Ask The Experts: Retirement

By Reg Jones

VERA/VSIP and retirement benefits

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Q. I am a Defense Department civilian and have met my minimum retirement age. I will not be eligible for full retirement under FERS until September 2015.

By then, I will be 60 and will have 30 years of service.

If I accepted a VERA/VSIP (I am on the offer list), would I get hit with an annuity reduction if the offer is not the result of a reduction in force? If I could take the offer without a reduction, would I also receive the special retirement supplement?

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Deferred annuity receipt age and formula

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Q. I resigned from federal service in July 2011. I have 15 years of service and am 53. I was a FERS employee. I’m trying to figure out what my retirement will be. My understanding is that I can start drawing my pension when I’m 56. I also understand there is a 5 percent penalty for each year under 62, meaning if I started taking my pension at 56, it would be reduced by 30 percent.

It is also my understanding that the way to figure out what my pension would be is to use .01 x high-3 x years and months of service. Am I right?

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CSRS retirement withdrawal and annuity

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Q. I am with the USPS and am in CSRS. I began working in 1973 and quit in 1977, at which time I withdrew my retirement money. I returned to the USPS in 1983 and am still there. Do I need to redeposit the money I withdrew to get credit for 33 years of service? If I do not redeposit the money, will my annuity be decreased?

A. Because you got that refund before Feb. 28, 1991, you’ll get credit for that time in determining you total years of service. However, if you don’t redeposit that money, plus accrued interest, your annuity will be actuarially reduced based on the amount you owe and your age when you retire.

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FERS RIF and annuity

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Q. I am 57 and have 27 years of service as a FERS employee with the Interior Department. I am in an RIF situation and would like to know my options.

It appears, because of my age, that I am eligible for an immediate annuity.

Will my annuity be reduced because of my age and my being three years short of 30 years of service?

A. Yes, you will be eligible to retire, and you won’t be penalized because you are short of the 30 years of service normally required for an immediate, unreduced annuity.

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Early retirement options

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Q. If and when the phased retirement takes effect, will it be possible to combine it with an early out, if announced, so that you could go half time earlier than otherwise? I’m 57 with 25 years’ service and am in FERS.

A. No. To participate in the program, you must be eligible for immediate retirement. In other words, age 55 with 30 years of service or age 60 with 20 (CSRS) or at your MRA with 30 years of service or age 60 with 20 (FERS).

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USPS retirement

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Q. If I retire at 62 with 11 years of work for the Postal Service, do I receive any retirement from USPS?

A. You can retire at age 62 with as few as five years of service.

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Mandatory retirement

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Q: I am a FERS employee of DHS. I entered duty in May 1994 as a 6(C) Law Enforcement Coverage employee — job series GS 1801-5 (before my 37th birthday). In October 1995, I transferred to a non-6(C) position and was promoted to GS 1801-12 (7 years). In October 2002 I was back to a 6(C)-covered GS1801-12 position. Since early 2004 to now I am under the 6(C) coverage and have moved up to GS 1801-14. I have seven years of non-6(C) coverage; am I subjected to the mandatory retirement at age of 57?

A: No. According to OPM, “If the law enforcement officer or firefighter attains the standard mandatory separation age and has not yet completed the required 20 years of service under the special provisions, he or she must be separated on the last day of the month in which he or she completes the 20 years of service.”

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Returning to federal work

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Q: I was an attorney for the Justice Department from 1998 to 2001, and then an attorney at IRS from 2001 to 2005. Then I quit the government, quit practicing law and completely changed careers. Here, five years later, I’m considering looking at federal employment again.

My questions are:
1. What exactly is career status?
2. Do I have it?
3. Does it matter?
4. Does it apply even if I’m applying for a job that has little at all to do with my former career?

A: In the federal government, anyone who is hired into a career-conditional position in the competitive service and completes three years of service with successful performance ratings is a career employee. You can find out if you were in the career service by looking at line 34 on one of your Standard Form 50s to see if box 1, Competitive Service, is checked. If box 2 is checked you were in the Excepted Service.
If you were in the competitive service and reach career status, that means you have permanent reemployment status and can be reemployed without further examination. However, that doesn’t mean that you don’t have to meet the qualification requirements of the job for which you are applying. You will have to meet those, not only for the occupation but for the grade level you are seeking.

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Deposit for service

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Q: I will be leavening the Marine Corps after 13 years of service. I will be getting another government job at the U.S. Postal Service. Will my 13 years count toward my retirement? Will I only have to work for another eight years? Or will I start over and have to work for 20 more years?

A: Your 13 years of active duty service will only count if you make a deposit to the Civil Service Retirement and Disability fund. The deposit will equal a small percentage of your basic pay while on active duty. Your civilian personnel office can help you learn what you owe and arrange for you to make a deposit, if you decide to do that. No interest will be charged if you make the deposit within two years after the date on which you are first employed.

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