Mandatory retirement


Q. I worked 20 years and two months in a covered firefighter position. I then worked two years in a non-covered position.  I have returned to a secondary covered position.  Do I face mandatory retirement?  Or does my break in service allow me to work past 57?  Where would I find the answer in the federal regulations or is this decided by case history.

A. Yes, you will face mandatory retirement. Go to and scroll down to Section 46A3.3-2B1, which applies to both CSRS and FERS LEOs and firefighters. Note: That section hasn’t been updated to show that the mandatory retirement age for firefighters is now 57.


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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


  1. I retired in 2011 at 50 with 31 years of service as a GS-081-12 Firefighter. I inquired with social security about collecting social security benefits at 59. However, they do not seem to know anything about retiring before 62. Any help with Special Category Employee retirement would be appreciated.

    • Because you went to work for the government in 1980, you were covered by the Civil Service Retirement System. As a result, no Social Security deductions were taken from your pay and you aren’t entitled to a Social Security benefit based on that period of employment. If you had other periods of employment from which Social Security deductions were taken and accumulated at least 40 credits, you’d first be entitled to a Social Security benefit at age 62. However, that benefit would be reduced in two ways. First by retiring before your full Social Security retirement age. Second by the windfall elimination provision if you had fewer than 30 years of substantial earnings under Social Security.

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