Q. I left the VA after 10 years of service and was under the civil service retirement program. When I left I was a GS-5, step 4. I was employed from June 27,1977 until July 5,1987. I left my retirement funds and did not withdraw them. I thought I might return to federal service someday. I am now 57 years old. As things turned out I did not return and now I am approaching retirement age. I have been told that I may not be able to draw both Social Security and civil service retirement. I need to understand if I can get a small civil service retirement and also get my Social Security retirement. It seems to me that I have earned both retirement benefits. I have worked low-income positions all of my life and want to maximize any benefits I may have earned. If I can not get the civil service retirement, can I get the money I deposited into the civil service back? Also, any advice on how to calculate what is in my best interest would be appreciated.
A. Because you had at least five years of covered service and left your contributions in the retirement fund, you can apply for a deferred annuity at age 62 using Standard Form 2801, Application for Immediate Retirement, which can be downloaded at http://opm.gov/forms/pdf_fill/SFf2801.pdf. That annuity would be based on your total years of service and highest three consecutive years of average salary on the day you left, multiplied by a formula:
0.015 x your high-3 x 5 years of service, plus
0.175 x your high-3 x 5 years of service, plus
0.20 x your high-3 x any additional years and/or full months of service
Because you would be receiving an annuity from a retirement system where you didn’t pay Social Security taxes, your Social Security benefit would be reduced if you have fewer than 30 years of substantial earnings under Social Security. To learn more about the windfall elimination provision, go to www.ssa.gov/retire/wep-chart.htm. If you decide not to apply for a deferred CSRS annuity, you can ask for a refund by completing Standard Form 2802, Application for refund of Retirement Contributions, located at http://opm.gov/forms/pdf_fill/sf2802.pdf.