Federal service and Social Security


Q: I am a federal employee in the CSRS Offset system. I will be 55 in six months and have 29½ years of federal civilian service and one year of unused sick leave. The first three or so years of my federal service was a combination of student employment or term appointments that took place off and on between 1974 and 1984; I have been employed full-time with the government and without a break since 1985. In addition to and, at times overlapping with my federal employment, I have about 15 years of mostly part-time nonfederal employment in all of which I paid into Social Security. My understanding is that if I retire before age 62, I will receive a full CSRS pension according to my years of service (+ credit for unused sick leave); upon turning 62, if I want to retain the full amount of my CSRS retirement, I will need to apply for Social Security because the CSRS pension will be reduced by the amount of my Social Security benefit regardless of whether I apply for it. Am I right so far?

When I turn 62 and apply for Social Security benefits, will 100 percent of my Social Security benefits be deducted from my CSRS pension or will only that portion attributable to my federal employment be deducted from CSRS, leaving me with a portion attributable to my nonfederal employment? If so, how is it calculated? I understand that it may depend on whether I had “substantial earnings,” as defined by Social Security. Is that correct?

Assuming that I would be able to retain some Social Security benefit that is not deducted from CSRS, can Social Security provide me with my employment earnings that could give me a breakdown by employer (or by federal/nonfederal employer), at least for those years in which I held both federal and nonfederal employment? Can you tell me how I can request this particular earnings history?

A: If you are retired, at age 62 your CSRS annuity will be reduced solely by the amount of Social Security benefit you earned while employed under CSRS Offset. It won’t affect any Social Security benefit you earned elsewhere. However, you will be subject to the windfall elimination provision. The WEP reduces the Social Security benefit of anyone who is receiving an annuity — in whole or part — from a retirement system, such as CSRS (but not CSRS Offset), where he didn’t pay Social Security taxes and has fewer than 30 years of substantial earnings under Social Security.


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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 fedexperts@federaltimes.com.

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