3, 2, 1 ... Retire!

If your departure date is approaching, you may wonder how the process unfolds.

Is your retirement countdown clock ticking? If you’re starting to count the months, weeks or even days to your upcoming retirement, you may wonder how long the process will take and what you need to do to get started.

According to the Government Accountability Office, the Office of Personnel Management receives over 100,000 federal retirement applications each year. Between 2014 and 2017, OPM did not meet its goal of processing most applications within 60 days. The agency has identified three main reasons for delays:

  • Continued reliance on paper applications and manual processing
  • Insufficient staffing, particularly during peak season
  • Incomplete applications

OPM has taken steps to modernize the retirement process, such as planning for an electronic application, but hasn’t successfully implemented such a system yet. The agency provides assistance to agencies to help smooth the process in the form of guidance, training, communication and error reports.

As a result of recent efforts by OPM, the average processing time for an application is now under 60 days. But some applications still get delayed.

What determines the speed with which your application will move through the process? To answer that, it’s helpful to take a look at how it unfolds. Here’s some information courtesy of OPM about what happens after your application is submitted to your agency’s human resources office.

Both the personnel and payroll office in your agency and OPM are responsible for processing your retirement annuity claim. You can help reduce delays in processing by submitting your application in advance and by making sure your electronic Official Personnel Folder is complete. If you submit your paperwork early, your personnel and payroll offices will be able to complete their action before your retirement date.

Here’s what should be in your eOPF (be sure to keep copies of these records for future reference after you retire):

  • Official records of the beginning and ending dates of all periods of federal civilian and military service
  • Changes in your work schedule (full-time, part-time, intermittent, etc.).
  • Any change in your retirement coverage
  • Documentation of periods of leave without pay that lasted more than six months in a calendar year
  • Documentation of five years of Federal Employees Health Benefits Program and Federal Employees Group Life Insurance coverage

The Paperwork

Here are the key forms you need to submit:

  • CSRS Retirement Application: SF 2801 
  • FERS Retirement Application: SF 3107
  • FEGLI Continuation of Life Insurance: SF 2818

You may need to attach the following documents to your application, depending on your situation:

  • Marriage certificate
  • Notarized consent of current spouse for partial or no spousal survivor election (not needed for a full election)
  • Divorce decree (if it awards a portion of your retirement or survivor benefits to an ex-spouse)
  • Military records
  • Worker’s compensation pending claims
  • Records of FEHBP coverage under TRICARE or spouse’s FEHBP coverage to meet the five-year test to continue health benefits coverage
  • Health Benefits Cancellation/Suspension Form: RI 79-9 
  • Records of refunds of retirement contributions from prior service or of payments of deposits to the retirement fund to credit past service

It’s best to ask your human resources office how much notice they need to do the HR part of retirement processing. It’s usually between 30 and 90 days.

Agency Processing

Your personnel office must take the following actions to process your retirement application:

  • Complete the Agency Checklist of Immediate Retirement Procedures on the retirement application.
  • Prepare and get your signature on the Certified Summary of Federal Service on the retirement application.
  • Verify any service not fully documented in your eOPF. If documentation is missing, verification can be obtained by contacting federal record centers.
  • Certify and transfer your FEGLI coverage to OPM.
  • Transfer your FEHBP enrollment to OPM.
  • Prepare SF 50, Notification of Personnel Action, for your separation.
  • Send all of your retirement materials to your payroll office.

Then your agency payroll office must:

  • Authorize your final paycheck and lump sum payment for unused annual leave.
  • Prepare your Individual Retirement Record, SF 2806 (CSRS) or SF 3100 (FERS) which reflects your service, salary history and retirement contributions.
  • Forward all retirement documents to OPM.

Next week, we’ll look at what happens after your application arrives at OPM.

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