When planning for retirement, one crucial step is to make sure you’re getting service credit for all your working time that counts toward your calculation. This includes not just credit for federal employment that obviously is creditable but also for certain types of employment that you otherwise might rule out or forget about—such as part-time or temporary work years ago while a student.
Creditable service applies to more types of employment than you might think. For example, it covers work such as service with the Peace Corps and Vista, volunteer service under the Economic Opportunity Act of 1964, employment as a United States Capitol Guide, and work as a substitute letter carrier.
Write down every job you’ve ever had that has any connection to the government. Then check to see if that service is creditable. You’ll find that information at 5 U.S. Code 8332, which you can access by searching online. The fact that this section of the law covers several pages is a good indication of just how many different jobs are eligible for inclusion in determining your length of service and used in your annuity computation.
Next, check your Official Personnel Folder (OPF) to make sure that it contains every bit of service that is creditable.
Some of these periods of service are creditable only within specific time periods, while others aren’t. You’ll need to check with your personnel office to see if your work experience can be counted. And if no retirement deductions were taken from your pay, you may have to make a deposit to the Civil Service Disability and Retirement Fund to get credit.
Depending on when the service was performed and which retirement system you are in, you may only get credit for the time in determining your length of service (that is, whether you have enough service to qualify for retirement at your age), but not have it used in your annuity computation unless you make a deposit. In others you won’t get any credit for either purpose unless you make a deposit.
Also creditable is employment covered by another federal retirement system, such as TVA or the Foreign Service, as long as you aren’t receiving any retirement benefits for that time under the other system. To receive credit, you’ll have to get a refund of your contributions and deposit it, with interest, in the civil service retirement fund.
Whether or not you are thinking about retiring, now’s the time to get your service record in order. Don’t put it off until you’re ready to walk out the door. Waiting until the last minute can not only keep you from getting credit for some service but can delay your first annuity payment – sometimes for a long, long time – until your work history is sorted out.