Five-year requirement for FEHB


Q. I started work for TSA five years ago. I am age 60. At the time, I was never told that if I didn’t use health care benefits through one of the government plans, I couldn’t use them when I retire. At the time I was hired, my wife had good insurance, and I hated to switch. Now I want to retire and have been told I had to be enrolled in the health care plan for five years to stay get health care while retired. I saved the government money by not using benefits — maybe as much as $10,000 a year. What does being in the plan for five years have to do with eligibility? And because no one told me I had to do this, is there any way to waive this?

I also now have about 450 hours in unused sick leave. If I leave before 62, do I just lose all this? I realize I would only get half, but it seems unfair to tell me I will lose it all. If this is the case, then I will be forced to call in sick for almost 500 hours, as I am not going to just lose all this. Am I being punished for going to work every day?

A. The five-year requirement is a matter of law and has been since the law establishing the Federal Employees Health Benefits program was established over a half-century ago. You could appeal the matter to the Office of Personnel Management. However, the criteria for granting a waiver are so restrictive that it’s unlikely they would grant one in your case.


About Author

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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