In CSRS by mistake for 30 years?

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Q. I am a federal employee approaching 30 years of service (in November). I am age 48. While recently researching my retirement plan, I was informed by the personnel office that a mistake was made close to 30 years ago and that I should not have been put in CSRS. My entire career and all of my records and data from the government have indicated CSRS for 30 years. I have made life and career decisions based on CSRS. I was given the choice back in the early 1980s to go FERS or CSRS, and of course, I chose CSRS. During this research, personnel just figured out that I did not meet a five-year rule of service by December 1986. My start date was June 1982, and service date was adjusted to November 1982, due to leave without pay status as co-op student. So I am told I missed by six months, apparently.

My service was not severed as I progressed from intern to co-op to full time. I am now being told I will be offered FERS or CSRS Offset and cannot stay CSRS. Also, I have not contributed to Social Security in these 30 years, nor have I been able to take advantage of the full/matching Thrift Savings Plan that was offered to FERS electees.

Can the government really do this to me now? I have not been informed of this in writing yet, and I am considering litigation if necessary. What recourse do I have? And what negative effect will there be if I am forced to go FERS or CSRS Offset, which is what I am now being told are the only options I have? I plan to retire between the ages of 53 and 55, most likely.

A. If your agency is correct, the law requires that you be placed in FERS. Litigation would cost you money but not change that. When you receive your formal notice, it will include a detailed explanation of how your benefits will be affected and how you can minimize any potential problems. Unless you are offered an opportunity to retire early, you wouldn’t be able to retire between 53 and 55. As a FERS employee, the earliest you could retire would be 56.

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