Expert's View

Here’s a question that has employees and personnel offices scrambling for an answer: If you are targeted in a reduction-in-force (RIF), is there any way of staying on your agency’s payroll until you can retire? Here’s the short answer: Yes, you can, if you have enough annual leave to carry you until you are eligible.

According to OPM, if you receive a RIF notice and are being involuntarily separated from your agency due to reduction in force or transfer of function, you can chose to use annual leave and stay on the agency’s rolls after the date you would have been separated in order to establish initial eligibility for immediate retirement. Immediate retirement includes discontinued service or voluntary early retirement.

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The same rule applies if you need to acquire eligibility to continue your health benefits coverage into retirement. That’s usually not a concern for those who are facing separation and taking early retirement. As a rule, OPM waives the requirement that you be covered by the Federal Employees Health Benefits program for a full five years before you retire. However, there may be situations where you’ll need to hang on to qualify.

One more piece of good news. If you are going to be involuntarily separated under adverse action procedures because you declined an offer to relocate (including during a transfer of function), you can use annual leave to stay on your agency’s rolls after the effective date of the relocation. That way, you can establish initial eligibility for immediate retirement (including discontinued service or voluntary early retirement) and/or initial eligibility to keep your health benefits coverage in retirement.

So, there you have it. If it’s likely that you’ll be facing a situation like the ones described above, I suggest that you keep a copy of this article and stash it away.