Reg Jones Expert's View

Two previous articles covered your role in planning for retirement and your agency’s role in getting your application to OPM. This time let’s look at OPM’s role.

If your retirement application has cleared your agency’s personnel and payroll offices within 30 days, you well are on the way to being placed on the annuity roll. However, be aware that staffing shortages or an excess workload in your agency may slow that process.

Until your retirement package leaves your agency, you’ll have to refer any questions about its status to your now-former personnel or payroll office. Most agency payroll offices will notify you when your retirement application has been sent to OPM. If your agency doesn’t do that, you’ll have to follow up with them.

When your application arrives at OPM, you’ll be sent a written acknowledgment and provided with a retirement claim number, preceded by the letters CSA, which stands for Civil Service Annuitant.

If OPM is satisfied that you are entitled to an annuity, it will authorize an interim annuity payment, which is a percentage of what your final annuity will be. This commonly is around 80 percent of your entitlement although it can be higher or lower—usually lower.

OPM does this for two reasons. First, to avoid overpaying you and having to reclaim the excess when your annuity is finally approved. Second, to provide you with some income while your application is being processed.

Once OPM has completed processing your application, your regular annuity amount will be calculated and your first regular annuity payment authorized and paid by the Treasury Department. Any money you are owed from your time in interim status will be included in that payment.

Separately, OPM will send you an Annuity Statement and other information about your retirement benefits. Please keep this statement in a safe place. If you ever apply for a home mortgage or some other large loan, you’ll be asked to provide a copy to the lender as a proof of your entitlement to an annuity.

Now that you know what OPM is supposed to do, you may want to know what happens if you change your mind about retiring at the last minute. That’s our topic for next week.