Reg Jones Expert's View

It’s important to plan ahead for retirement. And doing that a year ahead would be ideal place to start. Even if you don’t have that much time, you’ll have to use the time you have left. Last week I spelled out the steps you need to take to assure that all you ducks are in order to retire. This week I’ll explain what your agency has to do.

Once your personnel office has your retirement papers, it will check to make sure you are eligible to retire on the date you set and that you’ll be able to carry your Federal Employees’ Health Benefits (FEHB) and/or Federal Employees’ Group Life Insurance (FEGLI) coverage into retirement.

Assuming that there aren’t any problems, your personnel office will generate a Certified Summary of Federal Service, which will list your federal civilian and your military service, if any. When they send you a copy, check the record for accuracy and make any needed changes.

When it’s close to the date you selected to retire, your personnel office will:
• certify your FEGLI coverage to OPM, if you are eligible to continue that coverage;
• transfer your FEHB enrollment to OPM, if you are eligible to continue that coverage;
• forward any current designations of beneficiary that are in your OPF;
• process an SF 50 (Notification of Personnel Action) to separate you from the service;
• complete and certify the personnel office portion of your retirement application; and
• forward your retirement application and related records to your agency payroll office.

The payroll office will:
• authorize your final salary payment after you separate for retirement. It will also authorize any lump-sum payment you owed for unused annual leave. It you have been offered a “buyout,” it also will authorize that payment;
• certify and close out your Individual Retirement Record (IRR), the official record of your current service, pay rates, unused sick leave credit for retirement purposes, etc. Since the IRR contains a list of your retirement deductions for your last period of service, it can’t be closed out until your final salary check has been issued;
• certify your annual basic pay for life insurance purposes, if you are carrying any into retirement; and
• forward your retirement package to OPM.

As a rule, you agency payroll office will notify you when your file has been sent to OPM. That notice will include the register number, the transmittal and mailing dates, and your payroll office number. That information is important if you need to check on the status of your case after it has been sent to OPM. If it doesn’t you’ll have to follow up with them.

How long this process will take depends on a lot of things, such as the workload in your agency’s personnel and payroll offices. If they are understaffed and/or buried under a pile of retirement applications, it can take longer, maybe much longer.

OPM’s processing is also dependent on workload. During peak periods, such as the end of a year and early in the new year, it can be overwhelmed. Fortunately, where possible, they will try to provide you with a portion of your annuity. That interim pay will continue until they have finalized your application. Then you’ll receive the correct monthly annuity payment, plus any catch-up amounts that you didn’t get while in interim pay.

More on federal retirement under CSRS and FERS at ask.FEDweek.com