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Retirement FAQs

General

  • FERS stands for the Federal Employees Retirement System. FERS became effective in 1987 and most new Federal civilian employees hired after 1983 are automatically covered by FERS. FERS is a three-tiered retirement plan. The three components are the:
    • FERS Basic Benefit
    • Social Security Benefit
    • Thrift Savings Plan Benefit
    Most FERS employees pay 0.8% of basic pay for FERS basic benefits. The agency contributes 10.7% or more to FERS. The FERS basic benefit provides retirement, disability, and survivor benefits and may be reduced for early retirement or to provide survivor protection. The FERS basic benefit is computed based on your length of service and the highest average basic pay you earned during any 3 consecutive years of service (know as the "high-3" average pay). Generally, the FERS basic benefit is 1% of your high-3 average pay times your years of creditable service.   FERS employees can currently contribute up to 11% of basic pay to the Thrift Savings Plan. An automatic Government contribution adds 1% of basic pay to every FERS employee's TSP account. The Government adds up to another 4% of basic pay, depending on how much the employee chooses to contribute.
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  • FERCCA is the Federal Erroneous Retirement Coverage Corrections Act. It is a law that addresses the long-term harm to retirement planning created when employees are put in the wrong retirement plan.
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  • It depends on what your retirement coverage error was and how long you were in the wrong retirement plan. FERCCA may provide you one or all of the following:
    • You may have an opportunity to choose another retirement plan;
    • You may be reimbursed for certain out-of-pocket expenses you paid as a result of a coverage error;
    • You may benefit from certain changes in the rules about how some of your Government service counts toward retirement; and
    • You may be able to make-up contributions to the Thrift Savings Plan and get lost earnings on those contributions as well.
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  • We believe that the number of employees in the wrong retirement plan is very small. Agencies have discovered and corrected many retirement coverage errors. However, we are certain some employees still are in the wrong retirement plan. If you have not worked for the Federal Government continuously since 1983, or you have had changes in appointment types and retirement plans, then you may want to ask your agency to review your retirement coverage to ensure that it is correct.
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  • Social Security-Only means coverage under Social Security without also being covered under either CSRS or FERS. You would have Social Security-Only coverage if you were hired under an appointment that is excluded from CSRS or FERS. Usually employees serving under temporary appointments (limited to 1 year or less), intermittent employees, and other appointments that would not be expected to last at least 5 years (such as term and excepted indefinite appointments) are excluded from CSRS. Employees serving under temporary (limited to 1 year or less) appointments and intermittent employees are generally excluded from FERS.
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  • "Transitional retirement coverage" or CSRS Interim is a version of CSRS established pending creation of a new retirement system for employees first hired after December 31, 1983, and certain rehires. Employees covered by CSRS Interim provisions paid OASDI taxes and a reduced CSRS contribution. When FERS became effective on January 1, 1987, employees with CSRS Interim coverage acquired either FERS or CSRS Offset coverage.
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  • Yes, if you have been in the wrong retirement plan for at least 3 years of service AFTER December 31, 1986. It does not matter that your agency may have already corrected the error or that you have retired or no longer work for the Government. As long as the error was in effect for at least 3 years of your Federal service after December 31, 1986, then you may benefit from FERCCA. FERCCA may also affect you if you were put in FERS by mistake and can make, or made, what we call a "deemed FERS election". You don't have to be in FERS for at least 3 years to benefit from FERCCA. See the question, My agency put me in FERS by mistake. When it discovered the error, my agency let me choose whether I wanted to remain in FERS. Do I get another choice under FERCCA? for an explanation.
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  • No. Whether you are retiring (with a corrected or uncorrected retirement coverage error) or leaving government service, FERCCA has no bearing on your eligibility under the VSIP.
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  • Unless you choose FERS, there is no additional cost to you. If you choose FERS, you will only incur additional costs if you decide to make additional TSP contributions (known as make-up contributions). These are contributions that you could have made if you had been correctly covered by FERS. Of course, you're the one who chooses how much additional contributions you want to make.
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  • As long as your retirement coverage error was in effect for at least 3 years of your Federal service after December 31, 1986, then you may benefit from FERCCA. It does not matter that you have retired or no longer work for the Government.
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  • Retirees have the same choices under FERCCA that active employees have.
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  • No, FERCCA is not an Open Season. Most employees are unaffected by FERCCA because they were never put in the wrong retirement plan. If you were ever put in the wrong retirement plan, please see the questions under Eligibility to see whether FERCCA applies to you.
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  • TSP stands for the Thrift Savings Plan. The TSP is an important benefit designed to help you save for your future. The TSP is comparable to a private-sector tax-deferred 401(k) plan. You can participate in the TSP if you are covered by FERS, CSRS, or CSRS Offset. The TSP offers all participants:
    • Tax deferral on contributions
    • A choice of 5 investment funds
    • A loan program
    • In-service withdrawals for financial hardship or after age 59
    • A choice of post-separation withdrawal options
    • The ability to transfer money from other eligible retirement savings plans into your TSP account
    The TSP is especially important for FERS employees because it is one of three parts of your retirement coverage. Beginning July 1, 2001, FERS employees can contribute as much as 11% of basic pay each pay period, up to the IRS annual limit. (The IRS limit for 2001 is $10,500.) As a FERS employee, you can receive 2 types of agency contributions to your TSP account, which together can equal as much as 5 percent of your basic pay.
    1. Agency Automatic (1%) Contributions. When you become eligible, your agency automatically deposits into your TSP account an amount equal to 1% of your basic pay each pay period, even if you do not contribute your own money. After 3 years of Federal civilian service (or 2 years in some cases), you are vested in these contributions and their earnings.
    2. Agency Matching Contributions. When you become eligible, your agency will match the first 3% of basic pay you contribute each pay period dollar for dollar. Each dollar of the next 2% of basic pay will be matched 50 cents on the dollar. You are immediately vested in the matching contributions.
    CSRS employees do not receive any Government contributions in their TSP accounts. However, CSRS employees can still take advantage of the TSP to provide a source of retirement income in addition to your CSRS retirement benefit. Beginning July 1, 2001, CSRS employees can contribute up to 6% of basic pay each pay period.
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  • Yes. FERCCA does not give you a choice about your retirement plan if:
    • If your agency corrected your records to FERS when it discovered an error and you later separated and took a refund of all FERS retirement deductions, or
    • If you belonged in FERS and your agency corrected your records when it discovered the error and you chose to withdraw your TSP contributions. See the question, I belonged in FERS. My agency discovered the mistake and corrected my records. I withdrew my TSP contributions. Can I now make an election under FERCCA? for the kinds of withdrawals that will prevent you from having a choice of retirement plans under FERCCA, or
    • If you received a payment ordered by a court or provided as settlement of a claim for losses resulting from a retirement coverage error, you may not make an election under FERCCA unless you repay the amount you received or OPM waives repayment.
    You also do not have a choice about your retirement coverage if: You are in: And you belong in: Your coverage must be corrected to: CSRS Offset CSRS CSRS CSRS CSRS Offset CSRS Offset Social Security-Only CSRS CSRS CSRS Offset CSRS Offset FERS FERS
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  • No, you can't elect to change your FERS retirement coverage if you took a refund of all FERS retirement deductions.
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Total Count: 62, Number of Pages: 5, Page: 1
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