Expert's View

Reg Jones

As I pointed out last week, it’s important to plan ahead for retirement. Ideally, you’d do that a year ahead of the day you want to retire. However, if you don’t have that much time, you’ll have to work within the time you have. Last week I spelled out what you need to do to smooth the path to retirement. This week I’ll explain what your agency has to do.

A warning for those who think this next step will be instantaneous and your application will speed right along to OPM for adjudication and a prompt startup of your annuity: It doesn’t work that way.

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How long the process takes just within your agency will depend on several things, such as the workload in your agency’s personnel and payroll offices. If they are understaffed because of COVID-19 and/or buried under a pile of retirement applications, it can take longer.

After your personnel office receives your retirement application, it will determine if 1) you meet the age and service requirements to retire on the date you’ve set, and 2) you’ll be able to carry your Federal Employees Health Benefits (FEHB) enrollment and/or Federal Employees’ Group Life Insurance (FEGLI) coverage into retirement.

If there aren’t any problems, your personnel office will generate a Certified Summary of Federal Service, which will list your federal civilian service and your military service, if any. When they send you a copy, you’ll need check it for accuracy and make any changes, if needed.
When it’s close to the date you picked to retire, your personnel office will:

• certify your FEGLI coverage to OPM, if you are eligible to continue that coverage;

• transfer your FEHB enrollment to OPM, if you are eligible to continue coverage;

• forward any current designations of beneficiary that are in your OPF;

• process an SF 50 (Notification of Personnel Action) to separate you from the service;

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• complete and certify the personnel office portion of your retirement application; and

• forward your retirement application and related records to your agency payroll office.

Your payroll office will then:

• 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. It you have been offered a “buyout,” it also will authorize that payment;

• 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 check has been issued;

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• certify your annual basic pay for FEGLI life insurance purposes, if you are carrying any into retirement; and

• forward your retirement package to OPM.

Your agency payroll office will usually 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. That information is important if you need 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.

Now you know what your agency is supposed to do. Next week, I’ll fill you in on OPM’s role.

Preparing for Retirement within a Short Time

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The Special Retirement Supplement

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FERS Retirement Bundle: 2021 FERS Guide & TSP Handbook