In a recent article, I spoke about the typical retirement processing time frames that one can expect when retiring from Federal Civil service in 2013.  Keep in mind, as we move into 2014 these time frames are subject to change as OPM deals with more and more folks separating from Federal service… but hopefully OPM will be ready for what might occur in 2014.

Also, the retirement processing time frames that I provided were based on the average retirement case… which apply to the majority of retirees.  There are probably a few hundred retirements each month that have their annuities finalized faster than what I described.  However, when OPM is processing several thousand retirements each month, don’t be surprised that a few hundred folks each month may have to wait a little longer than most.  In many cases this will be due to some issue or error caused by the separating agency OR possibly by an agency office that serviced the employee’s Federal service records years ago.

If your application for retirement (including the forms that your agency is responsible for submitting to OPM) is incomplete, this could certainly cause a delay in the processing of your retirement.  If OPM doesn’t have all the information they need to adjudicate your retirement, you will most likely be waiting longer than most for your annuity to be finalized.

There are several things that a Federal employee can do during their career to minimize delays in the processing of their retirement.  Many of these things can and should be done years before the employee retires.  The following are recommendations that I believe will make your future transition from Federal employment to Federal retirement much easier.

As soon as you are hired as a Federal employee:

Attend a Federal benefits orientation class and listen carefully to what is available to you.  Ask lots of questions.  I understand that when you are first employed, retirement will be the last thing on your mind.  But it’s important that you understand your benefits and options earlier than later.  If your agency doesn’t offer this class, make a recommendation that they do… but meanwhile set-up an appointment (in person OR over the phone) to discuss all of your Federal benefit options with your agency benefits officer.  There are some benefit related decisions that you must make shortly after you are employed that may not be so readily available to you later.

If you have any prior Federal civilian or military service, begin to inquire whether or not your prior service is going to be potentially creditable towards your future Federal service annuity.  Start asking your agency benefits/retirement officer about deposit/redeposit service before any additional interest is added to the amount you might owe.

If you were never a Federal employee in the past and you are beginning your Federal career in your late 50’s or older but plan to retire as soon as you obtain 5 years of service under the Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS), you need to consider whether or not you will need Federal Employees Health Benefits (FEHB) or Federal Employees Group Life Insurance (FEGLI) in retirement.  You need to do this as soon as you are hired so you will be eligible to keep this coverage in retirement (5 years later).

Understand your benefits… what would your family be entitled to if you were to pass away as a Federal employee?  Be sure to submit your Beneficiary forms and keep them all up to date as those who are important to you come in and out of your life.

Continue to Page 2 for more discussion on this topic…