Expert's View

Make sure you double check the information on creditable service time. Image: fizkes/Shutterstock.com

Reg Jones

Last week I pointed out what you need to do to make the best use of your time as you get ready to retire. This week I’ll explain what your agency does after it receives your retirement application and your role in making sure your agency gets things right.

When your personnel office receives your retirement application, it will first make its own determinations on several important matters that, if you followed the steps described last week, you already will have made on your own. Crucially these are: if you meet the age and service requirements to retire on the date you’ve set; and if you’ll be eligible to continue your Federal Employees Health Benefits (FEHB) and/or Federal Employees’ Group Life Insurance (FEGLI) coverage after you retire.

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If everything checks out, your personnel office will generate a Certified Summary of Federal Service (CSFS), which will list your federal civilian service (and your military service, if any).

They’ll send you copy. Check it for accuracy. If any corrections or additions are needed, be sure to make them.

On retirement eligibility, obviously there likely will not be question regarding your age. But check and check again the information on creditable service time, because that is vital not only for your eligibility to retire but also in your annuity calculation. On the insurance programs, you might have to prove that you were covered for the five years before you retired, if your agency determines that you would not be eligible to continue them.

After any such issues are resolved and when it’s near the date you picked to retire, your personnel office will:

1. Certify your FEGLI coverage to OPM, if you are eligible to continue that coverage.

2. Transfer your FEHB enrollment to OPM, if you are eligible to continue coverage.

3. Forward any current designations of beneficiary that are in your OPF.

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4. Process an SF 50 (Notification of Personnel Action) to separate you from the service.

5. Complete and certify the personnel office portion of your retirement application.

6. Forward your retirement application and related records to your agency payroll office.

Then your payroll office will:

1. Authorize your final salary payment after you separate for retirement. It will also authorize any lump-sum payment you are owed for unused annual leave. If you have been offered a “buyout,” it also will authorize that payment;

2. Certify and close out your Individual Retirement Record (IRR), the official record of your current service, pay rates, unused sick leave credit for retirement purposes, etc. Since the IRR contains a list of your retirement deductions for your last period of service, it can’t be closed out until your final salary payment has been issued;

3. Certify your annual basic pay for Federal Employee’s Group Life Insurance (FEGLI), if you are carrying that coverage into retirement; and

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4. Forward your retirement package to OPM.

As a rule, your payroll office will notify you when your file has been sent to OPM. That notice will include the register number, the transmittal and mailing dates, and your payroll office number. You’ll have to have that information if you want to check on the status of your case after it has been sent to OPM. If your agency doesn’t notify you, you’ll have to follow up with them.

How long this process takes will depend on several things, such as the workload in your agency’s personnel and payroll offices. If they are understaffed because of COVID and/or buried under a pile of end-of-year retirement applications, it can take longer.

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