Debunking another Congress myth


Q: I read your earlier article about Congress, and it cleared up some misconceptions, which I appreciated. However, stating that members of Congress can’t retire at the same level of pay after only one term wasn’t really the big question. What the American public is upset about is that they can retire at any level after only one term when people in the military, the federal government and the private sector have to work 20 to 30 years to earn a modest pension. This was not explained in your answer. They can still retire after only one term. It is appalling, but I guess very lucrative if all you have to do is get elected once. They shouldn’t get any annuity after only a few years of service; I guess I’m in the wrong line of work.

A: That would be appalling if it were true, but it isn’t. To be eligible to retire, a member of Congress must have a minimum of five years of service as a member, a congressional employee, or both, and be covered during his last five years by retirement deductions or deposits. And he would only be eligible for that retirement at age 62. Paralleling the retirement rules for law enforcement officers and firefighters, he could also retire at age 50 with 20 years of service or at any age with 25.


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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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