Reg Jones Expert's View

When I finished writing about the retirement roles played by you, your agency and OPM, I bet you thought I was done with the subject. Nope. As Yogi Berra once said, “It ain’t over till it’s over.” There are more areas I want to explore. While most of them don’t apply to everyone, for those to whom they do apply, they are extremely important.

What if I want to change my mind about retiring?

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been asked if you can change your mind about retiring. In some cases, it’s the realization that they don’t feel ready to retire. In others, that the amount of money they’ll receive isn’t enough to get by on. And still others, it’s because a buyout has been offered since they put in their applications and they want to get one.

The easy answer from OPM’s point of view is that you can pull back your retirement application anytime before it has completed its adjudication of your case, with the understanding that any interim payments you received would have to be paid back.

However, your agency’s answer may be different. For example, if your position is being abolished or if someone has already been hired to replace you (even if they haven’t yet arrived on the scene), your agency can deny your request. It has to do that in writing, explaining the reasons for its denial of your request.

A thornier issue is how your agency would react if you withdrew your retirement application in order to get a buyout. The goal of buyouts is to persuade employees that had not planned to leave to do so. Clearly, if you’d already made up your mind to go, you don’t need such an incentive. I’m still waiting for current and former employees to tell me how their agencies are handling this.

What if I want to change my mind about a survivor annuity?

Yes, you can change your decision not to provide a survivor annuity (but only with your spouse’s written permission) or you can increase the survivor annuity amount up to the maximum, if at first you chose to provide a smaller benefit. However, you can only do that if it is more than 30 days from the date of your first regular monthly payment, but less than 18 months from the beginning date of your annuity. To do that, you’ll have to request the change in writing and send it to the following address: OPM, Retirement Operations Center. P.O. Box 45, Boyers, PA 16017

Your election must include your claim number, the amount of your new survivor election, and your spouse’s name, Social Security number, date of birth, and a copy of your marriage certificate.

You’ll have to make a one-time payment representing the difference between the old and new election amounts. This one-time payment also includes a percentage of your annual benefit. The percentage is 24.5 percent of your annual benefit if you are changing from no survivor benefit to a full survivor benefit or 12.25 percent if you are changing from no survivor benefit to a partial one. Interest is also charged.