Reg Jones Expert's View

After you’ve retired you may want to go back to work for the government. The big question is this: “What will happen to my annuity if I do that?”

If you met the age and service requirements to retire on an immediate annuity and later return to work for Uncle Sam, in most cases the salary of your new position will be reduced by the amount of your annuity. On the other hand, if you didn’t meet the age and service requirements but instead went out on a discontinued service retirement, your annuity will stop and you’ll be treated the same as any other employee.

If you fall into the first category, you can retire again whenever you feel like it. On top of that, if you work long enough and have retirement deductions taken from your pay, you’ll receive either a supplemental or redetermined annuity. (You’d be entitled to a supplemental annuity if you worked full-time for at least 1 year; a redetermined annuity if you worked full-time for at least 5 years.) If you fall into the second category, you won’t be able to retire until you meet the regular age and service requirements to do so.

What I’ve just described is the usual way things go. However, in rare cases, a reemployed annuitant whose salary would normally be offset by the amount of his annuity can keep both his annuity and the full salary of his new position.

Under the “exceptional needs” authority, agencies can ask OPM to waive the salary offset when they need to increase their number of experienced contract specialists, grants management specialists, human resource specialists, and project managers. (Note: They may also request the waiver of the requirement that a retiree who received a buyout repay that amount, plus interest, when they have a uniquely qualified individual who is needed to fill a key position.)

Also available are time-limited appointments when an agency head determines that reemploying the retiree is necessary to carry out functions critical to the mission of the agency (or one of its components) or to assist in one to the following tasks: implementation or oversight of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, the development, management or oversight of procurement actions, providing assistance to the agency’s Inspector General, promoting training or mentoring of employees, or responding to direct threats to life or property.

There are also agency-specific authorities which provide for the waiver of the salary offset provision, for example, by DoD and the FBI, or occupational, such as foreign service officers for certain purposes.

As a rule, if you are hired into a position that allows you to keep both your annuity and the full salary of your new position, you won’t be eligible for a supplemental or redetermined annuity.

FYI: Reemployed annuitants are considered to be “at will” employees. So, if you are reemployed by the government, you can be terminated at any time, with or without cause. However, that doesn’t give your employer absolute power over your continued employment. You would still be covered by laws that protect you against discrimination and prohibited personnel practices, for example.

Next week I’ll let you know the rules covering a reemployed annuitant’s participation in the insurance and Thrift Savings Plan programs.