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I am a retiree registered in the FERCCA Database and recently received a letter from OPM informing me that I am ineligible for relief under FERCCA. The letter also included a form that I could fill out and send to the Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB) to appeal the decision. What is the MSPB and what does it have to do with FERCCA?
The MSPB is an independent quasi-judicial agency in the Executive Branch that serves as the guardian of Federal Merit Systems. Since it began operations in January 1979, its mission has been to ensure that Federal employees are protected against abuses by agency management; that Executive Branch agencies make employment decisions in accordance with Merit System principles; and that Federal Merit Systems are kept free of prohibited personnel practices. The MSPB accomplishes its mission in a variety of ways, but mainly it functions as a court and adjudicates Federal employee appeals of agency personnel actions. Consequently, the MSPB is the authority that will hear appeals on eligibility verification arising out of cases of erroneous retirement coverage.
We at OPM have set up a plan to help everyone who is entitled to relief by FERCCA. The plan includes:
Our goal is to ensure that everyone receives the same high level of customer service. If you have a choice of retirement plans under FERCCA, you'll receive an in-depth comparison of your benefits under each option. The comparison will include how much you can expect to receive under each retirement plan, including Social Security and Thrift Savings Plan benefits. We will provide you with an opportunity for one-on-one personal assistance to help you weigh your options. This individual assistance will be available to anyone who has a choice of retirement plans under FERCCA.
We are working with agencies to implement this high level of service as quickly as possible. Agencies are busy identifying eligible individuals. We have also started the second step, collecting personnel and payroll records.
All individuals who are registered in the FERCCA Database before September 19, 2002, will not be adversely affected by the time limits for making an election.
Everyone born in 1929 or later needs 40 credits to be eligible for Social Security retirement benefits. Since you can earn 4 credits per year, you need at least 10 years of work that subject to Social Security to become eligible for Social Security retirement benefits.
When you work in a job that is subject to Social Security, your wages are posted to your Social Security record and you receive earnings credits based on those wages. The Social Security Administration uses these credits to determine your eligibility for Social Security retirement benefits and for disability or survivors benefits if you should become disabled or die.
Each year, the amount of earnings needed for a credit rises as the average earnings levels rise. In 2001, you receive 1 credit for each $830 of earnings, up to the maximum of 4 credits per year.
FERCCA allows OPM to compensate individuals for certain expenses and losses related to correction of a retirement coverage error.
OPM will issue detailed guidance regarding the specific types of expenses and losses that will be compensated. You will receive our guidance as soon as it is available if you are registered on the FERCCA File Database.
You may not have a choice about Social Security coverage.
If you should have had Social Security coverage during your Federal employment, then you must have Social Security coverage in addition to your Federal retirement coverage. FERCCA does not allow you to choose a retirement plan without Social Security coverage.
If you were incorrectly put in CSRS when you should have been put in CSRS Offset, your retirement coverage must be corrected to CSRS Offset.
Likewise, if you were incorrectly put in CSRS Offset when you should have been put in CSRS, your retirement coverage must be corrected to CSRS because you are not eligible for Social Security coverage during your Federal employment. You cannot choose to keep your Social Security coverage. However, Social Security will give you credit for all but the last 3 years before your record was corrected. See the question I should have been CSRS. Instead, I paid into Social Security. What happens to the Social Security taxes I paid when my agency corrects my retirement coverage to CSRS? for more information.
If you were erroneously put in FERS and should have been put in CSRS, then you will have a chance to choose whether you want to keep FERS (and Social Security) coverage.
Actually, you're probably better off in CSRS Offset because you're earning benefits under both Social Security and CSRS.
Your combined benefits under Social Security and CSRS Offset will be at least the same as, if not more than, what you would have received under Social Security and CSRS if your record had not been corrected.
While working, you are earning retirement credits under the relatively generous CSRS formula. You also are adding to any Social Security benefits you have already earned, increasing your career earnings under Social Security and, as a result, your Social Security benefit.
When you retire, OPM will compute your CSRS Offset benefit under the same rules that apply to other CSRS retirees. When you become eligible for Social Security benefits, OPM will reduce your benefit. This reduction is based on the value of the Social Security benefit you earned during your CSRS Offset service. In other words, instead of getting one check from OPM for all of your Federal service, some of the payment will come from the Social Security Administration.
In addition, with more of your retirement income paid from Social Security, you have an increased tax advantage because part, or all, of your Social Security benefit will be exempt from Federal income tax. Only a small portion of a CSRS, or CSRS Offset, benefit is excluded from Federal income tax.
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