Reg Jones Expert's View

Over the past two weeks I’ve walked you through the phased retirement portion of the “Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act,” explaining what it is, how it will work, and who is eligible to participate. This time I’ll answer a series of nitty gritty questions about phased retirement that are probably on your mind.

How will unused sick leave be treated?

While unused sick leave is added to actual service and used in the computation of an annuity, if you participate in phased retirement, it won’t be added until you enter full retirement. At that point, the value of your unused sick leave will be the same as it would be for any employee who retires from a full-time position.

How will your life and health insurance benefits be affected?

Under normal circumstances, when you retire your FEHB and FEGLI enrollment is transferred from your employing agency to OPM. However, under the phased retirement program, it will stay with your employing agency. As a result, even though you are a half-time employee, your FEGLI coverage will be based on the full time salary of your position. Your FEHB premiums will the same as those for a full-time employee. If you are a Postal Service employee, the latter works to your advantage because the premiums paid by Postal Service employees are less than those for all other employees and retirees.

How will court orders be handled?

Court orders providing for the division, allotment, assignment, execution, levy, attachment, garnishment, or other legal process will be handle on the same basis as other annuities.

Can I work more or less than half-time?

Not at present. Until OPM has more experience with the program, it will only permit participants to work a half-time schedule.

Can I return to full-time employment?

Yes, but only if your agency agrees to the change. If it does, your phased retirement annuity will terminate. When you do retire again, your annuity will be computed in the usual way, with the period of phased retirement treated as part-time service. Note: If you do switch from part-time to full time employment, you can’t go back.

Now to the big question. When will the phased retirement program be available? Here’s what OPM has to say about that:

The program will become effective at the time set in the regulations to be issued. Implementation of the program is an important goal of OPM, and this will be accomplished as soon as possible.

Stay tuned.