Pension benefit under CSRS


Q.  I served in the civil service from January 1977 to September 1997 (20½ years, plus seven months unused sick leave).  I was in the CSRS and left my money in the CSRS when I resigned from federal service.  I was earning about $81,000 as a GS14-09 (with the DC locality adjustment) when I resigned in ’97 and, by my calculations, I am entitled to receive a pension of about 38 percent of that, or roughly $28,000, when I turn 62 in three years. I also have paid into Social Security every quarter since fall 1997 and am entitled to benefits through Social Security, although reading your column, I understand I am subject to the “windfall elimination provision,” so my federal pension and Social Security payments will not be additive.

I may now have the opportunity to re-enter the federal service as a GS15 (I won’t know the step until and unless I get an offer, but presumably it would be above the current pay for my previous rating as a 14-09) and thought 5-10 more years of service would be great way to increase my federal pension benefit by bumping up both my high-3 and years of service.  Reading your column, however, I understand my new service would be classified as “CSRS Offset” service.

Three questions.  First, am I correct that if I come back into federal service now, my pension would be calculated based on whatever the pay for my new “high-3” is?  Second, am I correct that each of the new, added years of service (even though they’re “CSRS Offset”) would increase the pension benefit annually by 2 percent of my high-3 pay (e.g., five more years would bump it up to 48 percent of my high-3, etc.)?  Third, and finally, would the CSRS Offset decrease the Social Security benefit I earned by working in the private sector from 1997-2011 so much that bumping up the high-3 and years of service isn’t as worthwhile as it might seem at first glance?

A.  If you return to work for the federal government, you would be placed in CSRS Offset with the option of transferring to FERS. If you did, you would have a CSRS component in your annuity. Assuming that you remain in CSRS Offset, your annuity would be based on your highest three consecutive years of average salary. Every year of service  The first five years of creditable would be worth 1.5 percent, the next five 1.75 percent, and every year above 10 would be worth 2 percent.

At age 62, if you are retired, or when you retire, if it’s on or after age 62, your CSRS annuity would be offset by the amount of Social Security benefit you earned while employed under CSRS Offset. The amount you receiveed would be the same but it would come from two different places, OPM and the Social Security Administration. However, because you would be receiving an annuity from a retirement system where you didn’t pay Social Security taxes, in whole or part, you would be subject to the windfall elimination provision if you have 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

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