Phased retirement: An ageless perk?

The new federal phased retirement program (PRP) isn’t just for feds who take vitamins or for seniors as they wait in line for the early bird (dinner at 4:30 p.m.) special.

Allowing feds to dip their toes in retirement, before completely taking the plunge, has the potential to open up the promotion ladder for younger and mid-career employees, to offset potential harm from a retirement-tsunami brain drain and make moving into the next phase of your life much easier. But first this note:

Did you ever wonder why when the private sector does things, it just does them? Whereas, in the federal government, it seems that just about anything, no matter how simple it appears, becomes a federal case?

Reason: The mostly career federal civil service is managed by a handful of elected and appointed political appointees, and its board of directors is made up of 535 members of Congress. Many are patriots. Some are self-seeking, self-promoting types whose goal, after getting elected, is to keep getting reelected.

As a result many things are done (or attempted) in the name of making government work better. Because of thousands of laws, and what must be millions of sometimes conflicting regulations, when Congress does something simple — with the civil service — it takes time to cross all the proverbial i’s and dot those pesky t’s.

Take the phased retirement program, please!

It was approved a long time ago but the final regulations have only just been approved. Because of merit system rules and laws, allowing somebody to work part-time, while also being retired part-time, is easier said than done. Yesterday’s Your Turn radio show was devoted to an update — by an expert — in the new program. Our Guest, Bob Braunstein, brought his own expertise to the program and answered more than a dozen key questions from listeners. Check it out, and alert a friend too. Regardless of your age, and time left in government, this could be important to you.

Meantime, here are some high-points on the program:

  • Not an entitlement program — it is voluntary between agency and employee
  • Must be full-time federal employee for preceding three years
  • Must be eligible for immediate retirement (not age reduced)
  • Must not be subject to mandatory age retirement
  • FEHB and FEGLI enrollments stay with agency
  • FEGLI amounts based on full-time salary
  • FEHB agency contribution does not change
  • Can return to full-time service but not back to phased retirement
  • Must pay deposits and redeposits before phased retirement
  • Survivors can make deposits and redeposits owed if phased retiree’s death occurs in service
  • Unused sick leave added only at full retirement
  • Calculated as if retiring from a full-time position
  • No survivor benefits elected until full retirement
  • Survivor benefits in phased retirement are same as death in service benefits
  • Phased retirement period treated as part-time service for annuity computation
  • FERS Basic Employee Death Benefit based on full-time salary
  • Composite annuity computed at full retirement, which includes the phased retirement annuity plus one-half of the annuity otherwise payable had employee been full-time during the phased period.


Federal Register

Let The Confusion Begin! and Phased Retirement: The Bottom Line (GovExec columns by Tammy Flanagan)


Compiled by Jack Moore

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