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Twenty years ago, on September 25, 1995, my first column appeared in the Federal Times. I’d like to share the opening words with you because my goal – and the paper’s – haven’t changed since then. There’s an old saying: “In the private sector you can do whatever you want unless there is a law that says you can’t. In the federal government you can’t do anything unless there’s a law that says you can.” In reality, the government is in a double bind because there are laws that say it can do some things and others that say that…

Q. I have been a civilian employee with the Army for four and a half years, and I am receiving mixed information on my ability to purchase my military active duty time towards my FERS. I’m currently in the U.S. Air Force Reserve and am scheduled to retire in September 2015. I have 17 and a half years of Total Active Federal Military Service (TAFMS) time, which is a combination of active duty from being full-time Air Force, coupled with active duty performed as an activated Air Guardsman and Air Force Reservist post 9/11. I’ve been told from various representatives at…

Q. I will be 62 in August 2015. I work part time as a registered nurse; I have worked 32 hours per period since 2002. Will I get a pension? A. The only requirements to retire and receive a pension are that you be age 62 and have at least five years of service. When your annuity is computed, your years of service will be counted as full time; then your benefit will be reduced proportionately to account for your part-time service.

Q. Do the retirement benefits for SES employees differ in any way from non-SES employees? A. No. Your annuity would be calculated in exactly same way. The only difference in benefits might be in your lump sum payment for unused annual leave. SES employees have a higher leave carryover ceiling than other employees, 720 hours vs. 240.

Q. I am a GS-11 Defense Department employee with the Navy who has been given a Management Directed Reassignment from the West to East Coast. Same job, same agency. I am eligible to retire, but I want to see out the rest of the year for financial reasons. If I decline the MDR, the agency is going to separate me from federal service utilizing adverse action procedures under 5 CFR 752. I am under a mobility agreement. Is this move appealable through the MSPB? If I refuse to relocate, will I lose any retirement benefits under the CFR provision? Do you have any resources that will aid…

Q. How does OPM determine the amount of years to pay back employ contributions to retirement? I have paid more than $114,000 into my retirement, and they are only allowing $3,800 a year for the non-taxed portion. This spans 30 years. I will probably never see it all. How is that fair? I would think it would be over the average life span of man in my case.

Q. When CSRS employees retire, do you have to take the whole lump sum for your unused annual leave at one time or can you elect to have it paid to you in increments? A. It’s always paid in a one-time lump sum.

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