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.