Switching retirement plans


Q: I completed more than five years of service under CSRS and withdrew my deposits upon leaving in 1981. In 2006, I took a TEMP/TERM position where I was put in FERS. I was told I could not be in CSRS. I’m a reservist and in 2008, I was recalled to active duty and my TERM contract was not renewed. I’m getting off active duty and will begin my reserve retirement in two months. I’ve been given a lot of different information, so I’m not sure what to believe. If i am collecting my reserve retirement upon starting a federal job, is it too late to buy back military pay? Is it too late to go back to CSRS or CSRS Offset and would it be worth it? I plan to work at least 10 more years. I was also told that unless I took a job immediately upon leaving active duty that my TEMP/TERM service would not be creditable towards federal retirement. And lastly, is it true that you can receive a federal retirement without any impact to your reserve retirement?

A: As a rule, if you had at least five years under CSRS when you left government, on your return you should have been placed in CSRS Offset with the option of electing FERS coverage. The fact that you took a refund of your CSRS contributions would have had no effect on that right. If while in that temporary position, retirement deductions were taken from your pay, then that time is creditable for retirement. If no deductions were taken out then it isn’t creditable for any purpose. Assuming that you were placed in FERS and had retirement deductions taken from your pay, your agency will have to determine if you were erroneously placed there. If so, they can correct the matter if you want to be in CSRS Offset. On the other hand, if you’d prefer to be in FERS, nothing more would need to be done. Once you return to federal employment, you can make a deposit for your active-duty military service. Doing so will have no affect on your reserve retired pay. If you want, you could also redeposit the refund of your CSRS contributions. Either way, you’d receive credit for that time in determining your total years of civilian service. If you didn’t make a deposit, when you retired the CSRS component of your annuity would be actuarially reduced based on the amount you owe, plus accrued interest, and your age.


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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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