Q. My agency was planning to conduct a reduction in force in November 2011. Prior to that, there was a mock RIF in which we pretty much determined where employees would bump/retreat to. Based on that information, I elected to apply for a Voluntary Separation Incentive Payment and was approved in September 2011, under optional retirement (30 years FERS with minimum retirement age). Retirement would be by March 31, 2012, for the VSIP.

Two months later, in November, the RIF was canceled, and a second VSIP date established, where we could leave Aug. 31.

Since the RIF was canceled, I continue in my current position, which is where I wanted to stay, rather than where I would bump to. Also, I inquired about the six-month payment option for the VSIP and was told it was only lump sum. The VSIP statement the agency had me sign, according to DoD 1400.25-M Subchapter 1702 (SC1702. is supposed to offer three payment options. There was no payment option listed on the form (which is an in-house unserialized one-page letter). This letter included a statement that “this application will constitute my commitment to retire or resign no later than 31 Aug 2012,” which I had to initial.

Can I disregard the VSIP? I have not submitted retirement papers. Can the agency force me to retire? I didn’t think they could if I haven’t signed retirement papers. I’d like to not exercise the VSIP and stay in government employment.

Also, since the letter did not have the required payment options listed as specified by SC 1702, does that make the letter void? I had counted on the six-month delayed payment when I signed, which was one reason I signed it to begin with, as a tax issue, to be told later I had to take a lump sum in late 2012.

It seems that canceling the RIF before doing the VSIP changed the game as the RIF being imminent is what drove me to sign a VSIP.

A. If the buyout is still on AND if the RIF was canceled because enough employees accepted the buyout offer, your agency may be able to hold you to your written acceptance of one. The failure to spell out the payment options may be a weak reed on which to hang an argument that you don’t have to do what you agreed to do. You’ll have to talk to the folks in your personnel office and, perhaps, in your Office of the General Counsel to find out if you can pull back your agreement to retire with a buyout.


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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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