Retirement eligibility in the federal government adheres to certain age and years of service combinations. Federal retirees are eligible for an annuity under the following categories:
Regular (Immediate) Retirement
Under the CSRS, CSRS Offset and FERS systems, it is the employee’s option to retire after reaching minimum age and service requirements. However, there is a difference in eligibility requirements between the CSRS/CSRS Offset and FERS systems.
Under CSRS/CSRS Offset, and employee may retire at age 62 with five years of service, 60 with 20, or 55 with 30.
Under FERS, an employee who meets one of the following age and service requirements is entitled to an immediate retirement benefit: age 62 with five years of service, 60 with 20, minimum retirement age (MRA) with 30 or MRA with 10 (but with reduced benefits).
FERS Minimum Retirement Age*
Year of Birth FERS Minimum Retirement Age
Before 1948 55
1948 55 and 2 months
1949 55 and 4 months
1950 55 and 6 months
1951 55 and 8 months
1952 55 and 10 months
1965 56 and 2 months
1966 56 and 4 months
1967 56 and 6 months
1968 56 and 8 months
1969 56 and 10 months
1970 and after 57
* Does not apply to CSRS
Eligibility requirements are identical for all three retirement systems: age 50 with 20 years of service and any age with 25 years. Note: Under CSRS/CSRS Offset, the annuity will be reduced by 2 percent for each year the employee is under age 55 (now rare because CSRS was closed to new entrants effective in 1984). There is no reduction under FERS.
Early retirement offers, authorized under Parts 831 and 842 of Title 5, Code of Federal Regulations, can be targeted on the basis of organizational unit, occupational series or level, geographic location, specific periods, skills, knowledge, or other job related factors, or a combination of these factors, but not performance. A determination of which employees are within the scope of an offer of early retirement must be made only on the basis of consistent and well-documented application of relevant criteria.
Discontinued Service Retirement Because of an Involuntary Separation
The term “involuntary separation” means any separation against an employee’s will and without his or her consent, other than “for cause” (such as misconduct or delinquency).
Those who are involuntarily separated, other than for misconduct or delinquency, and have at least 25 years of service or are at least age 50 with 20 years of service, will be entitled to an immediate annuity. (Under CSRS/CSRS Offset, that annuity will be reduced by 2 percent for each year the employee is under age 55 as described above. There is no reduction under FERS.) At least five years of that service must be civilian service. CSRS/CSRS Offset employees must have been employed under CSRS for at least one year out of the last two years preceding retirement. There is no such requirement under FERS.
Employees separated from federal employment by a reduction-in-force (RIF) may be very close to retirement eligibility on the effective date of the RIF. Normally employees are entitled to a lump sum payment for their annual leave balance upon separation. However, instead of taking a lump sum payment, employees may remain on the agency’s rolls past the effective date of the RIF, if they will become eligible for an immediate annuity (or to carry health benefits coverage into retirement) during the period represented by the amount of their accrued annual leave. This right also extends to a separation because an employee does not transfer with a function to another location.
Employees under CSRS/CSRS Offset who leave federal service before meeting the age and service requirements for an immediate retirement benefit may receive a deferred annuity at age 62, if they have at least five years of creditable civilian service, do not receive a refund of all retirement contributions and are not eligible for an immediate retirement benefit. Under FERS, employees are eligible at age 62 with five years of service, 60 with 20, MRA with 30 or MRA with 10 (but with a reduced benefit).
Retirement Eligibility for Special Employee Groups
Law Enforcement Officers and Firefighters
Employees designated as federal law enforcement officers or firefighters pay an extra one-half percent salary deduction under either CSRS/CSRS Offset or FERS. They are eligible to retire earlier than other employees and receive benefits under an enhanced formula.
Generally, a law enforcement officer is an employee whose primary duties are the investigation, apprehension or detention of individuals suspected or convicted of offenses against federal criminal laws. The definitions differ somewhat between CSRS and FERS, with those under FERS being more stringent.
