A number of those who applied to retire during the turn of the year period, a peak time for federal employees to retire but also when many agencies meanwhile ceased most operations, have been left wondering about their status.
OPM guidance states that “For employees who, on or before the requested retirement date, submitted some notice of their desire to retire, agencies should, when the lapse in appropriations ends, make the retirement effective as of the date requested. The retirement request may be informal (such as a letter requesting retirement), and can be either mailed or personally submitted to the agency. Any additional required paper work, such as the formal retirement application form, may be completed when the agency reopens. No time spent by the retiree in such actions after the effective date of the retirement may be considered as duty time, since the individual would no longer be an employee of the agency.”
It adds that employees who were scheduled to retire before the end of the leave year (January 5) with an annual leave balance of over the maximum leave ceiling would receive the full amount of accumulated and accrued annual leave in a lump-sum payment.
Although OPM itself is one of the agencies whose funding lapsed, its retirement operations division is funded by a trust fund and was not affected. However, whether OPM can work on the application depends on whether the employing agency sent the required information on time. If it did, OPM will make interim payments as normal while it processes the application. If it didn’t, new retirees “will likely experience some delay as OPM must wait on other agencies to submit all of the information needed to process your retirement.”
Annuity payments are funded from that trust fund and therefore are not affected by government shutdowns.
Another complication that has been reported is that without formal notice from OPM that an employee has retired, the TSP continues to treat the person as an active employee for purposes of withdrawal options. Thus in many cases such employees cannot access those accounts as they would like.