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Reg Jones

In my last two articles, I explained the steps to follow before submitting a retirement application and the importance of verifying the decisions your agency will make. This week, we’ll look at what happens after your agency passes it to the Office of Personnel Management.

First, a word about timing. Your request must reach your agency’s personnel and payroll offices within 30 days of the day you file it. However, for various reasons, this 30-day goal may not be met. Until your application is forwarded to the OPM, you should direct any questions regarding its status to the staff or payroll office of your former agency.

Most agency payroll offices will let you know when your retirement application has been sent to the OPM. If yours doesn’t, you’ll need to follow up with them.

When your file arrives at the OPM, you will receive a written acknowledgment of receipt and a retirement application number preceded by the letters CSA (Civil Service Rentier).

If the OPM determines that you meet the conditions required to receive a pension, it will authorize the payment of a provisional pension, which corresponds to a percentage of what your final pension will be. In many cases it will be around 80%, but this is not a hard and fast rule.

OPM only gives you a percentage for two reasons. First, to provide you with some cash while your application is being processed. Second, to avoid overpaying yourself and having to recoup the excess when your annuity is finally approved.

Once the OPM has processed your application, they will determine the amount of your regular monthly pension and authorize the Treasury Department to send you your first regular pension payment. Any money owed to you due to your interim pay status will be included in this first payment.

Just be aware that it might not happen for a long time. The average processing time at the OPM—remember, this is in addition to the time the application spent in your own agency—is now about three months. Being an average means some are longer, potentially several months or more.

OPM will also send you a pension statement. Keep this statement in a safe place. If you ever apply for a mortgage or other large loan, you will need to provide a copy to the lender as proof of your entitlement to an annuity.

In these three articles, I’ve covered what you, your agency, and the OPM are supposed to do to get you on the road to retirement, and then the role of annuity. However, suppose you change your mind about retirement at the last minute? Or suppose you want to change a survivor pension choice you just made? I will answer these questions next week.

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