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Frequently Asked Questions Retirement

  • 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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  • 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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  • The survivor benefit you elected at retirement is no longer payable. A monthly survivor benefit would be payable to your former spouse after death if one is provided by court order or your new election. The following conditions must exist for your former spouse to receive a benefit:
    • You were married to your former spouse for at least nine months;
    • You performed at least 18 months of creditable civilian service;
    • Your former spouse to whom you were married less than 30 years has not remarried before age 55.
    Your annuity may be reduced if your former spouse was awarded a survivor annuity by a qualifying court order. If you retired on or after May 7, 1985, we will honor the terms of a court order that requires you to provide a survivor annuity for an eligible former spouse for a marriage dissolved on or after May 7, 1985. If you are divorced after retirement from a spouse to whom you were married at retirement, we will honor the court order to the extent that your annuity was reduced at retirement. If you did not elect a survivor annuity for that person at retirement, your annuity will not be reduced. If you retired before May 7, 1985, we will honor the terms of a qualifying court order that requires you to provide a survivor annuity for an eligible former spouse in connection with a marriage that was dissolved on or after May 7, 1985, but only if you were married to that person at retirement and elected to provide a survivor annuity at that time or your were married to that person at retirement and elected to provide a survivor annuity before May 7, 1985.
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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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  • 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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  • You can be paid for any unused annual leave you hold at retirement.
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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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  • To qualify for payments from the Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS) or the Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS), you must submit a retirement application. They are available on our website, as follows: You should submit an application for immediate retirement as shown below.
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  • Survivor annuities are payable through the end of the month prior to the date of the event which caused the loss of eligibility. For example, if the remarriage or other event occurred in April, benefits would end on March 31. Survivor annuities payable to widows, widowers, and former spouses end if the survivor remarries before age 55 and was not married for at least 30 years to the deceased employee or annuitant. Widows, widowers, and former spouses who remarry after they reach age 55 continue to be eligible for survivor annuity benefits. The survivor annuity for a former spouse who is entitled because of a court order, ends if the terms of the court order are satisfied. Insurable interest annuities are payable for the life of the survivor. If an annuity to a surviving spouse ends for a remarriage, it can be restored if the remarriage ends. Before the benefit can be restored, the survivor must pay back any lump sum payment of retirement contributions, if applicable. Former spouse benefits that end because of a remarriage can never be restored. If you want your annuity restored, write to us and include a copy of the decree of divorce, annulment, or death certificate. Annuity benefits for children end when the child reaches age 18, marries, or dies. Survivor annuities are payable through the end of the month prior to the date of the event which caused the loss of eligibility. For example, if the child turns 18 on June 29, benefits would end on May 31. Benefits for student children, stop at the end of the month before the one in which the student child:
    • turns 22;
    • marries;
    • dies;
    • stops attending school;
    • transfers to a school that is not recognized;
    • changes to less than full-time attendance;
    • enters military service or a Government service academy; or
    • fails to submit certification of full-time school attendance.
    You must notify us immediately if any of the above events occurs to minimize the potential for an overpayment of benefits. Include your claim number and a copy of any appropriate record such as a marriage certificate.
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