CSRS employees are blessed with a benefit that isn’t available to their FERS colleagues. Once they are eligible to retire (and that includes early retirement), their unused sick leave will be used to increase their service credit. And the result of that will be an increase in their retirement annuity.

Not satisfied with that, one clever employee did a little arithmetic and concluded that he would be better off financially if he “burned off” his sick leave instead of having those hours used in his annuity computation. Financially speaking, he was right. That’s because each sick leave hour would be paid at his current hourly rate of pay, whereas the increase in monthly annuity benefits would be small in comparison. However, morally and legally speaking, he was wrong. Let me explain.

Sick leave must be used for legitimate purposes, not dishonest ones. The reasons for an agency granting sick leave are listed in the Code of Federal Regulations (See 5 CFR 630.401a). Among the more common reasons are medical, dental, or optical exams and treatment, incapacitation for the performance of duties, providing care for a family member who is incapacitated, and absences related to the adoption of a child.

Added to that, the regulations in 5 CFR 630.403 make it clear that if an absence is over three workdays, an agency should get “a medical certificate or other administratively acceptable evidence” of need. Therefore, burning off sick leave without a valid reason would involve the employee and the agency in a fraudulent expenditure of government funds.

While trying to squeeze every possible dollar out of Uncle Sugar has its appeal, here a case where it’s better to curb your appetite and do what’s right. Especially, since you can get burned if you don’t!