Maximum service time and 'high-3'


Q: I understand that under the Civil Service Retirement System, we can use unused sick leave toward federal service time that is used to determine the amount of time considered under the CSRS retirement pay formula.  Also, I understand that under CSRS, the maximum time allowed is 42 years, which translates to 80 percent of the average salary in a worker’s “high-3” years.

My questions are, if someone is covered by CSRS, if they add up their military and civil service time and get 42 years, can unused sick leave be added to the 42 years to get more than 42 years, and thus more than 80 percent of the high-3? And, assuming someone’s salary for their 43rd, 44th and 45th years of service would make up the high-3, would they still be eligible for that amount even though they’ve passed 42 years of service?

A: The maximum earned annuity that a CSRS employee can receive is 80 percent of his highest three consecutive years of average salary, regardless of when those three years occur in a career. That 80 percent limit is reached when an employee has 41 years and 11 months of creditable service (actual service and service for which a deposit has been made). After reaching that point, retirement deductions will continue to be taken from his salary. At retirement, he will be offered a choice: He can either receive a refund of those excess deductions or use the money to purchase additional annuity. That additional annuity, just like unused sick leave, isn’t subject to the 80 percent limit.


About Author

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

Leave A Reply