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An official website of the United States Government.

Benefits Officers Center Reference Materials

 

Overview

Administration Letters

  • Benefits Administration Letters - These pages contain the Benefits Administration Letters (BALs) used for program administration. The BALs provide guidance to agencies on various aspects of Federal benefits administration.
  • Financial Management Letters - OPM ceased publication of the Financial Management Letters on December 30, 2000.  Starting with 2001, this information is now published in Benefits Administration Letters in the 300 series.
  • Payroll Office Letters - OPM ceased publication of the Payroll Office Letters on December 30, 2000.   Starting with 2001, this information is now published in Benefits Administration Letters in the 300 series.
  • Federal Medical Evidence of Record (FEDMER) - Under the Federal Employee's Retirement System (FERS) law, entitlement to Social Security disability benefits affects an individual's eligibility to the OPM-administered disability program. Under FEDMER, both OPM and SSA will receive the same medical records at the time of application.

Handbooks

Pamphlets and Forms

Many more HR resources are available from the Benefits Officers page.

Glossary

The Glossary of Terms for retirement benefits or annuity payments is highlighted here.

A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | X | Y | Z

Alternative Form of Annuity

Retirees who have a life-threatening illness or other critical medical condition can choose to receive an alternative form of annuity. In the alternative annuity, you receive a reduced monthly benefit, plus a lump sum payment equal to all your unrefunded contributions to the retirement fund. The amount of reduction in your monthly benefit depends on your age at the time you retire and the amount of your retirement contributions.

For the purposes of electing an alternative annuity, evidence of a life threatening affliction or critical condition includes the following diagnoses:

  • Metastatic and/or inoperable neoplasms;
  • Aortic stenosis (moderate - severe);
  • Class IV cardiac disease with congestive heart failure;
  • Respiratory failure;
  • Cor pulmonale with respiratory failure;
  • Emphysema with respiratory failure;
  • Ventricular tachycardia;
  • Severe cardiomyopathy;
  • Aplastic anemia;
  • Uncontrolled hypertension with hypertensive encephalopathy;
  • Cardiac aneurysm;
  • Agranulocytosis;
  • Hepatic failure;
  • Severe hypoxic brain damage;
  • Severe portal hypertension with esophageal varices;
  • AIDS (Active - Not AIDS Related Complex or only seropositivity);
  • Life-threatening infections (encephalitis, meningitis, rabies, etc.);
  • Scleroderma with severe esophageal involvement;
  • Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (rapidly progressive);
  • Hemiplegia with life threatening complications;
  • Quadriplegia with life threatening complications; or
  • Ventricular flutter.

Evidence of a medical condition must be certified by a physician. If a condition other than the ones listed above is claimed, we will review the certification to determine if the condition is life threatening or critical. Any costs associated with providing the medical documentation are the responsibility of the former employee unless OPM exercises choice of physician.

Your election of an alternative form of annuity does not affect the potential survivor annuity payable to your spouse or children.

You cannot choose the alternative form of annuity if you are retiring for disability or if you have a former spouse who is entitled to court-ordered benefits based on your service.

For the tax treatment of your benefits under this option, see IRS Publication 721, available on the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) website.

Benefits Officers

Benefits Officers are Federal agency Human Resources specialists whose primary duties include the administration of retirement and related benefits programs.

Deposits

In general, a deposit is the payment of the retirement deductions, plus interest, that would have been withheld from your pay if you had been covered by the Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS) or Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS) during a period of employment when retirement deductions were not withheld from your salary. You are not required to make this type of payment, but it will affect the amount of your annuity benefit.

You can make a deposit, for eligible periods of service, if you are working and covered by the FERS or CSRS systems or if you have left government and are eligible for a current or future retirement benefit. Widows, widowers, or former spouses of deceased employees who are eligible to receive a monthly death benefit can also make a deposit.

You should ask to make a deposit, but you should not file an application to make deposit if you are planning to retire within six months. If you are within six months of retirement, submit your request with your retirement application.

Interest is charged on any outstanding deposit balance. The computation of interest charges is based on your retirement coverage and when the service for which the deposit is being made was performed.

To apply use Standard Form (SF) 2803, "Application to Make Deposit or Redeposit (CSRS)," if you are covered by the Civil Service Retirement System or Standard Form (SF) 3108, "Application to Make Service Credit Payment (FERS)," if you are covered by the Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS). If you work for the Federal or District of Columbia Government, give your completed application to your employer first because they must certify it. If you no longer work for government, send your completed application to:

U.S. Office of Personnel Management
Post Office Box 45
Boyers, PA 16017-0045

After we receive your application, we will send you instructions for making payment. You can make installment payments of at least $50, but interest accrues on any unpaid balance, as described above. Once you have made a deposit payment, it cannot be withdrawn unless you get a refund of all your retirement contributions.

Deposit for Service Ending before October 1, 1982 and Covered by CSRS

You can make a deposit for creditable Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS) service you performed before October 1, 1982 during which retirement deductions were not withheld from your pay. If you do not, you will receive retirement credit for all of this service, but your annual benefit will be reduced by 10 percent of the deposit amount due at retirement. Also, any annuity due your surviving spouse will be reduced proportionately.

