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Frequently Asked Questions about Voluntary Early Retirement Authority

What is a VERA?

A Voluntary Early Retirement Authority (VERA) is commonly referred to as early-out retirement, and thatís exactly what this authority offers—an opportunity to retire in advance of meeting the age and/or service requirements normally needed.

What is the date I would need to retire by?

Employees who choose to accept the VERA must be off the rolls no later than September 30, 2014.

Who is eligible?

Employees at least 50 years of age with 20 years of creditable service or any age with 25 years of creditable service. At least 5 years must be civilian service, whether you are retiring under Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS), CSRS Offset, or Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS.) CSRS or CSRS Offset employees must have served in a position covered by CSRS or Offset for at least 1 out of the 2 years immediately before retirement. For employees covered by FERS this rule does not apply.  Unused sick leave cannot be used for eligibility purposes.

In addition,

  • You must not be serving under a time-limited appointment;
  • You must have been employed by the Department of the Interior since September 29, 2013;
  • You must not have received a final decision you will be involuntarily separated for misconduct or unacceptable performance; and
  • You retire on or before the VERA expiration date.

What does a "time-limited appointment" mean?

An employee on an appointment with a time limit works only until a specified date and then employment ends. The employing agency sets the ending date when it hires the individual and/or when it extends the appointment. For example, temporary and term employees serve with a time limit, so they are not eligible for an early-out retirement.

What does “continuous service” mean?

To be eligible for early retirement, you must have been employed by the Department of the Interior since September 29, 2013, with no breaks in service.  Leave without pay (LWOP) and other non-pay status during an appointment are NOT considered breaks in service.

What if I am on military duty during the authority time limit?

Employees on military duty are treated as though they are still on the job, and are not disadvantaged because of their military service. Therefore, if you meet the eligibility criteria during the offer period, you would have 30 days following your return to your position with the USGS to either accept or reject an offer of VERA.

Does the VERA eligibility change the eligibility for regular optional retirement?

No.

What are the requirements for an optional retirement?

If you are under FERS, and you have reached your minimum retirement age (MRA) with at least 30 years of creditable service, age 60 with 20 years of creditable service, or age 62 with 5 years of creditable service. In addition, an employee under FERS is eligible for an immediate annuity if he/she has 10 years of service and has reached the MRA. (Also referred to as “MRA+10”) (Under an MRA+10 there is a 5-percent reduction for each year the employee is under age 62. This is a permanent reduction).

If you are under CSRS, and you are age 55 or older with at least 30 years of creditable service, age 60 with 20 years of creditable service, or age 62 with 5 years of creditable service.

Leaving Federal service under a VERA is supposed to be voluntary. What if I am offered a VERA and choose to stay?

VERAs (early retirement) are for voluntary separations and coercion is prohibited.

What if I obtain employment after retiring?

Non-Federal employment—There are no restrictions on non-Federal employment after a voluntary early retirement.  However, as a former USGS employee, you may still be subject to various government ethics requirements. You will find ethics information on the USGS internal site Office of Science Quality and Integrity. You should contact Nancy Baumgartner, USGS Bureau Ethics Officer, at 703-648-7474 if you have any questions regarding post-employment restrictions.

In addition, employees covered under FERS who qualify for the annuity supplement could have their supplement reduced or discontinued due to the earnings test.

Federal employment—If you are hired, then you will be considered a “reemployed annuitant.”   This means the annuity will continue, and your Federal salary will be offset by the annuity.



Retirement Eligibility and Annuity Computation

How do I know if I am eligible to retire?

Your Federal Employee Benefit Statement available in Employee Express provides you with your retirement service computation date (SCD).  Section H of the statement includes a gross estimate.  Your Benefits Specialist can provide you with a detailed estimate and verify that your retirement SCD is correct.  Different types of appointments and owing a deposit and/or redeposit can make a difference in your retirement SCD.  Work schedules throughout your career may also affect the computation of an annuity.   The rules are complicated and different depending on your covered retirement system.  We highly recommend you check with your Benefits Specialist before you make a decision about accepting a VERA.

How is my annuity determined?

FERS Annuity — The formula for computing a FERS Basic Annuity based on creditable service is as follows:

  • 1 percent of your high-3 average by your years and months of creditable service or
  • percent of your high-3 average and years and months for those who retire at age 62 with 20 years of creditable service.
  • Unused sick leave may be used for additional credit toward annuity computation.  There is no annuity reduction if you are under age.
  • The commencing date of your annuity is the first day of the month following retirement.

CSRS Annuity — The formula for computing a CSRS annuity based on creditable service is as follows:

  • 1.5 percent of your high-3 average salary multiplied by service up to 5 years,
    plus 1.75 percent of your high-3 average salary multiplied by service between 5 and 10 years,
    plus 2 percent of your high-3 average salary multiplied by service over 10 years.
  • Unused sick leave may be used for additional credit toward annuity computation.
  • If you are under age 55, this calculation is reduced by one-sixth of one percent for each full month you are under age 55 (that is, 2 percent per year). It is a permanent reduction.
  • The commencing date of your annuity is the first day of the month following retirement; if you retire on the 1st, 2nd, or 3rd day of a month; your annuity begins the following day.

EXCEPTION — FERS transferees with a CSRS component will have their annuity consist of a CSRS and a FERS portion. An employee who retires before age 55 will have the CSRS portion of the payable annuity reduced by one-sixth of one percent for each full month he/she is under age 55 (that is, 2 percent per year). No reduction will be applied to the FERS component of the annuity. Employees who were previously under CSRS but who transferred to FERS will receive credit for either the amount of sick leave at the time they transferred to FERS, or at the time of retirement—whichever is less.  The remaining balance will be credited toward the FERS portion.

