Expert's View

In recent articles we spelled out the rules governing the age and service requirements for a CSRS and FERS employees to retire and the basics of their benefit calculations. This time I want to focus on the main retirement-related question regarding the Federal Employees Health Benefits (FEHB) program—carrying coverage into retirement.

As a rule, you have to be enrolled in the FEHB program for the 5 years immediately preceding your retirement. Those 5 years will usually reflect your continuous, unbroken years of enrollment. However, they can also be consecutive if you were enrolled in the program when you left government and immediately reenrolled when you returned to work for the government.

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In addition, there are a few exceptions to the 5-year rule. For example, you can continue your coverage in retirement:

• if you transfer from a position that didn’t provide FEHB coverage into one that does, immediately enroll in the program, and then retire before completing 5 years of coverage.

• if you are covered by Tricare, that time will count toward the 5-year requirement as long as you are enrolled in an FEHB plan when you retire.

• if you receive a buyout or take early optional or discontinued service retirement, OPM will grant you a pre-approved waiver of the 5-year requirement.

OPM also has the authority to grant waivers to individuals when it would be against equity and good conscience not to do so. However, from experience, I can tell you that such waivers are exceptionally rare. Don’t count on getting one.

Next week we’ll look at the considerations for continuing Federal Employees’ Group Life Insurance in retirement.

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2021 Federal Employees Handbook