Q: I am a 29-year federal employee, with the first 16 of those years in congressional staff service. For the first three years of my employ, congressional staff could opt to pay neither CSRS nor Social Security. Being young and underpaid, I chose that option. Today, after being determined as FERCCA eligible, I am covered by CSRS Offset. During the FERCCA review and election period, I was provided with estimates of my projected retirement in 2013. The calculation for CSRS Offset factored in the unpaid contribution years from the early 1980s, but actuarially reduced the benefits by the amount of unpaid contributions plus interest up to the date of retirement. This formula is more favorable than not counting the unpaid years at all. However, I am concerned that this is not correct. I can find nothing in OPM guidelines or any other source to confirm this to be correct. I have attempted to get clarification from my agency and from OPM without success. My fear in planning for retirement is that the estimate my agency provided is not correct and this will not be discovered until I am too far down the road. I considered repayment of the unpaid years just to be safe, but with interest the cost would be more than $30,000. The numbers just don’t support that. These few early congressional years are more significant because they are calculated at the higher congressional service rate. Can you advise?
A: I’m surprised that your agency wasn’t able to provide the information you need. It’s all in OPM’s CSRS and FERS Handbook for Personnel and Payroll Offices. You can find out how your non-deduction service would be treated by going to http://opm.gov/retire/pubs/handbook/C021.pdf. The first thing you’ll learn is that for any period on non-deduction service before Oct. 1, 1982, you have the option of making a deposit. If you don’t, your annuity will be reduced by 10 percent of the amount you owe, plus accrued interest. For any period of non-deduction service on or after Oct. 1, 1982, you will have to make a deposit to get any credit for that time.