Retirement age and rules


Q. I work for the Bureau of Prisons and will be forced to retire in 22 months. I started my career just before I turned 37, so I will only get my 20 years of service in and that’s it. In the year or so prior to my hire date, the maximum starting age was raised, and I’m interested in whether there is any chance of it being raised again prior to my retirement.

As I understand it, those who are able to retire before age 56 can collect the LEO supplement along with their FERS without any earnings penalty should they seek out a new career. I have been told that in the year you turn 56, the LEO supplement falls under the same rules as SSI and, at that time, there is an earnings limit. Is this true? If so, will the LEO supplement be equal to what I am eligible from SSI when I reach 62?  If not, why does it fall under SSI rules?

I’m not ready to be put out to pasture yet and would like to continue working in a meaningful job that pays.  But I also hear that once I lose part of the LEO supplement in any given year, I will never get it back. With that said, I may feel great at 57 and still be able to work fine, but at age 59, who knows? What do I do then? It seems to me that the retirement rules pretty much encourage staff to leave the BOP as soon as they are eligible.

A. There is no such thing as an LEO supplement. You are asking about the special retirement supplement, which approximates the amount of Social Security benefit you would be entitled to at age 62. If you retire before your minimum retirement age, you can earn as much as you want from wages and self-employment without it affecting the SRS. However, as soon as you reach your MRA, you will be subject to the annual Social Security earnings limit. In 2013, that limit is $15,120. Since the SRS is based on an estimate of the Social Security benefit you’d be entitled to at age 62, your actual Social Security benefit at age 62 may be different. It will be different, and usually higher, if you continue to work after you retire.


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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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