The following is a question submitted by a Federal Times readers about retirement and other issues facing the federal workforce. It is answered by Reg Jones, a charter member of the senior executive service and a Federal Times columnist since 1995.
Question: I am a retired civil service postal worker. I retired at age 55 in 2012. Before I retired I bought back my military time thinking I would go to work again and get my forty quarters of social security. I did not want to take a 10% reduction on my civil service at age 62 so l bought back my military service. Since I retired I have had health problems to prevent me from working. l am now 65 and will never receive social security. My question is: Can I get a refund on my military buyback?
Reg’s Response: Because former employees and retirees aren’t eligible to receive a refund of their military deposits, the only way you could get a refund would be to return to work for the government in a position covered by the retirement system.
Question: I was a Postal Service clerk covered by FERS. I resigned after 13 years of service in 2004. At that time I was 34 so I am eligible for a deferred retirement. I am currently 55 and just returned to the post office as a MHA (mail handler assistant). When I become a regular MHA again, can I add that time to the 13 years I had? Also, can I buy any time to help the years that I’ve lost? I was never in the military.
Reg’s Response: Assuming that you didn’t get a refund of your retirement contributions when you left, that time will be added to your new period of service and be used in the computation of your annuity when you retire. If you did receive a refund, you would have to redeposit that money, plus accrued interest, to have it used in the computation of your annuity.
As to your other question, while deposits can be made to get credit for actual service in the military, in a few rare instances, they can also be made for employment in other government-sponsored entities, such as the Peace Corps and VISTA. What’s clear is that you can’t “buy back” time unless you worked in in one of the covered entities, where retirement deductions weren’t taken from your pay.
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Reg Jones is the resident expert on retirement and the federal government at Federal Times. From 1979 until 1995, he served as an assistant director of the U.S. Office of Personnel Management handling recruiting and examining, white and blue collar pay, retirement, insurance and other issues. Opinions expressed are his own.