Q. I am 54 years old and was employed with a federal agency for 17 years from 1979 to 1996. Upon resignation to enter the private sector, I withdrew 100 percent of my CSRS contributions. If I return to full-time federal employment this year, do I have the option of buying back the creditable service of 17 years for the same amount that I withdrew in 1996? Secondly, would I be able to continue with CSRS rather than FERS upon re-employment? Would I be eligible to retire after eight more years of federal employment service?

A. If you returned to work for the federal government, you’d be placed in CSRS Offset (CSRS and Social Security) with the option of transferring to FERS. On your return, you would be able to redeposit the money you took out and get credit for your prior service. However, it wouldn’t be the amount that was refunded to you; it would be that amount plus accrued interest. If you made the redeposit, you’d get credit for your prior service in determining your total service and in your annuity computation; if you didn’t, you’d only get credit for it in determining your length of service. Either way, you’d be able to retire at age 62.


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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 worked under CSRS for 16.5 years, left for 20 months, and returned and was placed under FERS. I did not draw out my CSRS retirement contributions. I have almost 25 years under FERS. I was told that I could retire under CSRS, have all my social security contributions returned to me and then pay into CSRS for the 25 years. An employee was not aware of this until they retired. Do you know anything about this?

    • What I know is that it isn’t true. However, whether you should be covered by CSRS or FERS depends on whether you elected to be covered by FERS when you returned to work or were simply placed there by your agency. If you were given a choice, you may have been misenrolled. The Federal Erroneous Retirement Coverage Corrections Act (FERCCA) provides several options for those who have been misenrolled. You need to go to your agency personnel office and ask them to review your personnel records to see if you are entitled to relief under FERCCA.

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