Your eligibility to retire depends on your having the right combination of age and service. While you will usually know how much actual service you have, it would be a mistake to skip over potentially creditable service, which could not only make you eligible to retire but would also increase the amount of your annuity.
The most frequently overlooked service is active duty in the armed forces. If you are a FERS employee, you’ll only get retirement credit if you make a deposit to the retirement fund.
The same is true if you are a CSRS employee who was hired on or after October 1, 1982. However, if you were hired before that date, it’s up to you to decide if you want to make the deposit. If you don’t and are eligible for a Social Security benefit at age 62 (or when you retire if it’s after age 62), your military service will be dropped and your annuity recomputed without it.
And there are other types of service that will be creditable if you make a deposit to the retirement system–for example, service in the Peace Corps, work as a substitute carrier for the Postal Service, and time as a temporary appointee. To find out what kinds of service are creditable, and which of them requires a deposit, go to www.opm.gov/retirement-services/publications-forms/csrsfers-handbook/c020.pdf.
If you left the government at any time, got a refund of your retirement contributions, and returned to work for the government, you have a decision to make. If you are a CSRS employee who took a refund after September 30, 1990, and don’t redeposit that money, plus accrued interest, you’ll get credit for the time in determining your years of service; however, it won’t be used in the computation of your annuity. If you got a refund before October 1, 1990, you can make the redeposit or you can have your annuity reduced actuarially based on how much you owe and your age when you retire.
If you are a FERS employee who left government, got a refund of your retirement contributions, and returned to government service on or after October 28, 2009, you can redeposit the money, plus interest, and get retirement credit for that service. If you don’t redeposit the money, you won’t get any credit for that time.