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Retirement FAQs

  • The U.S. Department of Labor calculates the change in the Consumer Price Index (CPI) for urban wage earners and clerical workers from the third quarter average of the previous year to the third quarter average for the current year. For Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS) or Organization and Disability Retirement System (ORDS) benefits, the increase percentage is applied to your monthly benefit amount before any deductions, and is rounded down to the next whole dollar. For Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS) or FERS Special benefits, if the increase in the CPI is 2 percent or less, the Cost-of-Living Adjustment (COLA) is equal to the CPI increase. If the CPI increase is more than 2 percent but no more than 3 percent, the Cost-of-Living Adjustment is 2 percent. If the CPI increase is more than 3 percent, the adjustment is 1 percent less than the CPI increase. The new amount is rounded down to the next whole dollar. To get the full COLA, a retiree or survivor annuitant must have been in receipt of payment for a full year. If not, the increase is prorated under both plans. Prorated accounts receive one-twelfth of the increase for each month they received benefits. Cost-of-Living Adjustments were first prorated in April 1982. Adjustments to benefits for children are never prorated. Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS) and FERS Special Cost-of-Living Adjustments are not provided until age 62, except for disability, survivor benefits, and other special provision retirements. FERS disability retirees get the adjustment, except when they are receiving a disability annuity based on 60 percent of their high-3 average salary. Also, under FERS, if you have a CSRS component, the component is subject to the CSRS COLA calculation. Note: A benefit will not be increased if it would cause the annuitant to receive payments in excess of any cap amount specified by law.
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  • The five year period before retirement is important because you must have insurance coverage for five years immediately before retirement to keep it after retirement. You may also need some preliminary information to make decisions about when you can afford to retire and whether to make any necessary payments to receive credit for military or non-contributory service or repay any retirement contribution refunds.
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  • You can roll over lump sum payments representing your retirement contributions, including voluntary contributions, and applicable interest. An eligible payment can be paid either to you or directly to an individual retirement account or other employee sponsored plan. Your choice will affect the amount of taxes you owe. We are required to withhold Federal income tax from taxable payments over $200 at the rate of 20 percent. However, you may choose to take all or part of these payments in a direct roll over to an individual retirement account or an employer-sponsored retirement plan that accepts roll overs. The taxable portion can be rolled over into the Thrift Saving Plan. If you make this election, we will not withhold the Federal income tax from the taxable payments. You can open an individual retirement account to receive a direct roll over. You must contact the individual retirement account sponsor to find out how to have your payment made to your account. If you are unsure of how to invest your money, you may wish to temporarily establish an account to receive the payment. However, you may wish to consider whether or not you may move any or all of the monies to another account at a later date without penalties or limitations. If you choose to have the payment made to you and it is over $200, it is subject to the 20 percent Federal income tax withholding. The payment is taxed in the year in which it is received unless within 60 days after receiving it, you roll it over to an individual retirement account or retirement plan that accepts roll overs. You can roll over up to 100 percent of the eligible distribution, including the 20 percent withholding. To do so, you must replace the 20 percent withholding within the 60 day period. You will be taxed on any amount that you do not roll over. For example, if you roll over only the 80 percent of the distribution, you will be taxed on the remaining 20 percent. You can find more information about the taxation of payments from qualified retirement plans from the following Internal Revenue Service publications: We will not withhold any amount for Federal income tax if your total taxable lump sum is less than $200. We will request a rollover election when you are eligible for a payment of $200 or more.
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  • Your agency will guide you through the retirement process, supplying all of the information you need about retirement and insurance. They provide the information you need to plan for retirement, but should not advise you on what to do. You should contact your local personnel service center for assistance because they have your employment records.
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  • The Office of Federal Employees' Group Life Insurance (OFEGLI) will pay life insurance benefits in a particular order, set by law:
    • If the annuitant or employee assigned ownership of life insurance, OFEGLI will pay benefits in the following order of precedence:
      • First to the beneficiary designated by the assignee(s), if any;
      • Second, if there is no such beneficiary, to the assignee(s).
    • If the annuitant or employee did not assign ownership and there is a valid court order on file, OFEGLI will pay benefits in accordance with that court order.
    • If the annuitant or employee did not assign ownership and there is no valid court order on file, OFEGLI will pay benefits in the following order of precedence:
      • to the beneficiary designated;
      • if there is no such beneficiary, to the widow or widower;
      • if none of the above, to the child(ren), with the share of any deceased child distributed among the descendants of that child (a court will usually have to appoint a guardian to receive payment for a minor child);
      • if none of the above, to the parents in equal shares or the entire amount to the surviving parent;
      • if none of the above, to the executor or administrator of the estate; or
      • if none of the above, to the next of kin as determined under the laws of the State where the annuitant or employee lived.
    If you are an annuitant, you can download [119 KB] the Standard Form (SF) 2823, Designation of Beneficiary, and instructions, or contact us and ask that they be sent to you. You need to keep your designated beneficiaries' addresses current. Failure to do so may mean that your beneficiary cannot be located and therefore benefits will not be paid to that person. The preferred way is to file a new Designation of Beneficiary when a beneficiary's address changes. A new address cannot be added directly to the Designation of Beneficiary form itself, since any cross outs, erasures, or alterations in your form may make it invalid.