For pre-October 1, 1982 CSRS service, interest is computed from the midpoint of each period of service. Interest accrues daily, is compounded annually, and is charged at the rate of 3 percent through the date the deposit is paid or the date annuity begins, whichever is earlier. If full payment is received within 30 days after the bill is issued, no additional interest is charged. Otherwise, interest will be computed after each payment at the rate of 3 percent for the interval since the most recent payment you have made.

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Deposit for Service Ending on/after October 1, 1982 and Covered by CSRS

You can make a deposit for creditable Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS) service you performed on or after October 1, 1982 during which retirement deductions were not withheld from your pay. Unless you pay the deposit in full, you will not receive credit for the service in your annuity.

Interest is charged from the midpoint of the service period and accrues annually and is compounded annually on December 31 of each year, and is charged ar as follows:

  • three percent through December 31, 1984; and
  • beginning January 1, 1985, a variable rate determined annually by the Department of the Treasury. The variable interest rate for any year equals the overall average yield to the fund from retirement securities during the preceding fiscal year. No additional interest is charged for a year when payment in full is received by December 31 of the year. See the variable interest rates in the table below.
Deposit for Service Ending before January 1, 1989 and Covered by FERS

You can make a deposit for creditable Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS) service you performed before 1989 during which retirement deductions were not withheld from your pay. The deposit amount is, generally, 1.3% of salary plus interest. Interest is charged from the midpoint of periods of service and is compounded annually. Interest is charged to the date the deposit is paid in full or annuity begins, whichever is earlier. Interest is applied at the rates described in the table. If you do not pay for a period of this type of service, you will not receive credit in determining your eligibility to retire or in computing your retirement benefit.

Deposit for Service Performed on/after January 1, 1989 and Covered by FERS

A deposit may be made for service performed on/after January 1, 1989 with the Peace Corps/VISTA, for service as a Child Care Worker at the U.S. Senate, service with the Library of Congress Child Development Center prior to December 21, 2000, service performed before December 31, 1990 with the Democratic or Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee or the Democratic or Republican National Congressional Committee, and for work that is creditable under the Foreign Service Pension System, provided that benefit is waived. A deposit is the payment of the retirement deductions, plus interest, that would have been withheld from your pay if you had been covered by the Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS).

Interest is charged from the midpoint of each period of service. Interest is charged at the following rates, compounded annually on December 31 of each year:

  • three percent through December 31, 1984; and
  • beginning January 1, 1985, a variable rate determined annually by the Department of the Treasury. The variable interest rate for any year equals the overall average yield to the fund from retirement securities during the preceding fiscal year. No additional interest is charged for a year when payment in full is received by December 31 of the year. Interest is applied at the rates described in the table below. If you do not pay for a period of this type of service, you will not receive credit in determining your eligibility to retire or in computing your retirement benefit.

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Disabling Conditions for Children

Monthly survivor annuity payments can continue if a child is incapable of self-support due to a physical or mental disability which began before age 18.

If you have a disabled child who receives benefits as a minor, you should send a letter asking us to continue benefits after the child reaches 18 because of the incapacity for self-support. You should send the letter about 90 days before your child reaches age 18.

You should include a doctor’s statement that includes the child’s name, the CSF survivor claim number, a full report of the disability, including the date it started, the degree of impairment, and probable length of the disability. The statement should cover a brief educational and employment history, if any, and provide the name, address, telephone number, and signature of the physician.

Monthly survivor benefits to a disabled dependent stop when the disabled child recovers from the disability, becomes capable of self-support, marries, or dies.

Eligible Children

Dependent minor children, including stepchildren and adopted children, of deceased Federal employees and retirees are eligible for a monthly survivor benefit. Benefits to minor children stop when they reach age 18, marry, or die. See full-time students for further information on continuing benefits.

Full-Time Students

Monthly survivor annuity payments for a child can continue after age 18 if the child is a full-time student attending a recognized school. Benefits can continue until age 22.

To be considered a full-time student, high schools, trade schools, and vocational schools generally require 25 or more actual clock hours of classroom attendance each week. Colleges and universities generally require enrollment for a minimum of 12 credit hours per semester to be considered full-time. There are no payments available for part-time school attendance.

A recognized school is one that has a faculty and requires study to be done at the school. High schools must be licensed by the state. All other schools must be accredited by a nationally recognized accrediting agency.

We do not recognize correspondence schools, elementary schools, home schools, Job Corps, U.S. military service academies such as the U.S. Naval Academy, or any training programs where the trainee receives pay primarily as an employee.

High-3 Average Salary

Your "high-3" average salary is determined by finding your highest average basic pay over any three year period. The three years must be consecutive. Generally, the final three years of service include the highest pay, but pay from an earlier period can be used if it was higher.

Your basic pay is the basic salary for which retirement deductions are withheld, such as for shift rates, night shift differential, etc. It does not include payments for overtime, bonuses, etc.

