January 27, 2006Editor's Note: This is the first edition of our new weekly column on federal retirement issues. In each column, veteran federal benefits expert Tammy Flanagan will offer information and hands-on advice for employees at all stages of their careers. To sign up to receive the column by e-mail, click here.
Did you work for another federal agency before the one you work for now? Did you have a summer job working for a federal agency when you were in high school or college? Did you serve in the military or ROTC? Did you volunteer in the Peace Corps or VISTA? These are examples of potentially creditable service that may not be documented in your official personnel file.
The value of your benefits from the Civil Service Retirement System or Federal Employees Retirement System comes from length of service and your high-three average salary. The more service and the higher your salary, the more benefits you will receive. Missing service records can prevent you from receiving benefits that you have earned.
With few exceptions, all of your federal civilian employment and military service is creditable toward your CSRS or FERS retirement benefit. And the key to getting the credit is to have the service clearly documented in your official personnel records. Solution Periodically throughout your career, review your official personnel folder. Regardless of where you work, you have the right to review your personnel records, even if they are not stored at your location. Many agencies are automating personnel records storage. You may be able to check your service records online. It is also important to maintain personal copies of these important documents.
Civilian service is usually documented on a Notification of Personnel Action (SF 50) form. Military service is generally found on your active duty record, form DD-214. If you find that there are missing or incomplete records, work with your retirement specialist to locate them or obtain acceptable replacements. You may have documents at home in your own records indicating your service. It is obviously easier to locate your records if you begin compiling and storing them yourself early in your career, but remember, it's never too late! Resources
By the time you retire, your agency should have clear documentation of your entire federal career. The next step is to find out if you owe a deposit (payment for service credit) for the documented service. More on this issue in a future column.
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January 27, 2006