Q: My wife is a FERS employee and will have 26 creditable years of service at her MRA in May 2013. She wants to be able to participate in the FEHB program at retirement too. I am a retired federal employee. I was under the impression that I can add her to my plan during the years she is separated from federal service and that she can re-enroll in her own FHEB plan when she “retires”. Is this correct? She is trying to wade through retirement/annuity options. We see the terms “delayed retirement” and “deferred retirement” used here and in the OPM manuals. What, if any, is the difference between the two? One of the OPM manuals implies that a “delayed retirement” would allow her to separate at 56 and 27 and collect an un-reduced annuity at 60. Fact or fiction?
A: A “delayed retirement” is one where the employee has the age and service needed to retire – and does so – but delays receiving an annuity until a later date. This choice is often made by employees who retire under the MRA+10 provision (minimum retirement age with at least 10 years of service). The delay is designed to reduce or eliminate the 5 percent penalty for every year the retiree is younger than 62 (60 if the retiree has at least 20 years of service). A “deferred retirement” is one where the employee doesn’t meet the criteria to retire but will be eligible later on. This is commonly used by employees who have enough service but leave government before reaching the right age to retire. An employee who elects a delayed, or as I prefer to call it “deferred” retirement, may re-enroll in the Federal Employees Health Benefits program when his or her annuity begins, as long as he or she was eligible to continue that coverage in retirement. An employee who leaves and applies for a deferred retirement may not re-enroll in the FEHB program. Note: If the retiree is covered under the self and family option of an FEHB plan, the couple can switch to self only coverage during any open season.