Note: Eligibility for Customs and Border Protection officers began July 6, 2008. Officers hired on or after that date fall under the law enforcement retirement provisions and are subject to mandatory retirement at age 57 with 20 years of service. Officers employed as of that date are not subject to mandatory retirement. They had a choice of not joining the law enforcement system. Those who opted out remain under standard contribution, eligibility and benefit calculation rules. Those who did not opt out will receive a mixed annuity at retirement, with service prior to that date calculated under standard rules and service afterward calculated under the LEO formula.
A firefighter is a person whose duties are primarily to perform work directly connected with the control and extinguishing of fires or the maintenance and use of firefighter apparatus and equipment.
Law enforcement officers and firefighters may retire voluntarily at an earlier age with a special annuity computation if they meet the age and service requirements. To meet the age and service requirements, they must be at least age 50 at the time of retirement and have 20 years of law enforcement and/or firefighter service. Those under FERS also may retire at any age with 25 years of such service.
Under CSRS/CSRS Offset, they also must have been under CSRS coverage for one out of the last two years before retirement. There is no such requirement under FERS. Neither military service nor sick leave can be used to meet the minimum service requirements.
The minimum age and service requirements apply even if an employee retires involuntarily or due to disability. Such an employee does not need to separate from a special covered position at the time of retirement. After accumulating 20 years of law enforcement and/or firefighter service, an employee can move to a regular position and still receive the special retirement computation.
Law enforcement officers and firefighters will be subject to mandatory separation based on age at age 57 if they have completed the necessary 20 years of service under the special provisions. If they have not completed the 20 years, they will be separated at the end of the month in which they complete 20 years of law enforcement or firefighter service. They must be given a 60-day notice prior to mandatory separation.
Mandatory retirement doesn’t apply to those eligible for the special retirement provisions but who currently are not occupying such a position. Also, agency heads may exempt employees from mandatory retirement up to age 60 when in the public interest. Under Public Law 108-458, the FBI may raise its mandatory retirement age to 65 for up to 50 employees per year.
Note: Positions affected by a mandatory retirement requirement typically have a maximum entry age of 37 so that the person can work for 20 years before retirement at 57. However, entry age limits must be waived at the request of an applicant with veterans’ preference unless the agency determines that the limit is essential to the position.
Air Traffic Controllers
Air traffic controllers are eligible to retire earlier than other employees and receive benefits under an enhanced formula (see Air Traffic Controller Retirement).
CSRS/CSRS Offset employees can retire at age 50 after 20 years of service as a controller, or at any age after 25 years as a controller. There is a guaranteed benefit after at least 20 years of controller service. The guarantee is 50 percent of their highest three years of average pay.
While FERS has the same rules as CSRS for when a controller can retire, FERS doesn’t have a guaranteed benefit. Instead, FERS provides the same special benefits that are provided to law enforcement and firefighting personnel.
Air traffic controllers generally are subject to mandatory retirement at the end of the month in which they turn age 56 (under limited circumstances an agency can extend employment until age 61); there is no reduction in annuity for retiring under age 55.
Military Reserve Technicians
A military Reserve technician, or National Guard technician, is a civilian employee who is a member of the Army National Guard of the United States, the Army Reserve, the Naval Reserve, the Marine Corps Reserve, the Air Force Reserve or the Coast Guard Reserve who is assigned to duties in one of these components and who is required to maintain a specific military grade in order to continue in his or her civilian employment.
A technician is treated the same as any other employee under CSRS/CSRS Offset. A technician who is involuntarily separated (not for delinquency or misconduct) from his or her position can get a discontinued service annuity at any age with 25 years of service, or at age 50 with 20 years of service. The annuity is reduced at a rate of 2 percent for each year the employee is under 55 years of age.
A National Guard technician who is medically disqualified for military duty and who has five years of creditable civilian service may receive disability benefits without meeting the usual CSRS disability criteria. This special provision does not apply to military reserve technicians.
Under FERS, if involuntarily separated from technician service due to disability or other reason by employing agency, they are entitled to an immediate annuity after reaching age 50 and completing 25 years of creditable service if first hired before February 10, 1996. If hired on or that date, to be eligible for an immediate annuity they must be age 50 with 20 years of creditable military technician service, or any age with 25 years of creditable military technician service. (This early retirement annuity is basically computed the same as a regular annuity.)