Getting Credit for Prior Service

The dog days of summer coupled with the stumbling start of a new administration make this a good time to think about retirement. If so, you should take a minute to make sure that all your ducks are in a row.

The first “duck” is your age. If you are a CSRS employee, you can retire on an immediate, unreduced annuity at age 55 with 30 years of service, 60 with 20 or 62 with 5. If you are a FERS employee, you can do the same retire at your minimum retirement age (MRA) with 30, 60 with 20 or 62 with 5. (MRAs range from 55 to 57 depending on your year of birth.) You can also retire at your MRA with as few as 10 years of service; however, you annuity would be reduced by 5 percent for every year you were under age 62.

The second “duck” is your years of service. While I’m sure you know how long you’ve been working since you were most recently employed by the government, you need to search your memory and think about the all jobs you’ve had. It may surprise you, but many of them can be added to your regular CSRS or FERS service, thus increasing your annuity. Go to your personnel office and check your Official Personnel Folder (OPF) to make sure that it contains every bit of service that is creditable for retirement.

The guide to what’s creditable is found in 5 U.S. Code 8332. It spells out what service counts and what service doesn’t. Among those that count are active duty military service, substitute carrier work for the post office, service with Peace Corps and Vista, volunteer service under the Economic Opportunity Act of 1964, and employment as a United States Capitol Guide. While some of these periods of service are creditable only within specific time periods, others aren’t. Check with your personnel office to see if your work experience can be counted. Note: If retirement deductions weren’t taken from your pay check, you may need to make a deposit for that service to the Civil Service Disability and Retirement Fund.

You can also get credit for employment covered by another federal retirement system, such as TVA or the Foreign Service, if you aren’t receiving retirement benefits for that time under the other system. In order to get credit for it under CSRS or FERS, you’ll have to ask for a refund of your retirement contributions and deposit them, with interest, in the fund.

A final piece of advice. Don’t delay getting your service record in order until you are ready to retire. Waiting until the last minute can not only keep you from getting credit for all your service but can also delay your first annuity payment.