Q. I am a federal annuitant who retired under the Civil Service Retirement System Offset program. I retired at age 55 with 30 years of service. Prior to age 62, I received the full retirement payments of a CSRS annuitant. Eight months after my 62nd birthday, I received a letter from the Office of Personnel Management stating that my annuity would be reduced by about $456 a month. I was further assessed a reduction of another $255 for each of the eight months of overpayments I had received. Apparently, I had fallen through a crack, and an audit showed the overpayments. The two options I was provided was: pay back all of the overpayments in a lump sum ($4,300) or have $255 deducted from my annuity each month until the all of the overpayments were satisfied. I opted to pay the lump sum. I am eligible to receive Social Security but have held off until now. I will be 65 in May. Should I apply for Social Security benefits at age 65?
A. The reduction in your CSRS Offset annuity was required by law, as was the collection of the annuity overpayment. To receive a Social Security benefit, you need to apply for it. You can do that by calling the Social Security Administration at 1-800-772-1213 or apply online at www.ssa.gov/planners/about.htm. Social Security benefits aren’t retroactive. They begin only after you have applied. On the bright side, because you will be applying for a Social Security benefit close to or at your full Social Security retirement age, the amount you’ll receive will be greater than if you had applied at age 62.