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Keep These Documents Handy

A guide to the paperwork you may need when it comes time to file your retirement application.

In last week’s column, we looked at the basic steps to take in filing your retirement application. But in addition to the standard forms, you may need to include additional documents with your retirement application and insurance forms, depending on your individual circumstances.

Let’s look at some of them.

For married employees:

  • Marriage certificate or proof of common law marriage—which varies depending on the laws of the state where you live.
  • The notarized consent of your spouse if you elect less than the maximum spousal survivor election on the Civil Service Retirement System or Federal Employees Retirement System application.

For divorced employees:

  • Divorce decree or court order showing entitlement of your former spouse to retirement and/or survivor benefits based on your federal employment. (If your former spouse was not awarded benefits, you may not need to include your divorce decree. Ask a human resources specialist at your agency to be sure.) If your retirement application needs to go to the court order section of the Office of Personnel Management, this can delay processing and reduce your interim retirement payments until the amount of your benefit owed to your former spouse has been determined.

For those continuing health benefits:

  • Proof of five years of Federal Employees Health Benefits Program coverage: You are not required to have been an enrollee continuously, but you must have been continuously covered by an FEHBP enrollment. This includes time you were covered as a family member under another person's FEHBP enrollment (include a copy of your spouse’s SF 2809 form) or time you were covered under the Uniformed Services Health Benefits Program (also known as TRICARE or CHAMPUS) or CHAMPVA as long as you were covered under an FEHBP enrollment at the time of your retirement. (You must enroll in FEHBP within 60 days after you lose coverage under the Uniformed Services Health Benefits Program or CHAMPVA for that time to be considered as part of continuous FEHB coverage.)
  • If you plan to suspend your FEHBP coverage because you are using a Medicare Advantage health plan (Part C of Medicare), military health care (TRICARE or CHAMPUS), or are covered by Medicaid, you will need to show proof of coverage.

For those filing for Social Security benefits:

For those making Thrift Savings Plan withdrawals:

  • If you wish to begin taking payments from your TSP account, you should wait until you’ve been separated from your agency for at least 30 days before filing an application for a partial withdrawal or a full withdrawal. You can’t file for a post-separation withdrawal until your agency has notified the TSP of your retirement. The TSP will acknowledge your withdrawal very quickly after submitting your request, often within a couple of business days.
  • It is very important that you carefully complete the forms to avoid any unnecessary delays. If you don’t understand your choices, be sure to contact the ThriftLine before making an irrevocable election.

For those with service credit payments:

  • Copies of civilian or military deposits that you have paid.
  • Your civil service deposit number if you’ve previously paid a civilian deposit or redeposit (included on the statement you previously received from OPM when you applied to pay the deposit).

For those who have served in the military:

  • DD 214 discharge forms or military orders.
  • Include a copy of your letter to waive retired pay if you are choosing to include your active duty service under your CSRS or FERS retirement.
  • Notice of award of disability.
  • Notice of award of retirement under one of the reserve components.

For those injured on the job:

  • If you have you ever received worker’s compensation benefits, be sure to complete Schedule C of the CSRS or FERS retirement application.

Retirement Processing

Be prepared for your retirement application to take 60 to 90 days for processing (or more, depending on the workload at OPM, the completeness of your case and the timeliness of the submission from your agency). OPM had more than 18,000 claims for processing in its inventory at the end of October. Remember that even if you turn in your application 90 days ahead of your retirement date, it will not be forwarded to OPM until after you have separated from federal service.

It’s a good idea to have contact information for people in your agency’s human resources and payroll offices payroll office in case you have any questions about your retirement processing, continuation of insurance or final salary and lump-sum leave payments. You will not be able to contact OPM about your retirement until you have received your civil service annuitant number.

Once you’ve submitted the required documents, sit back and enjoy your final days as a federal employee. Let me be among the first to congratulate you and thank you for your dedicated service.

Photo: Flickr user hobvias sudoneighm