In my June 6 column, I talked about the importance of planning ahead if you want your retirement application to have a better chance of speeding through the process and getting you on the annuity roll. However, what you do to smooth your way into retirement is only part of the process. In this column, I’ll talk about how your agency processes your retirement application.
It’s your human resources office’s responsibility to review your retirement application to make sure you are eligible to retire on the date you have set and determine whether you are eligible to continue your health and life insurance coverage into retirement. If there are any errors in your work record, you’ll have to work with HR on correcting them. If there are any impediments, you may have to reconsider your plans for retirement.
If everything comes up aces during the review, HR will prepare a Certified Summary of Federal Service, which lists your verified federal civilian and military service. Reviewing it gives you one last chance to check your record for accuracy and to make any changes.
Don’t take this last opportunity to take your paperwork for granted or just skim over it. You’d be amazed at the number of times employees suddenly remember that they briefly worked for the federal government while in high school or college and find out that the time is creditable when determining their length of service and, with a deposit to the retirement fund, in their annuity computation. If you do want to make a deposit, you’ll have time to do it.
Concurrent with your review of the Certified Summary of Federal Service, HR will:
- Certify your Federal Employees Group Life Insurance coverage to the Office of Personnel Management, if you are eligible to continue coverage.
- Transfer your Federal Employees’ Health Benefits Program enrollment to OPM, if you are eligible to continue coverage.
- Forward any designations of beneficiary from your official personnel record.
- Process the personnel action needed to separate you for retirement.
- Complete and certify the HR portion of your retirement application.
- Forward your retirement application and related records to your agency payroll office.
The payroll office is responsible for determining and authorizing how much money you will get in your final salary check. It will also authorize any lump-sum payment you are due for unused annual leave and, if you have been approved for a buyout, it will authorize that payment.
The payroll office will then certify and close out your Individual Retirement Record, which is the official record that includes your current service, pay rates and unused sick leave credit for retirement purposes. It will certify your annual basic pay for life insurance purposes, if you are carrying any into retirement.
Finally, the payroll office will forward your retirement package to OPM’s Retirement Operations Center in Boyers, Pa., and notify you in writing when that happens. This notice will include the register number, the transmittal and mailing dates, and your payroll office number.
Until you receive that notice, refer any questions you have about the status of your retirement application to your agency HR office. After you receive the notice, you’ll have to check with OPM on the status of your case.
While OPM has set a 30-day standard for agencies to complete the processing of a retirement case, there is no guarantee that agencies will. Depending on the nature of your case or the workload in your agency’s HR and payroll offices, it may take more or less time.
In my next column, I’ll tell you how OPM processes your retirement application, and how long you might have to wait before you get your first annuity check.