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  • A divorce, legal separation, or annulment court order may require that an employee or a retiree provide a survivor annuity for a former spouse. We will pay based on the court order after a death-in-service or after the death of an annuitant. If the benefit will be based on a court order, employees and retirees [or their former spouses] need to send us a court-certified copy of the court order. Send this to:
    U. S. Office of Personnel Management Retirement Services Program Court-Order Benefits Branch Post Office Box 17 Washington, DC 20044-0017
      If you are still working for the Federal Government, you should also provide a copy of the court order to your personnel or human resources office. All court orders involving garnishments or allotments of your payments from us must be sent to the address given above.
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  • If you are leaving your Federal job and want a refund of your retirement contributions, you can get an application from your personnel office, complete it, and return it to them. If you are no longer in the Federal service, you can acquire the appropriate application from our website. The applications are shown below: If you are still working, submit your application to your servicing personnel office. If you have left Federal service, submit your application to the Office of Personnel Management (OPM).
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  • We will send you a personalized statement titled "Your Federal Retirement Benefits". It details, among other things, how much your monthly payment will be. It also confirms such things as health and life insurance coverage, and provides information you will need to prepare your tax returns.
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  • The Tax Relief, Unemployment Insurance Reauthorization, and Job Creation Act was passed by the United States Congress on December 16, 2010 and signed into law on December 17, 2010. As a result, the IRS published the tax withholding tables later than usual for 2011. OPM applied the tax tables as quickly as possible but there was not enough time to apply these tables to the January 3, 2011 annuity payments.
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  • You should review your Official Personnel Folder (OPF) to make sure that there is verification of all of your military and civilian service. If any of the records are missing, your employer should help you document the service and obtain any missing records. If you have civilian service for which you must pay retirement contributions or repay a refund of contributions, your employer should tell you about what impact payment or non-payment has on your eligibility and the amount of your retirement benefit. If you owe a payment to receive credit for military service you performed after 1956, you must make that payment before you retire. If you are receiving military retired pay, you should discuss whether or not you must waive the retired pay with the personnel officer at your agency. Your personnel officer can also tell you about receiving credit in your annuity computation for various types of service and about the payments described above, as well as help you with service documentation.
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  • The withholding changes affect the February 1, 2011 payment and subsequent annuity payments.
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  • Your benefit will be computed in the same manner as if it were not subject to offset. However, it will be reduced when you become eligible for Social Security benefits. The offset applies when the basic requirements for Social Security are met, generally at age 62, even if you do not apply for those benefits. If you are not eligible for Social Security benefits at age 62, there is no offset unless you become eligible later.
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  • If you are the surviving spouse of a deceased retiree, recurring monthly payments may be made to you if your spouse elected a reduced annuity to provide the benefit. To qualify for the monthly benefit, you must have been married to the retiree for at least nine months. A survivor annuity may still be payable if the retiree's death occurred before nine months if the death was accidental or there was a child born of your marriage to the retiree. A court order awarding a former spouse a survivor annuity may prevent us from paying you the portion of the annuity awarded under the court order. However, if otherwise eligible, you may receive the complete annuity if the former spouse loses eligibility for benefits. Read about survivor benefit elections. If no survivor annuity is payable upon the retiree's death, any remaining portion, representing either the remaining annuity and/or retirement contributions not paid to the retiree, is payable to the person(s) eligible under the order of precedence. See how the amount of the monthly survivor benefit is determined.
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  • If you are a federal retiree, contact OPM’s Retirement Office at 1-888-767-6738 or retire@opm.gov to check the status of your request.  The phone lines are open from 7:30 am to 7:45 pm (Eastern Standard Time). It is a busy phone number so we encourage you to call early in the morning or after 5:00 pm when the phone lines are less busy.
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  • Your personnel office must take the following actions to process your retirement application:
    • Complete the "Agency Check List of Immediate Retirement Procedures," Standard Form 2801, Schedule D (CSRS) or 3701, Schedule D (FERS);
    • Prepare and obtain your signature on the "Certified Summary of Federal Service," Standard Form 2801-1 (CSRS) or 3701-1 (FERS);
    • Verify any service not fully documented in your OPF; [Note:If documentation is missing, verification may be obtained by contacting federal record centers. If the personnel office is unable to obtain verification, we will complete verification upon receipt of your retirement application and records. This process will cause a delay in processing of your claim.]
    • Certify and transfer your coverage under the Federal Employees' Group Life Insurance (FEGLI) program to OPM;
    • Transfer your enrollment under the Federal Employees' Health Benefits (FEHB) program to OPM;
    • Prepare Standard Form (SF) 50, "Notification of Personnel Action."; and
    • Send all of your retirement materials to your payroll office.
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Total Count: 409, Number of Pages: 28, Page: 5
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