Expert's View

CSRS employees have long been blessed with a benefit that once wasn’t available to their FERS colleagues. When they are eligible to retire, their unused sick leave will be used to increase their service credit. And the result will be an increase in their retirement annuity.

For decades, FERS employees were denied that same benefit. Then the law changed. Those FERS employees who retired from October 28, 2009, through December 31, 2013, got half credit for their sick leave when their annuity was computed. Those retiring on or after January 1, 2014 get full credit.


What could be better? Save up your sick leave and increase your annuity. However, some employees have pulled out their calculators and concluded that they would be better off financially if they “burned off” their sick leave hours instead of having them used in their annuity computation. From a financial point of view, they are right. Each sick leave hour would be paid at their current hourly rate of pay, whereas the increase in their monthly annuity benefits would be comparatively small. Unfortunately, burning off sick leave is illegal.

Sick leave can only be used for legitimate purposes, which are listed in the Code of Federal Regulations in 5 CFR 630.401a. Among the more common reasons for an agency granting sick leave are when you need medical, dental, or optical exams and treatment, are incapacitated for the performance of your duties, need to provide care for a family member who is incapacitated, or have to be absent to attend to matters involving the adoption of a child.

Furthermore, the regulations in 5 CFR 630.403 make it clear that if you are going to be absent for more than three workdays, your agency should ask you for “a medical certificate or other administratively acceptable evidence” of need.

It’s always fun to think about the ways you can squeeze every possible dollar out of the government. And some of them are legitimate. For example, if you retire on a date that allows you to walk directly off the payroll onto the annuity roll, or if you retire before the end of the leave year so you can maximize the lump-sum payment for your unused annual leave.

However, burning off sick leave is definitively not on that list. Using sick leave without a valid reason would involve both you and your agency in a fraud.