Monthly Archives: October, 2010

Make informed choices during open enrollment

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The open season for health benefits, dental and vision insurance, and flexible spending accounts will run from Nov. 8 through Dec. 13. Not only will it give employees and retirees who are already enrolled the opportunity to change their health care coverage, but it will also give eligible employees who aren’t enrolled the opportunity to elect coverage. In this column, I’ll focus on the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program. Premiums will rise an average of 7.2 percent for employees’ share. That isn’t good news, but at least it’s better than the expected 8.9 percent to 10.5 percent for large-employer health programs in…

Health insurance: overseas and after leaving federal service

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Q: Is there a Federal Employees Health Benefit provider that provides care in case something happens while traveling overseas? What happens to my insurance if I leave federal service for a year and do something else? Can I still pay and keep my health benefits? A: Every FEHB plan has a section in its brochure that explains what it will cover if you live or travel outside the U.S. and Puerto Rico. As to your other question, if you were to leave government, you would receive a 31-day extension of coverage at no cost to yourself. During that time, you…

Social Security benefit will be reduced

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Q: I retired at age 55 with 34-plus years of service. I quit after 13 years of civil service and returned to civil service after 3 1/2 years of private employment.  I just turned 61. I paid Social Security for over 20 years.  If I elect to request Social Security benefits at age 62, how will this affect my civil service pension? A: Because you are now covered by CSRS Offset, at age 62 your annuity will be offset by the amount of Social Security benefits you earned while covered by CSRS Offset. The net effect will be that you’ll…

Disability pay will remain intact

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Q: I was an Air Force reservist on orders for six months beginning in 2006. I injured myself while on active duty, and the six-month orders turned into two years before it was all said and done. I was put on the Permanently Disability Retired List (PDRL) with a 30-percent disability (non-combat related). I served 29 years in the Air Force Reserve, with a total of four years, eight months of active duty. I was hired in October 2008 as a federal employee. I am in the process of buying back those those four years and eight months of military…

Social Security earnings limit

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Q: I know that I can draw my Federal Employees Retirement System annuity and my Social Security benefits. My question is, will my Social Security benefits be reduced if my annuity is more than the yearly limit of $1,480? A: The Social Security earnings limit only applies to earnings from wages or self-employment, not what you receive in your annuity. In 2010 and 2011, the earnings limit is $14,160.

Part-time work and annuities

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Q: I recently had my retirement pay calculated. I was a part-timer during my first three years of employment — approximately 25 hours per week.  I subsequently have had 13 years of full-time federal employment. It appears that I will incur a 10 percent penalty in my retirement pay because of those part-time years. Do you know if that will always be true no matter how long I stay as a federal employee? A: The longer you work, the smaller the reduction in your annuity will be.

Annual leave buyout

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Q: How is an annual leave buyout calculated? Is it “accumulated hours x current hourly wage”? Is this considered unearned income? I have also heard they take 40 percent in taxes for this. A: Lump sum annual leave payments are calculated using the hourly rate of basic pay you would have received had you remained on the agency’s rolls. Therefore, if you were to retire before the annual pay adjustment becomes effective, any hours before that will be computed at the old rate and those after on the new rate. Any step increase that would have occurred after you retired…

Time needed to draw retirement

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Q: I am 70 years old. I was in the military for three years, from 1981 to 1984, then worked 2.5 years for the Army as a civilian. In 2009, I worked for a VA hospital for 16 months. While at the VA hospital, I bought in my military time. Do I have enough time to draw any retirement? Or, how much additional time would I need in the federal system? A: If you had at least 20 years of service, you would have been eligible for a deferred retirement at age 60; if at least five years of service…

Will COLA, locality pay be used to compute annuity?

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Q: I work in Alaska as an Army civilian police officer. Where I am stationed, we receive specialty pay. For example, I am a GS 08 about to move up to GS 09. My current GS 08 step 4 pay is $54,633. On top of this, we still get cost-of-living allowance here, which for me turns out to be $11,440.15. A normal GS-scale employee as an GS 08 step 4 receives $41,393. Does my specialty pay count toward my Federal Employees Retirement System annuity? In other words, is my retirement based on the $54,633, or is it based on $41,393?…

Teaching and creditable service

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Q: I have 30-plus years as a federal employee. I worked as a temporary teacher with D.C. public schools, which I understand to be creditable service. How much creditable service is permitted under the Civil Service Retirement System for a teacher who taught for 10 months (academic year) in Defense Department schools or in D.C. public schools? I taught for 10 months and was paid on a 12-month basis. I have read the statutes and regulations and Office of Personnel Management guidance. However, I cannot find anything that pertains to how teacher employment is credited. Surely, OPM has some sort…

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