because you’ll have fewer than 30 years of substantial earnings under Social Security, your Social Security benefit would be subject to the windfall elimination provision. The WEP would reduce – but not eliminate – that benefit. To learn more about the WEP and how it would affect you, go to http://www.ssa.gov/pubs/EN-05-10045.pdf.

 

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CSRS and Social Security

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Q. I work for the federal government and have 31 years in CSRS. I was born in 1959. I am eligible to retire in August 2014 and will be 55. I also worked in the private sector before becoming a federal employee. I am four credits short of receiving Social Security. If I earn four more credits after I retire, how much will I receive and how much will my CSRS retirement be decreased?

If I could receive Social Security, would it be better to keep working under CSRS/ Social Security? Which would be greater? Should I just work longer under Social Security or stay extra years under CSRS?

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CSRS, Social Security and military service

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Q. I just retired from the federal government Dec. 28 under CSRS at age 66. My service comp date is March 3, 1975. Now I am told I have only 31 years in federal service because they are not counting my six years on active duty with the Army. They say it’s because I’m eligible for a Social Security benefit, and I’m receiving one. I thought they went by the service computation date. If I am required to buy back my military time, of six years, to get a larger monthly annuity, can I still do that? How much will I have to pay to buy back the six years of military? Does it have to be paid all at once? The Social Security Administration representative said my Social Security benefit will be reduced because I’m a CSRS retiree.

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CSRS, Social Security, Tricare and BCBS

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Q. I worked and completed my 40 quarters for Social Security before I started working for the federal government (CSRS). Will I have to take a reduction too?

Secondly, I am retired now from CSRS, and we have Blue Cross Blue Shield health insurance.

Thirdly, I start drawing my military retirement starting in July, and we are eligible for Tricare. My second question: Should we switch to Tricare Standard and suspend our BCBS? It would be about a $450-a-month raise (the $450 is what we pay per month for the BCBS).

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CSRS retirement and Social Security

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Q. I have been a federal employee with the Department of Veterans Affairs covered by CSRS since October 1977 and have four years of military service (I paid the military deposit in full). I am 75 and have started receiving Social Security. I will be retiring in about one year and eight months, having reached 41 years and 10 months years of service, including military service, hoping to have earned or reached the 80 percent retirement annuity. I am at the top level of my GS-12 grade step 10. What will my civil service and Social Security benefits be? Or, how I can estimate the figure?

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CSRS, survivor annuity and Social Security

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Q. I have two questions about the Reg Jones article in the Feb. 18 Federal Times issue, titled “2013 brings changes to Medicare, survivor benefits” (Page 22).

1) Under death benefits, it says, “under CSRS, if you die while still employed, your widow will be entitled to a survivor annuity.” When I retired in 1995, I signed an agreement to take a reduction in my annuity so that when I die, my wife will get a percent of my annuity. Please explain what is wrong with one of these two statements.

2) Under the same topic, he says, “the spouse will get a survivor benefit equal half of my basic Social Security if I had 10 years of payment.” I fully qualified for a full Social Security benefit; however, the government sees fit to steal most of my earned benefit because I receive an annuity. Please clarify the status.

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Windfall elimination provision and foreign work

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Q. I lived and worked in Canada, earning income from 1969 through 1994.

I am a U.S. citizen, but my father was transferred to Canada when I was very young, and we became naturalized Canadians. I moved to the U.S. in 1994 and began earning income. I retired Jan. 31, 2013, and went to the local Social Security Office to apply for early benefits (I will be 62 this summer). I understand the reduction because I am taking early benefits; however, I was told that my benefit would be reduced if I was also going to take Canada pension. I can’t understand this, as I worked in Canada and contributed to Canada pension, and I worked in the U.S. and contributed to Social Security. The time periods (1969 through 1994 and 1994 through 2013) do not overlap. How can my Social Security be reduced? I could make no sense of it, and they were not very helpful in explaining it. Thus, even though I have earned my Canada pension, if I take it, my U.S. benefits are reduced, which I can’t afford. How is this possible, and how can I eventually get my Canada pension without a penalty to my Social Security?

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Windfall elimination provision wording

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Q. The Windfall Elimination Provision states: “The only work you did where you did not pay Social Security taxes was before 1957, or you have 30 or more years of substantial earnings under Social Security.”

Are these statements separate or combined? What does the year have to do with it? What is the formula for calculating substantial earnings? Take into consideration that at the time, single mothers with three dependents did not earn “substantial earnings.” By the way, how much is substantial? It seems to me that the date I began work eliminates the windfall, along with my almost 30 years of Social Security earnings, which should not be subject to the WEP. Starting in 1956, the college I attended helped me work two jobs to cover all my expenses.

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CSRS, Social Security and annuity

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Q. I retired in 2001 from the FAA under CSRS. I have 33 quarters of Social Security. If I go back to work and earn an additional seven quarters and apply for Social Security benefits, will that same amount of money be subtracted from my annuity?

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CSRS, Social Security and retirement

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Q. I plan to begin collecting Social Security at age 66 in CSRS. I have met my 40 quarters and 30 substantial salary requirements. Additionally, I took a two-year break to work in the public sector. When I retire at age 69 with 40 years’ service and begin collecting my CSRS annuity, will I be able to collect Social Security?

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CSRS employment and Social Security

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Q. I retired under full CSRS (none offset) in January 2010 with 35 years’ federal service as a GS 14/10. I am 59 and don’t have the 40 credits required to receive Social Security benefits when I turn 62.

Is it worth it to take a part-time job just to get my 40 credits in, or will there be a reduction to my federal retirement that will hurt more than it will help? I haven’t earned very much in the private sector — just a few years before I became a CSRS employee in 1977, including the time I served in the Army, which I bought back to add to my CSRS time (included in the 35 years), but still paid a very small amount to Social Security while serving in the Army.

I have an opportunity to start a small business (~$10,000 per year).

Would it be better to have the business in my wife’s name to add to her Social Security rather than affect my CSRS? Or will I expect to see a small Social Security check when I hit age 62 if I get my 40 quarters in with Social Security?

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CSRS offset and annuity

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Q. I received a refund of my CSRS contributions when I separated from federal service in 1993. Four years later, I returned to federal service. I am CSRS offset.

Because I withdrew my contributions from CSRS, and federal service where Social Security taxes are withheld is not affected by the windfall elimination provision, will withdrawing CSRS contributions change my Social Security benefit when I retire?

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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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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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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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Former CSRS employee’s retirement options

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Q. I am a former federal CSRS employee who lost employment when the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard was closed in 1995. I had about 15 years of service and left my contributions in the system. I was born in July 1956 and am 56. When can I apply for a pension, and what can I expect? Would I take a deferred pension? Also, I have met my 40 quarters for Social Security and have been employed for about 17 years with the School District of Philadelphia. I am thinking about retiring when I am 62 but would like to know my options as far as the WEP and such. Can you help?

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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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