Federal CSRS & FERS Employees May be Eligible For Phased Retirement
Final regulations were issued recently for the new Phased Retire program that is authorized under section 100115 of Public Law 112-141, the "Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act," or "MAP-21."
OPM final regulations provide guidance to agencies and employees about who may elect phased retirement, what benefits are provided in phased retirement, how an annuity is computed during and after phased retirement, and how employees fully retire from phased retirement. OPM also has an informative FAQ available for interested parties.
Phased Retirement is intended to encourage experienced Federal employees to continue working part time to ensure continuity of operations and to facilitate knowledge management. The main purpose of Phased Retirements is to enhance mentoring and training of the employees who will be filling the positions of more experienced employees who are preparing for full retirement. It is intended to encourage experienced employees to remain, in at least a part-time capacity, until less experienced employees are fully equipped to fulfill the same duties and responsibilities as those employees who wish to retire. This program is voluntary and requires the mutual consent of the agency.
Phased Retirement will permit an individual to retire from part from their employment, while continuing the work part time while continuing to earn additional retirement benefits proportionately based upon the additional less-than-full-time employment.
To understand the concept of Phased Retirement, consider two half-time employees who fill one full-time job. Employee one retires while employee two continues working. Employee one receives an annuity based on half-time employment, and employee two continues to work half-time for half-pay. Eventually, employee two retires, and receives an annuity based upon half-time service, including credit for the time worked after employee one retired. Now assume that employee one and employee two are the same person. That is in essence how Phased Retirement operates.
While there are additional computational details, these are the basics. At entry into Phased Retirement, the employee’s annuity will be completed as if fully retired and then divided by two. That annuity would be paid while the individual worked a half time schedule receiving half pay.
When the Phased Retiree fully retires, there will be a computation of the annuity that would be payable if the employee had been employed full time and then divided by two prior to adjustment for survivor benefits. That amount would then be added to the original Phased Retirement Annuity, and that combined amount would then provide the basis for survivor annuity adjustment and benefits.
The individual’s income during partial and full retirement appropriately reflects the individual’s situation. During the partial retirement period, the income will be between full retirement and full employment, and the Phased Retiree would be increasing their lifetime retirement income. At the time of full retirement, the individual would be appropriately compensated for the value of both full-time and part-time service, with an annuity greater than if they had fully retired at the time of transition to Phased Retirement, but less than if the individual had continued employment on a full-time basis during the period of Phased Retirement.
To make this workable and avoid intractable administrative problems, no survivor benefits can be based upon a Phased Retirement annuity. If the individual dies prior to full retirement, survivor benefits will be those applicable for an employee who died in service, with provision for minor computational adjustments necessitated by the unique nature of Phased Retirement.
Participation is entirely voluntary, and requires the mutual consent of both the employee and employing agency. In order to participate, an individual must have been employed on a full-time basis for the preceding three years. Under CSRS, the individual must be eligible for immediate retirement with at least 30 years of service at age 55, or with 20 years of service at age 60. Under FERS, the individual must be eligible for immediate retirement with at least 30 years of service at MRA (minimum retirement age 55-57 depending upon year of birth), or with 20 years of service at age 60.
The law provides that employees subject to mandatory retirement (including Law Enforcement Officers, Firefighters, Nuclear Materials Couriers, Air Traffic Controllers, Customs and Border Protection Officers, or members of the Capitol Police or Supreme Court Police) may not participate. However, “grandfathered” Customs and Border Protection Officers who are not subject to mandatory retirement may participate.
Phased Retirement Annuities will be subject to court orders providing for division, allotment, assignment, execution, levy, attachment, garnishment, or other legal process on the same basis as other annuities.
No unused sick leave can be used in the computation of the Phased Retirement annuity. However, at full retirement the unused sick leave will be taken into account. While the computational provisions are somewhat complex, the value of the sick leave in that computation will be the same as for an individual retiring from a full-time position.
FEHB and FEGLI will stay with the employing agency. FEGLI benefit coverage amounts will be based upon the full time salary for the position. The FEHB employer contribution will be the same as for full-time employees.
Initially, individuals will only be able to transition to a half-time schedule. After there is experience with the program, OPM may by regulation provide for other work and retirement proportions.
Yes, if the employing agency agrees to the change. The Phased Retirement annuity will then terminate. Upon retirement, the individual’s retirement will be calculated under the laws then in effect, with the period of Phased Retirement treated as part-time service. Once an individual has gone back to full-time employment, they cannot elect to go back into Phased Retirement.
Deposits and redeposits (including for military
service) must be satisfied (either by payments or
annuity reduction as applicable) prior to entry into
Phased Retirement status. Any reduction in annuity
or loss of service credit at the time of entry into
Phased Retirement will be permanent for the
employee. No deposits or redeposits can be made by
the employee at a later time, including at the time
of full retirement.
However, in the case of a Phased Retiree’s death-in-service, the survivors can make deposits or redeposits on the same basis as if the decedent had not been a Phased Retiree.
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.
The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) issued final regulations through the Federal Register on 8/8/2014 which permits agencies to implement phased retirement, a new human resources tool that allows full-time employees to work a part-time schedule while beginning to draw retirement benefits. Section 100121 of the “Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act,” or “MAP-21,” authorizes phased retirement under the Civil Service Retirement System and the Federal Employees' Retirement System and requires OPM to publish regulations implementing phased retirement. The purpose of phased retirement is to allow the Federal Government to continue to benefit from the services of experienced employees who might otherwise choose to retire.