The five-year rule


Q: I was hired on Oct. 18, 1982, with the Postal Service as a temporary employee. In April 1984, I became a career employee, but later “bought back” my temporary time, so all my Form 50s show a hiring date of Oct. 18, 1982. I have always paid Social Security on my earnings. I have never understood why I did not fall under the Civil Service Retirement System instead of the Federal Employees Retirement System. I tried to research it with human resources, and they said I missed CSRS by 17 days (something
about the five-year rule). I have not been able to find any information on that five-year rule. According to one of your responses to a postal employee I just read, he was under CSRS even though he was hired a full year after I was. Wouldn’t my annuity be much greater under CSRS? I currently make around $50,000 a year. I need to know for sure before retiring because that will be my only source of income, other than Social Security. Also, will my Social Security benefit be reduced due to my government annuity? I would like any adjustment made that needs to be made to the retirement systems so I can determine a retirement date. I am 61 years old.

A: As required by law, all employees who had fewer than five years of coverage under CSRS on Dec. 31, 1986, were automatically converted to FERS coverage on Jan. 1, 1987. Therefore, you were properly covered by FERS. When you retire, you will be eligible for a FERS annuity and, if you are under age 62 and eligible for an immediate annuity, you will receive the special retirement supplement, which approximates the Social Security benefit you earned while covered by FERS. The SRS will stop when you
reach age 62 and are eligible for a Social Security benefit. Your Social Security benefit will be based on all your years of Social Security-covered employment, not just those under FERS.


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Reg Jones was head of retirement and insurance policy at the Office of Personnel Management. Email your retirement-related questions to

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