Is additional time granted if I accept a VERA? 

No. 

What is the FERS Annuity Supplement?

Most who retire under FERS are entitled to a FERS Annuity Supplement  This applies if you accept a VERA.  This estimates the Social Security benefit earned by your FERS years of service and is payable by OPM if you have completed at least one calendar year of FERS service. It is paid until you become eligible for a Social Security benefit at age 62. However, this supplement is payable only if and when you have reached your minimum retirement age (MRA).  MRA increases over time based on an employee’s year of birth and ranges between ages 55 and 57.  In other words, the FERS Annuity Supplement will be delayed until you reach your MRA.  Your Benefits Specialist can provide further guidance.

How is the FERS Annuity Supplement Calculated?

The FERS Annuity Supplement is based on your years of FERS creditable service and what your Social Security Benefit may be. An assumed full career for Social Security is 40 years.   For example, if your estimated full career Social Security benefit would be $1,000 and you worked 25 years under FERS, then divide 25 by 40 (.625) and multiply ($1,000 x .625 = $625).  This is the estimate of the monthly supplement before any reductions.  It is subject an earnings test similar to Social Security’s.

Will my annuity be reduced?

FERS Employees—Your annuity is not reduced. If you are a FERS employee with a frozen CSRS component, then a portion of your annuity is based on a benefit that you accrued under CSRS. Therefore, that portion of your annuity is subject to the reduction mentioned for CSRS/CSRS Offset employees.

CSRS/CSRS Offset Employees—Your annuity will be reduced at the rate of 2 percent for each year (or by one-sixth of one percent for each full month) that you are under age 55. This is a permanent reduction.

What resources do I have available to estimate my income?

  • Your Federal Employees Benefits Statement  available in Employee Express provides information on when you are eligible to retire and a gross estimate of your annuity. 
  • Your Social Security Statement provides estimates of this benefit. You can now request your statement online at www.ssa.gov.
  • Your Thrift Savings Plan has videos, booklets, and webpages to become more familiar with various aspects of your retirement savings account including calculators to project your account balance and estimate a monthly income.

Where can I go to get an estimate of my annuity?

Please contact your Benefit Specialist after you review your Federal Employees Benefits Statement in Employee Express and determine you may want to accept the VERA offer.  Your specialist will be able to review the various factors affecting your annuity and provide a more detailed statement.  You need to provide a copy of your Social Security statement if you want an estimate of the FERS Annuity Supplement.

How do I apply for the VERA?

You will find information on Planning for Retirement including the retirement forms on the USGS Pay and Benefits website.



Insurance

Federal Employee Health Benefit

Generally, your Federal Employee Health Benefit (FEHB) plan automatically continues into retirement. Retirees pay the same rate as full-time employees.  The government continues to pay a large portion of the cost of the premiums.

I haven't been enrolled in the FEHB program for a full 5-year period and I accept a VERA, do I lose my FEHB?

No, OPM has granted pre-approved waivers to employees who have been covered under the FEHB Program continuously since OPM approved VERA and retire under the VERA.

Federal Employees Group Life Insurance

Generally, your Federal Employee Group Life Insurance (FEGLI) coverage will continue into retirement based on decisions you make regarding continuation of coverage.

I haven't been enrolled in the FEGLI program for a full 5-year period. Do I lose my life insurance when I retire under VERA?

Yes. OPM does not grant waivers in this situation. You might be able to convert your coverage. You should ask your Benefits Specialist for more information.

Federal Employees Dental and Vision Insurance

Will my coverage under the Federal Employees Dental and Vision Insurance continue?

Yes, your coverage will automatically continue into retirement.

Can I elect the Federal Employee Dental and Vision Insurance after I retire?

Yes, you can during open season or if you have qualified life event.

Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program

Will my coverage continue under the Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program?

Yes, as long as you pay the premiums.



Leave

If I separate under VERA, what will happen to my earned and unused annual leave?

You will be eligible for a lump sum payment for your unused annual leave.  It is normally paid 2 to 3 pay periods after you separate.

What happens to my earned and unused sick leave?

CSRS, CSRS Offset, and FERS employees will receive full credit for their unused sick leave toward their annuity computation.

If I separate under VERA, what will happen if I am indebted for advanced annual or sick leave?

If you are indebted for advanced annual or sick leave, you must refund the amount paid for the leave. If you do not refund the amount of the indebtedness, deductions will be made from any funds that you are due upon your separation.



Additional Information

What are the advantages of a VERA?

  • It allows one to retire earlier than otherwise eligible for an optional retirement
  • In most cases, the health benefit coverage continues into retirement.  The government continues to pay their portion of the premiums.
  • Opportunities to do other things
  • Possibilities of working outside of Government and not having your CSRS or FERS Basic Annuity affected.  (This does not apply to the FERS Supplemental annuity.) 
  • Cost of Living Adjustments payable for CSRS retirees

What are the disadvantages?

  • Your retirement benefit is based on your length of creditable service.  Therefore, you will not have the opportunity to increase the benefit. 
  • The FERS Supplemental annuity is not payable until your Minimum Retirement Age (MRA)
  • Cost of Living Adjustments are not payable until age 62 – for FERS employees only
  • You will not be able to contribute to the Thrift Savings Plan like you do now
  • FERS employees will not receive additional government contributions to TSP

Where can I find the forms to apply?

The retirement forms are on the USGS Pay and Benefits pages.  We strongly recommend you review the Planning for Retirement page too as it answers many questions you may have or should have asked.

Your Benefit Specialist is available to assist.



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Page Last Modified: Monday, 10-Feb-2014 12:05:30 EST