NASCOE News Flash
Please take time to read this important email update. This is one of the most important legislative/management issues we have faced during the current Administration. To begin, NASCOE leadership has been working to reverse the Office of Personnel Management’s (OPM) decision and will continue until this decision is reversed. The information below has been obtained through multiple channels and provides the most updated information. In summary, a certain lawyer at OPM has declared that Public Law 85-568 (enacted July 1960) no longer applies to FSA’s county office workers. In effect, this means temporary time no longer counts toward retirement benefits. In addition, it appears that the Department of Agriculture is moving forward with OPM’s interpretation based on information obtained from FSA State offices. Please see the related documents below.
As recently as this morning, NASCOE President Wes Daniels visited with Administrator Dolcini about the impact of OPM’s decision. Administrator Dolcini and other USDA officials are working to rectify this situation. We are now significantly expanding our outreach and will work toward reversing this unjustified decision.
Creditable Service for Retirement Eligibility and Annuity Computation Purposes
The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) has recently reviewed and re-interpreted Chapter 20 of the CSRS/FERS Handbook to exclude temporary/non-deduction time with the Agricultural Stabilization and Conservation Service (ASCS) as creditable service for retirement eligibility and annuity calculation purposes, even if a deposit application has been submitted and the deposit paid in full.
Chapter 20 of the CSRS/FERS Handbook states the following with regard to Creditable service:
“Public Law 85-568, enacted July 1, 1960, declared employees of the Agricultural Stabilization and Conservation (ASC) county committees to be Federal employees as of July 10, 1960, for retirement purposes. This law covered all ASC county committee employees except those specifically excluded by law or regulations (such as temporary and intermittent employees). However, an employee who separated before July 10, 1960, cannot receive credit for that service.”
Q and A:
What is non-deduction service?
Non-deduction service is service performed for which retirement deductions were not taken from your pay.
Who should I contact with questions about my temporary/non-deduction service?
Employees should feel comfortable contacting either their employee association or John Palmer with questions or concerns related to their temporary/non-deduction service.
Who has been made aware of OPM’s interpretation?
It is our understanding that the USDA’s Office of General Counsel (OGC), FSA’s Human Resource Division (HRD), FSA Administrator and Deputy Administrator Offices, as well as the employee associations (WASCOE/NASCOE) are aware of OPM’s interpretation. Further, we understand that OGC is actively pursuing a favorable re-interpretation of the law to include temporary/non-deduction time as creditable for retirement eligibility and annuity calculation purposes.
Who is affected by OPM’s interpretation of the CSRS/FERS Handbook?
OPM’s interpretation, as stated above, applies to individuals under the FERS retirement system with ASCS temporary/non-deduction service performed prior to January 1, 1989 (FERS employees were not previously allowed to pay a deposit for temporary/non- deduction service performed after 01/01/1989 – this period of service remains ineligible for a deposit). OPM’s interpretation would also apply to individuals under the CSRS/CSRS-Offset retirement system with temporary/non-deduction service with ASCS (pre or post 01/01/1989).
What do I do if I am planning to retire in the near future or think I might have temporary/non-deduction time with ASCS?
At this time, the Wisconsin FSA Human Resource Team is asking that you review your service history for such periods of temporary/non-deduction time that were previously considered creditable (pre 01/01/1989 for FERS employees and all non-deduction service for CSRS/CSRS-Offset employees). If you have these types of service you can contact John Palmer, Administrative Specialist, to review your service history with/for you in an effort to help you understand the full impact of OPM’s determination. If an employee does not meet retirement eligibility without including temporary/non-deduction service, HR is advising that you do not retire until such time that an official determination (re-determination) is issued by OPM or retirement eligibility thresholds are met without including temporary/non-deduction service with ASCS.
What if I paid a deposit and OPM has accepted the deposit and issued a “Paid-in- Full” invoice?
At this time, it is our understanding that OPM accepting your re-deposit does not entitle you to service credit for the non-deduction time. This determination would be made by OPM when finalizing your retirement annuity. If OPM upholds their current interpretation, it is HR’s understanding that you would be allowed an opportunity to request a refund of your service credit deposit. OPM would refund your deposit paid with annually compounded interest from the date of deposit. At this time we are not recommending that you request a refund of your paid deposit in case OPM’s interpretation would be reversed.
What will happen to those individuals who have already retired and who have temporary/non-deduction service with ASCS?
We are not sure yet how the pension will be affected for those individuals who have already retired and who have temporary/non-deduction service with ASCS.
What happens if I retire and it is later determined that the temporary/non-deduction service with ASCS is creditable for retirement purposes?
Upon retirement OPM becomes your servicing personnel office. We encourage you to track this issue via employee associations, news outlets, OPM website, etc. Contact OPM when/if any development occurs. In addition, your Wisconsin FSA HR Specialist will be manually tracking the names and Civil Service Annuity numbers for all individuals who retire who have temporary/non-deduction service. If OPM’s determination is reversed the HR Specialist will provide this information to OPM in an effort to have the annuity re-calculated.