Everyone who wanted to retire by the end of the 2020 leave year has already done so. To them I say – reaching back into my high school freshman Latin text book – “Ave atque vale! (Hail and farewell!)”
That leaves those of you who already eligible to retire but who have decided to stick around for a while, and those of you who haven’t reached a combination of age and service to make you eligible. But someday you, too, likely will do what your now-former colleagues have just done, and fill out an application to retire. You can use the advantage of having time on your side to make sure you do it right.
There are two application forms for immediate retirement. You’ll find the one for CSRS employees at www.opm.gov/forms/pdf_fill/sf2801.pdf and the one for FERS employees at www.opm.gov/forms/pdf_fill/sf3107.pdf. While the explication and direction for the CSRS one takes up 11 pages, the one for FERS takes only four.
Both do a pretty good job of leading you through the boxes but I thought it might be useful to walk you through the forms and highlight what you’ll need to have at hand when you do fill one out. With slight variations, these elements are common to both the CSRS and FERS forms, although not presented in the same order. We’ll look at them in the order they are listed on the FERS version.
Section A – Identifying Information
In these boxes you’ll need to put your full name (and any other name you’ve gone by), date of birth, Social Security number, home address, phone number, and email address. You’ll also have to indicate if you are a U.S. citizen and if you are filing for disability retirement.
Section B – Federal Service
Here you’ll have to put down the department or agency you are retiring from, the title of your position, your pay plan and occupational series, and the date you want to retire. You’ll also have to say whether you were honorably discharged from the armed forces and if you are receiving or entitled to military retired pay. Note: If you are receiving or entitled to reserve retired pay, check the No box.
Section C – Martial Information (FERS)
Section E – Marital Information (CSRS)
If you aren’t married, check No. If you are, check Yes and provide your spouse’s name, date of birth, Social Security number, etc. If you are divorced and any benefits are due to your former spouse, you’ll have to check the Yes box and provide a copy of the court order(s) and any amendments.
Section D – Annuity Election (FERS)
Section F – Annuity Election (CSRS)
Here you need to initial the box beside the annuity you want to receive. You can choose a reduced annuity with a maximum survivor annuity (55 percent for CSRS, 50 percent for FERS), a reduced annuity with a partial survivor annuity (any amount from $1 up for CSRS, 25 percent for FERS). You can also elect an annuity that is only payable during your lifetime or, as with your FEGLI benefit, is payable to a former spouse or someone who has an insurable interest in you (but only with your spouse’s written consent, if you are married).
Section E – Insurance Information (FERS)
Section D – Insurance Information (CSRS)
If you are eligible to continue your FEHB coverage. To be eligible to do that, you must have been enrolled in the program for the 5 consecutive years before you retire (or from your first opportunity to enroll in the program). If you meet that requirement, check Yes. Then check Yes or No to the question asking if a court order requires you to provide health benefits coverage to any children.
Next answer Yes of No to your eligibility to continue your FEGLI coverage. To be eligible, you meet the same length of coverage requirement as the one mentioned above for FEHB. Next you need to initial the box that matches your decision about what you want to happen with your FEGLI benefit. While you have some say over what happens, the law doesn’t permit you to exclude your spouse from receiving it if you die. Note: If you aren’t married, you have the option of having your FEGLI benefit go to either a former spouse or someone who has an insurable interest in you.
Section F – Other Claims Information (FERS)
Section C – Other Claims Information (CSRS)
This section only applies to someone who is receiving or has applied for workers’ compensation from the Department of Labor because of a job-related illness or injury. If this applies to you, fill it out; if it doesn’t, skip it.
Section G – Information About Your Unmarried Dependent Children (CSRS & FERS)
Providing the names, dates of birth, and disability (if any) of your children is optional but would be useful for OPM to have on hand in the event of your death.
Section I – Applicant’s Certification (CSRS & FERS)
Here’s where you certify (under penalty of law) that all the statements made in this application are true to the best of your knowledge and belief. Following that is a list of items related to military service, survivor election, life insurance, OWCP, federal tax, and court or administrative order to which you need to answer Yes, No, or Not Applicable.
In effect, it’s a way of leading you back through the rest of the application to make sure that you haven’t missed anything. Logically, it should have preceded the space where you certify that all the statements are true to the best of your knowledge and belief. But that’s government for you.
While the sections above are a lot to deal with, there are three schedules to deal with before you are done. They seek to find out – Yes or No – whether you served in the armed forces and are or will receive military retire pay or if you are or will receive workers’ compensation benefits.
So there you have it. It takes time to fill out these forms, in part because you’ll have to dig into your files (or your memory) to answer some of the questions. That’s one of the reasons that it’s a good idea to get started on the paperwork well in advance of the day you plan to retire.