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Frequently Asked Questions Retirement

  • If you retired before December 9, 1980, your Basic life insurance will begin to reduce by 2 percent of the face value each month beginning with the second month after your 65th birthday or your retirement date, whichever is later. This reduction continues until your Basic life insurance reaches 25 percent of the face value. This coverage is free. If you retired on or after December 9, 1980, and before January 1, 1990, you elected one of the following reduction schedules for your Basic life insurance:
    • 75 percent reduction - If you elected this reduction schedule, your Basic life insurance will begin to reduce by 2 percent of the face value each month beginning with the second month after your 65th birthday or your retirement date, whichever is later. This reduction continues until your Basic life insurance reaches 25 percent of the face value. This coverage is free.
    • 50 percent reduction - If you elected this reduction schedule, your Basic life insurance will begin to reduce by 1 percent of the face value each month beginning with the second month after your 65th birthday or your retirement date, whichever is later. This reduction continues until your Basic life insurance reaches 50 percent of the face value. We withhold premiums for this coverage from your annuity beginning at retirement and continuing for life.
    • No Reduction - If you elected this reduction schedule, the full amount of your Basic life insurance remains in force after you reach age 65. We withhold premiums for this additional coverage from your annuity beginning at retirement and continuing for life.
    If you retire after December 31, 1989, you must elect one of the three reduction schedules described above when you retire. Regardless of which reduction schedule you elect, if you separate before age 65, until you are 65 you must also pay the same premium as employees for the Basic life insurance you continue into retirement. The amount of Option A - Standard insurance (formerly known as "Optional insurance") is $10,000 at retirement. If you retired before October 30, 1998, your Option A insurance may have been higher than $10,000. If you have this coverage, it will begin to reduce by 2 percent per month or $200, beginning the second month after your 65th birthday or your retirement date, whichever is later, until it reaches 25 percent of the face value or $2,500. We will withhold premiums for Option A insurance from your annuity through the end of the month in which you are 65, unless you elect to cancel this coverage. All annuitants with Option B - Additional insurance as of April 24, 1999, or later, are eligible to make an Option B reduction election. Those who are 65 or older at retirement will hear from us shortly after retirement. We will contact annuitants who retired before age 65 shortly before their 65th birthday. At that time, the annuitant may elect either Full Reduction or No Reduction for each separate multiple of Option B. For example, a person with five multiples may elect No Reduction on two multiples, while the three remaining multiples reduce fully. If you elect Full Reduction, effective the first day of the second month after your 65th birthday or your retirement date, whichever is later, your Option B full-reduction multiples will reduce by 2 percent of the face value per month for 50 months, at which time this coverage will end. We will withhold premiums for this coverage from your annuity through the month in which you reach age 65. If you elect to continue some or all of your Option B multiples with No Reduction, when you are 65 or at retirement, whichever is later, we will adjust the withholding for your Option B coverage to reflect the number of multiples you decided to retain at No Reduction. Any other multiples will start to reduce as described above. All annuitants who have Option C - Family insurance, and whose annuity commencing dates are April 24, 1999, or later, are eligible to make an Option C reduction election. Those who are 65 or older at retirement will hear from us shortly after retirement. We will contact annuitants who retired before age 65 shortly before their 65th birthday. At that time, the annuitant may elect either Full Reduction or No Reduction for each separate multiple of Option C. For example, a person with five multiples may elect No Reduction on two multiples, while the three remaining multiples reduce fully. If you elect Full Reduction, or if you separated for retirement before April 24, 1999, effective the first day of the second month after you reach age 65 or your retirement date, whichever is later, your Option C full-reduction multiples will reduce by 2 percent of the face value per month for 50 months, at which time this coverage will end. We will withhold premiums for this coverage from your annuity through the month in which you reach age 65. If you elect to continue some or all of your Option C multiples with No Reduction we will adjust the withholding for your Option C coverage to reflect the number of multiples you decided to retain at No Reduction. Any other multiples will start to reduce as described above. For more complete information about life insurance coverage as an annuitant, please check the life insurance pamphlet, Information for Retirees and Their Families: Federal Employees Group Life Insurance, RI 76-12.
