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Learn more about eligibility for federal retirement benefits

FAQs and answers about eligibility for federal retirement benefits.

Questions and answers

You can ask that your retirement contributions be returned to you in a lump sum payment, or you can wait until you are at retirement age to apply for monthly retirement benefit payments. If you take a refund of your retirement contributions now, you will no longer be eligible to receive monthly payments when you reach retirement age.

Generally, if you're receiving a regular retirement it will continue and your salary will be equivalently reduced. However, if you retired due to a disability or because your job was eliminated, then your eligibility for the retirement benefit might end.

You should discuss this with your prospective federal employer or contact us with detailed information about the position so that we can let you know if your benefit would stop. We need to know the title, grade, salary, tour of duty, and retirement coverage provided by the position you are considering in order to provide guidance.

If your retirement benefit ends, your health care benefits coverage as a retiree stops as well. You can enroll for health benefits where you are employed. Your life insurance as a retiree stops without a right to convert to an individual policy. Your eligibility for life insurance coverage will be the same as any other new employee.

If you retire under the MRA+10 provision, you can postpone the receipt of your annuity until a later date to eliminate the 5% per year age penalty. The benefit isn't reduced if it begins after your 60th birthday and you have at least 20 years of service, or you reach the minimum retirement age and have 30 years of service. Delay of the benefit can be used to avoid all or part of the reduction for retirement before age 62 that would otherwise have been applied.

Your life insurance enrollment will stop until the annuity begins. Once the annuity begins, the life insurance coverage you had when you stopped working will resume, if you're eligible.

Your health care benefits can be temporarily continued under temporary continuation of coverage for up to 18 months. You must pay the full cost of coverage, including both the employee and government shares, plus a 2 percent administrative charge. Your employer will collect the premiums and maintain this coverage. When your annuity begins, if you're otherwise eligible to continue coverage, then you can again enroll in the Federal Employees Health Benefits (FEHB) program and we'll pay the government share of the premiums.

If you were enrolled in the FEHB and/or FEGLI programs for 5 consecutive years before you retire, you can reenroll in either or both programs when your annuity begins. You will receive a letter with election options for health benefits and/or life insurance if you are eligible to continue this coverage into retirement.

If you don't apply for retirement before your death, the rights of your surviving family members would be protected because you would be considered a retiree.

If at age 62 you are eligible for Social Security, then we'll recalculate your retirement benefit to "offset" any part of your Social Security benefit that is based on your years of federal service under the offset plan.

Your benefit will be calculated in the same way as if it were not subject to offset. The amount of your benefit will be reduced when you become eligible for Social Security benefits (generally at age 62), even if you don't apply for those benefits. If you aren't eligible for Social Security benefits at age 62, the there is no offset unless you become eligible later.

Maybe. You could receive a survivor annuity and a separate annuity that's based on your own service. Generally, if you're the surviving spouse of more than one retiree, then you must elect one of the benefits. We cannot pay you two survivor annuities. However, under certain circumstances, it's possible for a widow or widower to receive more than one survivor annuity simultaneously. If, after age 55, you marry a federal employee and you're again widowed, then you may be eligible to receive annuities based on the service of both of your spouses.

Sometimes. A child can continue to receive benefits after reaching age 18 if he or she is incapable of self-support because of a disability which began before age 18. If the disabled child is under age 18 when you apply for benefits, then we don't need additional information. However, when the child is within 3 months of reaching age 18 or over age 18, then you should send us information describing the disability conditions for any child.

A child can also continue to receive benefits until age 22 if he or she is enrolled as a full-time student. If the child is listed on the application for benefits as a full-time student who is age 18 or over, then we'll send a request for certification of school attendance to be completed by the person who expects to receive payments and to the school. Annuity payments continue between school years unless the break is more than five months, or the student doesn't plan to return to school on a full-time basis. If the student plans to be out of school for more than 5 months, then we cannot pay benefits. If he or she plans to return to school within 5 months, but doesn't do so, then benefits stop at the end of the month before the change of plans.

Another option would be to elect an insurable interest if you wish to leave the survivor benefit to your child. However, this would decrease your gross monthly annuity based on the age difference between you and your child. This option can be up to a 40 percent reduction in your retirement benefit, so it is not commonly used.

You're entitled to spouse equity under the FEHB program if you're a former spouse and receive an apportionment or survivor annuity benefit. OPM will abide by the stipulation of the court order. You'll need to complete the Health Benefits Election Form (SF-2809) to enroll and send it to us for processing.

A former spouse survivor annuity and an apportionment are two distinct benefits payable to a former spouse. The former spouse annuity is payable after the death of an employee or retiree. An apportionment is based on a portion of the retiree's gross or net annuity and is generally payable during the period of retirement. In order to qualify for one or both benefits, the court order must be specific in the type of benefit awarded.

If the former spouse remarries prior to age 55, but was married to the annuitant 30 or more years, then they will not lose their entitlement to survivor benefits.

The continuation to the apportionment is only to the courts, an officer of the court acting as a fiduciary, the former spouse's estate, or one or more of the retiree's children.

A former spouse survivor's annuity terminates for one of the following reasons:

  • In accordance with the terms of the court order
  • Upon remarriage before age 55
  • Death of the former spouse

A portion of a retiree's annuity stops at the earliest of:

  • The date specified in a court order which requires termination
  • The last day of the first month before OPM receives a court order that invalidates, vacates, or sets aside the court order submitted by the former spouse
  • The last day of the first month after OPM receives an amended court order
  • The last day of the first month before the death of the retiree
  • The last day of the month before the former spouse death, unless the order provides for continuation of the apportionment

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