Early Retirement for Federal Employees

By Kimberly H. Berry, Esq.. www.retirementlaw.com

The Federal workforce is presently undergoing significant changes in size. Many federal agencies are shifting their workforce.  In some instances, this has led to the Federal government to provide incentives for Federal employees to retire early.  This article focuses on these incentives and considerations in taking federal agencies up on these potential options.

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Federal agencies that are undergoing major organizational changes such as reorganization, reduction in force (RIF), reshaping or downsizing can be given the option to offer federal employees voluntary early retirement based on the Voluntary Early Retirement Authority (VERA). OPM provides guidance on VERA here.  Essentially, VERA is authority given to specific agencies so that they may offer early retirment options to employees.

In sum, VERA authority can provide a federal employee an opportunity to retire early with better financial options. In addition to VERA, federal agencies may also be given Voluntary Separation Incentive Payments (VSIP), which can range up to $25,000. The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) has published guidance on VSIP payments here.

The purpose of VERA and VSIP is to help agencies complete the necessary organizational change with minimal disruption to the workforce and to make it possible for federal employees to receive an immediate annuity payment years before they would normally be eligible. It is also a carrot as opposed to a stick approach.  The voluntary early retirement provisions are the same under the Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS) and the Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS).

Federal Employee Requirements for Early Retirement for FERS and CSRS

In order to generally be eligible to retire under VERA, a federal employee must usually meet the following types of requirements:

  1. The VERA minimum age and service requirements set by statutes in the U.S. Code for CSRS and FERS employees (i.e., the employee has completed at least 20 years of creditable service and is at least 50 years of age or has completed at least 25 years of creditable service regardless of age;
  2. Continuous employment by a federal agency for at least 31 days prior to the date that the agency initially requested the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) approval of VERA;
  3. They may not have received a final removal decision based upon misconduct or unacceptable performance;
  4. They must hold a position covered by the agency’s VERA authority or program; and
  5. They must exercise their option under the VERA option during the agency’s VERA acceptance period.

Other requirements can apply, but these and the major ones. It is very important for federal employees considering a VERA/VSIP offer to seek the advice of an attorney regarding their retirement issues prior to initiating the VERA process.  Our law firm represents federal employees that are considering early retirement and in other federal retirement matters.

Sometimes VERA or VSIP considerations can come up during settlement discussion involving a proposed removal or removal action.  It can be important, in those cases, to seriously evaluate one’s options at that time.

Conclusion

If you are in need of federal employee retirement law representation, or need guidance regarding VERA (early retirement) or VSIP (early retirment incentives) please contact our office at 703-668-0070 or through our contact page to schedule a consultation. Please also visit and like us on Facebook or Twitter.