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  • Use Services Online to sign up for direct deposit, or to change the account or bank where your payment is sent. You will need your claim number and Personal Identification Number (PIN) to use the self-service website. You will be asked whether your account is a savings or checking account and to provide your account number and the routing number for your financial institution (found next to your account number on the bottom of your check). You should contact your financial institution for assistance in getting the routing number if you are not sure. When you make a change, we will mail you confirmation of the change. You can also call us or write us to sign up for direct deposit or change your account or bank. If you write, your letter should include your claim number. You can also use this form to sign up for direct deposit. Or, you can submit a Standard Form 1199A, "Direct Deposit Sign Up Form," which is available at your bank. When you change the account you use for direct deposit, keep the old account open until a payment is posted to the new account. This will prevent having the payment returned if there is a problem with the new account.
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  • You may continue your health insurance coverage only if you meet the following conditions:
    • Your annuity must begin within 30 days or, if you are retiring under the Minimum Retirement Age (MRA) plus 10 provision of the Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS), health and life insurance coverages are suspended until your annuity begins, even if it is postponed.
    • You must be covered for health insurance when you retire.
    • You must have been continuously covered by the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program, TRICARE, or the Civilian Health and Medical Program for Uniformed Services (CHAMPUS):
          • for five years immediately before retiring;or,
          • during all of your federal employment since your first opportunity to enroll;or,
          • continuously for full periods of service beginning with the enrollment that started before January 1, 1965, and ending with the date on which you become an annuitant, whichever is shortest.
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  • State tax withholding cannot be withheld from interim annuity payments.  If you are in interim pay (your case has not been finalized), contact your State tax office for guidance. Once your annuity is finalized, you must specify the dollar amount of State tax you want withheld from your monthly payments. The withholding must be in whole dollars. The minimum amount we can withhold for State income tax is $5. Use Services Online to start, change, or stop the State tax withheld from your annuity payment. You can also call us or write us to change your withholding amount.  If you write, your letter should include your full name, your claim number and the monthly amount in dollars you want withheld. If you do not know the monthly amount you want withheld, contact your State tax office for information or assistance. Not all States participate in the voluntary State tax withholding program.  Check our list of State tax offices for information about participating States. If your State does not participate, contact the State tax office for information or assistance.
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  • This is a provision that allows you to retire with benefits beginning immediately if you have ten years of service and have reached the Minimum Retirement Age (at least 55). However, the annuity is reduced for each month you are under age 62. The reduction equals five percent per year (or 5/12 of one percent per month). To avoid the reduction, you can postpone payment. You can later apply for the benefit by writing to us or filing an "Application for Deferred or Postponed Retirement," Form RI 92-19. You should submit the form two months before you want the benefit to begin.
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  • OPM provides a federal tax calculator on our website, www.opm.gov/retire, that may assist you in determining the amount of Federal income tax to withhold. Please be advised that changing the amount of your Federal income tax withholding will not reduce your tax liability at the end of the tax year.
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  • You can be paid for any unused annual leave you hold at retirement.
