Retirement open season ends soon

Retirement open season ends soon

Federal employees only have 11 days left to take advantage of the opportunity to switch retirement systems.

The retirement open season, under which employees enrolled in the Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS) can move into to the Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS), ends Dec. 31.

To make the change, CSRS employees must complete an election form, SF 3109, and return it to their personnel office. The FERS transfer becomes effective at the beginning of the next pay period after the office receives the completed form.

In October 1997, a last-minute addition to the Treasury-Postal appropriations bill provided for the open season. After reviewing the bill, President Clinton used his line-item veto power (later ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court) to cancel the CSRS-FERS switch. Administration officials had estimated the proposal would cost agencies $854 million over five years. The National Treasury Employees Union filed suit against Clinton's action.

A federal judge later approved an agreement between NTEU and the Justice Department to rescind President Clinton's veto. The administration then asked Congress to cancel the open season in its fiscal 1999 budget proposal, but Senators and Representatives showed no interest in doing so.

Before the open season started, officials estimated that 1 percent of federal employees eligible to switch from CSRS to FERS would make the move.

The Office of Personnel Management would not comment on the progress of the open season, but with five weeks remaining, the newspaper Federal Times reported that less than 1 percent of the more than 1.1 million workers eligible to switch decided to change plans.

"We've been a little underwhelmed," acknowledged William Flynn, associate OPM director for retirement and insurance, at a Nov. 17 conference of the International Personnel Management Association.

OPM has set up a Web site providing detailed information for those faced with the choice. has also set up a FERS Open Season Guide.