Reg Jones Expert's View

For those of you who are enjoying your first few days as retirees, I want to give you a bit of good news. You’ll soon be receiving a pamphlet from OPM called Your Federal Retirement Benefits. It’s a brand new, computer generated, personalized publication that will makes it easier to understand what your benefits are. Here are some of the highlights.

Your copy will include your name, date of birth, civil service annuity (CSA) number, the retirement system you are in (CSRS, CSRS Offset or FERS), when you benefits will begin, your current address, and an account number, if you having your annuity deposited directly in a financial institution.

It will include both a statement of your monthly gross annuity benefit and the date of your first monthly payment. To help you understand how they arrived at that figure, OPM will include an explanation of the annuity computation method used, your high-3 salary, and your length of service, including creditable military service and sick leave (if you are covered by CSRS or have a CSRS component in your annuity). Following that will be an inventory of any deductions you elected to have made for such things as health and life insurance premiums and taxes.

Because your first annuity payment will be less than the full monthly annuity you will subsequently receive, OPM will give you an estimate of how much your retroactive payment will be.

If you elected a survivor benefit for your spouse, that will be included, along with current value of your spouse’s gross survivor annuity. Phone numbers will also be included so your spouse will know who to call in the event of your death.

If you have Federal Employees Health Benefits (FEHB) coverage, that page will include the plan’s name, the option you chose, and the dollar amounts that you and the government are paying for those premiums, plus some information about Medicare.

Any Federal Employees’ Group Life Insurance premiums that you’ll be paying will be shown, along with any benefits to which your survivors may be entitled. Moreover, there will be a description of any living benefits and the assignment of life insurance benefit options that may be available to you.

Another section will deal with taxes. Most importantly, you will see just how much you contributed to the retirement system, and how much of that will be free of federal taxes each month under IRS rules.

Oh, if you need to contact OPM, there’ll be a section that tells you how to do that, whether that’s in writing, by phone, or by e-mail. As an extra benefit, they’ll also include phone numbers for the Thrift Savings Plan, Social Security Administration, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, Internal Revenue Service, and Federal Long Term Care Insurance Programs.