Phased Retirement: Will It Be a Reality in Your Agency?

In theory, federal employees who are eligible can start applying for phased retirement on November 6. Some federal agencies are not yet implementing the program and they also have discretion not to implement the program at all.

“Phased retirement” has been of interest to a number of readers. Following the issuance of rules on this published in the Federal Register, the Office of Personnel Management issued a list of frequently asked questions (FAQs) in a document dated August 8th. (See Phased Retirement for Feds: Easing Into Retirement)

In theory, federal employees can apply for this new program starting on November 6th. The reality for many, even most federal employees, is quite different and the program may not be available yet in many agencies. In fact, the program may not be available in some agencies until 2015, if they implement the program at all. Agencies such as the Social Security Administration and the Department of Homeland Security have indicated it will be 2015 at the earliest before the program is implemented and there is no guarantee it will be implemented at all.

The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) notes that phased retirement is not an automatic benefit. As noted in the OPM guidance attached to this article, “Participation is voluntary and requires the consent of the employee and the employing agency. An employee must receive written approval from his or her employing agency to participate in phased retirement.”

Also, an agency must have written criteria in place before it can allow its employees to participate in the phased retirement program. Moreover, some agencies may not implement the program at all. The implementing statute gives agencies discretion to implement phased retirement. But, writes OPM, “agencies’ decisions related to the implementation of phased retirement are subject to collective bargaining requirements.”

If you are interested in entering the new phased retirement program, you must have been employed on a full-time basis for not less than the 3-year period preceding the effective date of entry into phased retirement status. The program covers employees in either the CSRS or FERS retirement systems. An employee can file an application for phased retirement beginning on November 6, 2014.

  • FERS employees must have at least 30 years of services and have attained at least their Minimum Retirement Age (MRA), between ages 55-57, or have at least 20 years of service and have attained at least age 60.
  • CSRS employees must have at least 30 years of service and have attained at least age 55 or have at least 20 years of service and have attained at least age 60.

Also, even if the phased retirement program is available in your agency, be aware  that the FERS Annuity Supplement will not be available to FERS employees while they are using phased retirement program. However, the FERS Annuity Supplement may be paid after an employee in phased retirement status fully retires and begins receiving a regular annuity.

Anyone contemplating using this program will want to check with their human resources office to find out about the status of the program in a particular agency and also check to make sure the program would be right for you even if it is implemented. (See also The Unknown Alternative to Phased Retirement)

Employment as a Phased Retiree

About the Author

Ralph Smith has several decades of experience working with federal human resources issues. He has written extensively on a full range of human resources topics in books and newsletters and is a co-founder of two companies and several newsletters on federal human resources. Follow Ralph on Twitter: @RalphSmith47