Author Reg Jones

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

Q. I’m a FERS employee. When can I cash in my unused sick leave – only at retirement or before? A. Regardless of whether you are covered by the CSRS or FERS, you can’t cash in your sick leave. That’s because it has no cash value. However, any unused sick leave you have to your credit when you retire will be added to your actual service and – if there’s enough of it – used to increase your annuity.

Q. I was told I can buy back my military time of 25 years, do 5 years in civil service, and then collect a 30-year FERS retirement. Because my military retirement is a disability retirement, I do not have to waive my military retirement and I’ll receive two retirement payments; I just need buy back my time before I retire. Is this true? A. Yes, you can make a deposit to get credit for your years of active duty service before you retire. However, you would also have to waive your military retired pay unless it was awarded on account…

Q. I will soon qualify for Medicare. My husband and I are looking at enrolling in FEHB Kaiser Basic Medicare plan. We currently have FEHB Kaiser. However, as I am a Sacramento County retiree, we can also enroll in the county Kaiser Medicare silver plan, which is a better deal. If we disenroll or suspend FEHB coverage, can we go back during open enrollment? Counties are sometimes susceptible to bankruptcies. A. You can suspend your FEHB coverage. If your other plan went out of business, you could immediately re-enroll in the FEHB program. If it didn’t but you want to…

Q. I am 46 and have 25½ years of service. If I accept an offer of an early retirement, do I have to wait until I reach my minimum retirement age to start receiving my annuity? Also, will my payment for unused annual leave hours be included in my last paycheck? A. Anyone who has at least 25 years of service can retire at any age if offered an early retirement opportunity. However, you wouldn’t receive the special retirement supplement until you reach your minimum retirement age. (MRAs range between 55 and 57, depending on your year of birth.) You’ll…

Q. I have 23 years FERS service and am age 47. If I am involuntarily separated, will I be penalized 5 percent a year for each year I am under 56 (my minimum retirement age)? Would my annuity commence on the day of involuntary separation? And would I be entitled to continue my FEHB coverage? A. Based on your age and service, you wouldn’t be eligible to retire. So, unless you later returned to government service, your only option would be to apply for a deferred annuity at age 60. As for health benefits, on the day you separated from…

Q. I’m retiring with 4 months of sick leave, bringing my total time in FERS to 32 years, 1 month at age 65. I feel I really didn’t accomplish much as far as increasing final annuity and I would have been better off to have used the time up and would have been ahead of the game. Correct? A. Since “burning off” unused sick leave would be a violation of law and regulation, your question is moot.

Q. Is there a maximum annuity calculation for CSRS? Is the calculation of the “Average High-3 Salary” based only on the salaries during your first 41 years, 11 months of service, or will it be calculated include the salaries of the years after that period? A. Your high-3 will be based on your highest three consecutive years of basic pay whenever they occur in your career.

Q. I retired with 22 years in the U.S. Navy Reserves, 10 of those years active duty. I am currently a FERS employee. I bought back 10 years of my military time. Will my Reserves retirement be affected in any way by buying back 10 years of my military time? A. No, it won’t.

Q. I am on disability retirement and disability Social Security. I will be 62 next year. How much will my retirement be? A. When you reach age 62, your FERS disability benefit will be recomputed as if you had worked to age 62. Therefore, your actual service will be added to the time you spent on disability. The total time will be multiplied by 1.0 percent (1.1 percent if your combined actual service and time on disability add up to 20 at least 20 years.) That figure will then be multiplied by your high-3 salary on the day you were…

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