FERS firefighter retirement


Q. On Feb 16, you answered the below stated question, Can I please get some more information on this. Any reference or regulation you were using. We have a firefighter who will be retiring in the next nine months who was told by our CPAC (Army Civilian Personnel Office) that even though he will have 20+ years as a firefighter, If he leaves special retirement and transfers to another job instead of retiring that is outside of the special retirement, that he will lose it, and when he finally retires, it will be a normal retirement rate even though he has paid in the extra 1/2 percent for many years.
In a related question, we have another firefighter who is in a similar situation who is being told in a letter when he asked for his retirement estimate that because he did not have three years as a primary firefighter (on the floor) prior to moving to a secondary position (fire inspector) that his fire inspector time is not counted towards special retirement. Also, they will refund him his 1/2 percent shortly after he retires. Is this right and/or correct?

Firefighter retirement and rehire
February 16th, 2010
Q: As a federal firefighter retiring under FRES at the mandatory age of 57, can I continue working in another agency? For instant, transferring into fire prevention, which does not apply to the mandatory retirement or to another federal agency outside of the federal fire service. If so, would I still receive the firefighter retirement computation?

A: Once you have 20 years of covered service, you have locked in your eligibility to retire under the more generous computation formula for firefighters. You can continue working where you are in any job or work for another federal agency without affecting that right. No matter what you decide to do, all years of service over 20 will be computed using the standard retirement formula.

A. Your CPAC is batting .500. It is simply not true that a firefighter who already has 20 years of covered service and moves to an uncovered position will have his entire annuity computed under the standard formula. Once he has completed the required number of years, he can go anywhere he wants in the federal government and still have those 20 years computed using the more generous firefighter formula. For proof, go to http://opm.gov/pubs/handbook/C046.pdf and scroll down to Section 46A3.3.1C. While the text there refers to CSRS employees, Section 46B3.3-1-1C, says that it applies to FERS employees, too.
On the same site, scroll down to Section 46B3.2-1C2. There you will find that your CPAC is correct. A firefighter must serve three years in a primary position before transferring to a secondary one to be eligible for the firefighter formula to be used at retirement. Because your agency has made a serious error, it will have to cease taking the higher deductions from his salary and refund the money it erroneously deducted for those years after he moved to a secondary position. I doubt that he will have to wait until he retires to get restitution. Your CPAC will need to talk with OPM to see what is the best way to make him whole, and to do that as soon as possible.


About Author

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

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