Reg Jones Expert's View

So you’re retired. Great! But you’re bored, in need of money, or eager to serve your country again. And you wonder if you can be reemployed by Uncle Sam and what would happen to your hard won annuity if you were.

In general, you can be reemployed in any position for which you are qualified. However, there are a few restrictions. Above a certain age, law enforcement officers, firefighters and air traffic controllers can’t be reemployed in a position involving the actual performance of those duties.

As for what happens to your annuity, it mainly depends on how you were retired. If you met the age and service requirements for an immediate retirement, your annuity will continue uninterrupted. However, with rare exception, the salary you receive will be offset by the amount of annuity you get while on the job. On the other hand, depending on the amount of time you work at that new job, you may be eligible for a supplemental or a redetermined annuity. I’ll get to those in a moment.

If you are a CSRS retiree, your annuity will stop if you fall into one of four categories. If you are a FERS retiree, only the first two apply.

  1. You are a disability annuitant and OPM found that you were recovered or restored to earning capacity prior to reemployment;

  2. You are a disability annuitant who wasn’t disabled for your National Guard Technician position but was awarded a disability annuity because you were medically disqualified for continued membership in the National Guard;

  3. You are an annuitant who was involuntarily separated from your job (unless it was required by law based on age and length of service or for cause) and your new job is permanent in nature, (e.g., career, career-conditional or excepted); or

  4. You are an annuitant who receives a Presidential appointment subject to retirement deductions.

Most retirees whose annuity stops when they go back to work are those who were involuntarily separated, usually because of a RIF, reorganization, transfer of function or (and I hate this neologism) “right sizing.” If you are one of these, when your annuity stops, you’ll be treated the same as any other federal employee in an equivalent position and with a similar service history. In most cases, when you leave government again, your annuity will be reinstated.

A supplemental annuity is one that is added onto your present annuity. If you are reemployed annuitant on a full-time, continuous basis for at least one year, you’ll usually be entitled to a supplemental annuity. If you work part time, you’ll have to work longer to be eligible for one.

A redetermined annuity is one in which your entire annuity is recalculated as if you were retiring for the first time. It’s based on your new total years of service and new high-3, unless your previous high-3 was higher. Note: For CSRS employees, your annuity can’t go any higher than 80 percent of your high-3 (not including unused sick leave). If you work for at least five years (or the part-time equivalent), you will usually be able to elect a redetermined annuity.

Just remember that neither of these increases is free. You have to pay for them either with retirement contributions (mandatory for reemployed annuitants covered by FERS, optional for those covered by CSRS) or through a deposit paid after separation (CSRS only). The amount of the retirement deduction or deposit is a percentage of your basic pay.

Yeah, I know you’ve heard that it’s possible to get both your full annuity and the salary of your new job. But it’s rare. Until recently, it could only happen if you were hired under a provision of the Federal Employees’ Pay Comparability Act that allows agencies to fill positions when there is 1) exceptional difficulty in recruiting or retaining a qualified employee, 2) a direct threat to life or property, or 3) a situation that calls for emergency employment.

Then in 2003 Department of Defense was given independent authority to waive the requirement that an annuity be stopped or offset. That didn’t open the floodgates to double dippers because DoD has used restrictions similar to those under FEPCA. Intelligence agencies and the FBI have since been given similar authority, but they have made little to no use of it, too. Note: In the event you are one of the lucky ones hired under these authorities, you need to know that retirement deductions may not be withheld nor any additional retirement credit earned while you are reemployed.