Re-employment after buyout


Q: I am 62 and I was a USDA-ARS employee who took a buyout in July and retired. I’m a qualified Wildland  Firefighter with a Red Card. If I were to join a crew, paid for by a state entity with pay coming from FEMA, headed to fight fire or work on flooding and hurricane duty for about two weeks, is that against OPM guidelines? I’m finding it hard to get an answer. They are asking for letters explaining payment of work. Hard to explain, since there are no contracts that I know of, only requests for crews who go on an availability list.

A: Here’s what OPM has to say: “An employee who receives a VSIP and later accepts employment for compensation with the Government of the United States within 5 years of the date of the separation on which the VSIP is based, including work under a personal services contract or other direct contract, must repay the entire amount of the VSIP to the agency that paid it – before the individual’s first day of reemployment.” As such, it wouldn’t appear that your short-term employment by a state agency would fall into any of those categories, regardless of where the state money came from.


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Reg Jones was head of retirement and insurance policy at the Office of Personnel Management. Email your retirement-related questions to

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