Do Retired Federal Employees Get Annuity Payments During a Government Shutdown?

Will a government shutdown interrupt annuity payments for retired federal employees?

In what has become nearly an annual event, the possibility of a partial government shutdown is looming at the end of the month. What does this mean for retired federal employees?

The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) has addressed some of the most frequently asked questions that federal retirees are likely to have in its Guidance for Shutdown Furloughs. A summary of some of the key items for federal retirees is included below.

Common Questions About Federal Retirement and Government Shutdowns

Will Federal Retirees Get Their Annuity Payments?

Yes. According to OPM, “Federal retirees under the CSRS and FERS retirement systems will still receive their scheduled annuity payments on the first business day of the month.”

Will a Government Shutdown Impact a Federal Employee’s High-3 Salary if it Happens During His/Her Highest Years of Salary?

No. OPM says that once the lapse in appropriations ends, federal employees receive retroactive pay for the furlough periods, thereby negating any potential effect on the high-3 average pay that is used in calculating monthly annuity payments.

Will Recently Retired Federal Employees’ Retirement Applications Be Delayed By a Government Shutdown?

If a federal retiree’s agency or payroll center submitted his or her retirement application to OPM prior to the shutdown, he or she will begin receiving interim annuity payments while the retirement application is being processed because OPM Retirement Services remains operational during a government shutdown.

However, if the agency or payroll center has not yet submitted the retirement application to OPM or the application is incomplete, there is likely to be a delay since OPM has to wait for other agencies to submit all of the required information to process retirement applications and some of these agencies may not be operating during a government shutdown.

Are the Retirement Rules Related to the Effect of a Partial Government Shutdown the Same for Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS) and Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS)?


What Will Happen to Federal Employees Who Would Have Retired During a Government Shutdown?

OPM states:

For employees who, on or before the requested retirement date, submitted some notice of their desire to retire, agencies should, when the lapse in appropriations ends, make the retirement effective as of the date requested. The retirement request may be informal (such as a letter requesting retirement), and can be either mailed or personally submitted to the agency. Any additional required paper work, such as the formal retirement application form, may be completed when the agency reopens. No time spent by the retiree in such actions after the effective date of the retirement may be considered as duty time, since the individual would no longer be an employee of the agency.

How Do Federal Retirees Make Changes to Their Retirement Accounts?

Many changes can be made through OPM Retirement Services Online. OPM Retirement Services is also available by phone as well: (888) 767-6738. Due to the volume of calls, OPM recommends using the website as much as possible.

Why Does the Government “Shut Down?”

A federal government “shutdown” did not exist before 1980. Now, it is a political event routinely used to scare the other party and convince the public that one party is to blame which seems to occur nearly every year.

But, before 1980, if money had not been appropriated, federal employees still went to work and still got paid (usually a little late until funds were approved). The situation was resolved without all the political drama we have invented since 1980.

Who invented the government shutdown? Benjamin Civiletti. Civiletti was the attorney general for President Jimmy Carter.

The legal basis for the newly discovered legal requirement was “discovered” in an 1870 law —the Antideficiency Act of 1870.

Civiletti made his reputation by concluding the federal government was operating outside the law when he revealed the true meaning of the law. This problem had escaped the attention of America’s legal experts for more than a century.

For details, see Who Invented the Government Shutdown?.

About the Author

Ian Smith is one of the co-founders of He has over 20 years of combined experience in media and government services, having worked at two government contracting firms and an online news and web development company prior to his current role at FedSmith.