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  • If it is within 30 days of your first regular annuity payment, you may file a new election in writing. You should send the election to:
    U.S. Office of Personnel Management Retirement Operations Center Post Office Box 45 Boyers, PA 16017  
    Your first regular monthly payment is the first one paid in an amount other than the estimated amount or the adjustment payment after we have computed your regular annuity amount. If you change your election to anything other than the maximum, you must obtain your spouse's consent or a waiver of the consent requirement. After the 30 day period has passed, you can change your election only under the following circumstances. If it is more than 30 days from the date of your first regular monthly payment, but less than 18 months from the beginning date of your annuity, you may change your decision not to provide a survivor annuity or you can increase the survivor annuity amount. You must request the change in writing at:
    U.S. Office of Personnel Management Retirement Operations Center Post Office Box 45 Boyers, PA 16017
    You must also pay a one-time payment representing the difference between the old and new election amounts. This one-time payment also includes a percentage of your annual benefit. The percentage is 24.5 percent of your annual benefit if you are changing from no survivor benefit to a full survivor benefit or 12.25 percent if you are changing from no survivor benefit to a partial one. Interest is also charged at the rates shown in this table. Your written election should include your claim number, the amount of your new survivor election, and your spouse's name, social security number, date of birth, and a copy of your marriage certificate
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  • We are very much aware of the increasing processing times retirees and potential retirees have been experiencing. Individuals applying for retirement are dedicated Federal employees who have devoted their careers to serving the citizens of this country, and as such, they deserve treatment commensurate with their service. The present situation is the result of the confluence of a number of factors. This includes the attempt to utilize an "off-the-shelf" private sector processing system, which ultimately was not successful. We tried to redesign all aspects of retirement processing simultaneously and anticipated that increased automation was the long-term solution. Accordingly, we assumed lower staffing levels would be required. As staff levels were reduced, the volume and complexity of retirement casework increased. Our paramount goal is to improve the overall claims adjudication process. There is no simple or easy solution that is capable of instantly remedying the problem, but we are doing everything in our power to improve service to our annuitants as rapidly as possible within the constraint of available resources. We have begun several initiatives to not only speed up claims review but to streamline other attendant retirement procedures. We hired 40 legal administrative specialists to assist with the current backlog and future workload. We have also authorized additional overtime across the claims processing groups and will continue to approve overtime thru fiscal year 2011. Overtime is also being offered to former claims examiners to help tackle the backlog. To assist the retiree's immediate financial needs, OPM established an interim pay process to provide new retirees with income while their retirement benefits are adjudicated. Retirees receive their first interim payment in 5-7 business days from the date the agency's electronic file or paper records are received by OPM. OPM uses the information provided by the agencies (at the time the retirement application is submitted) to determine the amount of interim pay. In calculating the amount of the interim payment from the data provided by the agency, OPM:
    • Determines the years and months of creditable Federal service
    • Uses the retiree's final salary
    • Accounts for any survivor election
    • Applies a reduction for age if appropriate
    • Reduces the amount of interim payment to cover premiums for any insurance elections.
    Our goal is to provide the annuitant with as much of their expected NET monthly payment, less Federal income tax withholding. The NET payment amount is the amount of the annuity payment after deducting premiums for health benefits and life insurance from the gross rate. Some retirees receive less than our goal due to a variety of factors. Some of the conditions that could cause the annuitant to receive less than the agency's NET estimate are: a FERS annuity supplement, unpaid service credit deposits, redeposits or military deposits, a court order on file at OPM, or the retiree is entitled to a special computation as a Law Enforcement Officer, Fire Fighter, Air Traffic Controller or other special retirement group. In December, we increased all Department of Defense civilian retiree interim payments by 5%. This will affect 29% of the cases. These cases had been receiving a lower than average amount of interim pay based upon the data received at the time of retirement. Additional system changes are in process to provide a 5% increase for certain retirees of the United States Postal Service. OPM is currently working with agencies to improve timeliness and quality of personnel/payroll information submissions. Indeed, OPM's Strategic Plan speaks to the shared responsibility for retirement processing among employees, agencies and OPM so resolving these issues is at the very center of the radar screen. Incomplete or inaccurate information from agencies can significantly delay processing and ultimately, a retiree's check. Unfortunately, 23 percent of all claims received are missing one or more records and 11 percent are not received during the first 30 days. We are confident that through additional staff, over-time, improvements in interim payments, and collaboration with agencies we will reduce our back-log to more normal levels and fulfill our commitments to the Federal retiree, which has always been one of our highest priorities.  
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  • Some of an employee’s spousal Social Security benefit may be offset if the employee has a government pension from work not covered by Social Security. The offset does not apply to the employee’s own Social Security benefit, only the benefit that comes from a spouse’s employment. If the Government Pension Offset applies, the spousal Social Security benefit will be reduced by two-thirds of any Federal pension based on employment not covered by Social Security. Some employees are exempt from the Government Pension Offset. They are employees who are automatically covered by the Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS), Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS) Offset, and those who elected to transfer to the FERS before January 1, 1988, or during the belated transfer period which ended June 30, 1988. Employees who were covered by the CSRS and who elected FERS coverage after June 30, 1988 must have five years of Federal employment covered by Social Security to be exempt from the offset.
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