If you were employed for less than three years and are eligible for a benefit under the Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS), your average salary is determined by averaging your basic pay during all of your creditable civilian service.

Interest Rates

Beginning in 1985, interest rates vary each calendar year, according to the interest rates earned by new retirement fund securities. Interest rates through 2012 are:

YearsPercentage Rates
2012 2.25%
2011 2.75%
2010 3.125%
2009 3.875%
2008 4.75%
2007 4.875%
2006 4.125%
2005 4.375%
2004 3.875%
2003 5%
2002 5.5%
2001 6.375%
2000 5.875%
1999 5.75%
1998 6.75 %
1997 6.875%
1996 6.875%
1995 7%
1994 6.250%
1993 7.125%
1992 8.125%
1991 8.625%
1990 8.750%
1989 9.125%
1988 8.375%
1987 9%
1986 11.125%
1985 13%
1948-1984 3%
Before 1948 4%

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Minimum Retirement Age

This is the age at which you could have first retired had you not become disabled. Please also refer to the Minimum Retirement Age table for retirement eligibility.

Redeposit

A redeposit is the repayment of retirement deductions that were previously withheld and refunded to you, plus interest. You are not required to make this type of payment, but it will affect the amount of your annuity benefit.

Redeposit Service Ending before March 1, 1991, and Covered by CSRS

You can repay the refund of retirement deductions you received for periods of civilian service ending before March 1, 1991, in order to gain credit for the service in your annuity. However, you will receive credit for all of this service whether or not you make the payment (unless you retire under the disability provisions of the law). But if you do not pay the refund and interest, your annuity will be subject to permanent actuarial reduction based on the amount of redeposit, the interest due, and your age at retirement. The actuarial reduction does not affect the full annuity due your surviving spouse.

If you received the refund before October 1, 1982, interest is charged through the billing date. If we receive your payment within 30 days after the bill is issued, no additional interest will be charged. Otherwise, interest will be computed after each partial payment at the rate of 3 percent for the interval since the previous payment.

If the refund was paid on or after October 1, 1982, interest is compounded annually and charged through December 31 of the year before the year in which this bill is being issued. If full payment is received by December 31 of the year in which this bill is issued, no additional interest will be charged. If not, interest will be computed once each year as of December 31 based on the unpaid balance at that time. Interest is applied at the rates described in the table.

Redeposit Service Ending on/after March 1, 1991, and Covered by CSRS

You can repay a refund of retirement deductions you received for periods of civilian service ending on or after March 1, 1991, but if you do not pay the redeposit in full, you will not receive credit for this service in the computation of your annuity. Consequently, your annuity, as well as any annuity due your surviving spouse, will be reduced. For refunds paid on or after October 1, 1982, interest is compounded annually and charged through December 31 of the year before the year in which this bill is being issued. If full payment is received by December 31 of the year in which this bill is issued, no additional interest will be charged. If not, interest will be computed once each year as of December 31 based on the unpaid balance at that time. Interest is applied at the rates described in the table. If you repay part of the refund, the money will be returned to you when you retire.

Redeposit Service and Covered by FERS

You can repay any refund you received for any period of civilian service during which retirement deductions were withheld from your pay and later returned to you before you were covered by the Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS). Interest is charged from the date of the refund and compounded annually. Interest is charged to the date full payment is made or the date annuity begins, whichever is earlier. If you do not pay for a period of this type of service, you will receive credit in determining your eligibility to retire but will not receive credit in computing your retirement benefit.

Retirement Contributions

Retirement deductions were withheld from your pay while you worked for the Federal Government and were covered by a retirement program such as the Civil Service Retirement or Federal Employees Retirement Systems. These contributions help fund your retirement benefits.

Temporary Continuation of Coverage (TCC)

Spouses who lose health benefits coverage because of divorce, and children who lose coverage because they turned 22, are eligible for their own Temporary Continuation of Coverage health benefits enrollment. A TCC enrollment allows the spouse or child losing coverage to continue Federal Employees Health Benefits (FEHB) Program coverage for 36 months after they first lose coverage.

You must apply for TCC coverage within 60 days of losing coverage. The monthly premium for TCC coverage includes the full premium (both the enrollee and government shares) and a two percent administrative fee. With a TCC enrollment, you can have the same coverage you had as a family member in the FEHB program.

Valid Court Order for Life Insurance

To be valid the court order must be a certified copy. The appropriate office must receive the certified copy on or after July 22, 1998, and before your death and it must expressly provide for someone to receive your Federal Employees' Group Life Insurance (FEGLI) benefits. The appropriate office for employees is the individual employee's agency human resources office; for annuitants it is the Office of Personnel Management (OPM). The date of the court order is not relevant. What counts is the date that the appropriate office receives the court order. Even if that office already has a copy, that copy is invalid for life insurance purposes unless it is received on or after July 22, 1998. Submit another certified copy if necessary. "Court order" means a certified court decree, court order, or court-approved property settlement agreement incident to your court decree of divorce, annulment, or legal separation.

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