Working Toward Retirement?

An employee who worked for the Navy for 22 years was apparently surprised when he applied for retirement and found he was not eligible.

A recent federal appeals court decision underscores the importance of understanding the exact nature of a federal appointment. Otherwise an employee could be in for quite a surprise when it’s time to retire.

In Quiambao v. Office of Personnel Management, U.S.C.A.F.C. No. 06-3024 (non-precedent), 4/4/06, a 22-year Navy employee was denied CSRS retirement benefits because he served under an indefinite appointment.

Mr. Quiambao was hired as a blacksmith at Subic Bay in the Philippines. After completing his one-year probationary period, his appointment was converted to an indefinite appointment and his status never changed up until the day he retired.

He applied for retirement benefits, but OPM denied the application because his service in an “Indefinite Excepted Appointment” did not meet the legal test for eligibility. Mr. Quiambao appealed to the Merit Systems Protection Board. The Board sustained the denial of benefits. He then appealed to the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals.

The court’s opinion affirms the Board and OPM: “…[W]e have held repeatedly that employees serving in indefinite appointments made after January 23, 1955, are expressly excluded from CSRS coverage under 5 C.F.R. [section] 831.201(a)(13).” (Opinion, p. 2. Citations omitted)

About the Author

Susan McGuire Smith spent most of her federal legal career with NASA, serving as Chief Counsel at Marshall Space Flight Center for 14 years. Her expertise is in government contracts, ethics, and personnel law.