Leaving government and returning


Q. My wife may have an opportunity for a position overseas (nongovernment) for a three- to four-year appointment. I work in a specialized field at the National Institutes of Health, so a government position in my field would be unlikely.

If we were to move, what steps could I take to either come back to work at NIH or at least keep my GS status.  I have 10 years in and don’t want to lose any benefits. A government job overseas might be possible, just not in my field, and I would definitely want to come back to NIH when we return to area.

A. If you want to return to work for NIH, you’d have to work that out with your agency. However, because this is something you want to do, not your agency, they would have no obligation to agree. Even if they did, times change; so there’s no absolute guarantee that an agreement made in good faith at the time you left would be honored three or four years later. Budgets, staffing levels, mission focus and changes in management could adversely affect that.

Leaving government would have no effect on your GS status or future benefits if you were to return to work for the federal government. However, if you didn’t return to work for NIH, as hoped, you’d have to find a job on your own.


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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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