The most difficult, non-intuitive part of the calculation for the supplement is deeming. Once you’ve got this, the rest is just simple arithmetic.
The employee is sometimes not in pay status for all of a calendar year during his career or after his 22nd birthday. When this happens, his salary for the entire year must, by law, be “deemed,” or legally fabricated. For example, the employee may have started his Federal career in March of 1988, or he may have resigned in September of 1990 and returned in April of 1991. In the first case, his salary for 1988 would need to be deemed, and in the second, his salaries for both 1990 and 1991 would require deeming. How does one deem a salary?
Take the employee’s salary for his first, full year of FERS employment, not to exceed the Social Security maximum for the year. Divide this salary by the Social Security “average total wages” (ATW) for the year. The final step in arriving at the deemed salary is to multiply the ATW for the deemed year by this factor.
Here is an example
In 1985—his first, full calendar year as a FERS employee—Joe made $21,429. Average total wages for 1985 were $16,822.51. Divide 21,429 by 16,822.51 and the result— 1.27383—is the factor you will use for deeming salary in any year where Joe was not in payroll status for the entire year.
Joe took 7 months LWOP (leave without pay) in 1995, when the average total wage was $24,705.66. So, for 1995, multiply 24,705.66 by 1.27383 in order to determine Joe’s deemed salary for the year: $31,471 (rounded).
There are several more steps to calculating the supplement.
- You must list salaries – deemed or actual – for all years beginning with the year the employee turned 22 and ending with the year prior to his retirement.
- Adjust each salary for inflation, so they are comparable to the present.This is done by multiplying each salary by an index factor (from Social Security) for the individual year.
- Delete the five lowest salaries.
- Total the remaining salaries and divide by (number of years x 12). The result is called the Average Indexed Monthly Earnings, or AIME.
- Apply the three-tier formula Social Security uses to arrive at the Primary Insurance Amount, or PIA, which is for full retirement age.
- Reduce the PIA in accordance with the retiree’s age.
- Divide the result by 40 and multiply by the number of years of FERS service, rounded to the nearest whole number. The result is the employee’s annuity supplement.
Is it any wonder that Reg Jones, benefits columnist for the Federal Times, said “(T)he formula for calculating the SRS (special retirement supplement) is too complicated for mere mortals to execute”?
Details of the this procedure can be found in chapter 51 of the CSRS and FERS Handbook, at www.opm.gov/retire/pubs/handbook/C051.pdf