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► CSRS - Civil Service Retirement System  >  FERS - Federal Employees Retirement System

The Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS) was established in 1920, providing retirement, death and disability benefits for civilian employees of the federal government. CSRS was replaced in 1987 by FERS, the Federal Employees Retirement System, although some two million families currently receive monthly CSRS retirement or survivor benefits.

Located in "The Cave," a converted limestone mine 268 feet below ground in Boyers, Pennsylvania, The Department of Labor's Office of Personnel Management (OPM) Retirement Operations Center has "no estimate" and "no way of computing" the value of unclaimed pension benefits in their custody.

Records on two million former Civil Service workers are not automated, but rather stored in some 35,000 file cabinets by alphabetical order. This system does not permit sorting by age, a likely indicator of unclaimed and unpaid benefits.

Benefits are not declared abandoned unless unclaimed by the designated recipient's 115th birthday or 30 years after the date of death, at which time they may become unavailable for any future claim. Despite this limitation, the Office of Personnel Management was cited in a General Accounting Office report as making "no effort" to find lost owners.

Unclaimed amounts will not show up in state unclaimed property databases. To file a claim for unpaid benefits contact the Retirement Operations Center, Federal Employment Retirement System (successor to the Civil Service Retirement Fund) at: P.O. Box 440 Boyers, PA 16017; (412) 794-2005; use OPM's automated Retirement Information System at: (202) 606-0500; or visit their website at: www.opm.gov

Pursuant to the Legislative Branch Appropriations Act of 1996, the Office of Personnel Management also has authority to settle claims involving Federal employees' compensation and leave issues, including unpaid compensation of deceased employees, and can reissue canceled checks for veterans' benefits payable to deceased beneficiaries - within the statutory time frame, generally six years.

These specific types of claims are handled by the Claims Adjudication Unit, Room 7535, Office of the General Counsel, Office of Personnel Management, 1900 E Street NW, Washington, D.C., 20415; (202) 606-2233. Note Basic Benefit payments are based on the employees pay and length of service, financed by contributions from both employer and employee. A "Special Retirement Supplement" may be available to employees before they reach age 62.

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► Social Security Benefits

Approximately one-half billion dollars in benefit checks are not negotiated each year. No effort is made to locate and/or notify owners of uncashed checks, but the Social Security Administration (SSA) maintains "There is no time limit concerning a request to reissue a lost or uncashed check."

To trace a missing benefit payment or to obtain reissue of an expired check, you must contact the Social Security Administration directly - uncashed checks and unclaimed benefits will not show up on state unclaimed property databases.

If you know of a check that was not cashed or never received (including Old Age, Survivors and Disability Insurance and Supplemental Security Income, speak with a representative by dialing (800) 772-1213, write: Office of Public Inquiries, 6401 Security Blvd., Baltimore, MD 21235; or contact the branch office. This information can also be obtained online at: www.ssa.gov/locator

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► Military Pay  

Issues specifically concerning military pay are handled by the Defense Finance and Accounting Service. While no separate files or comprehensive reports are maintained on individuals due unclaimed pay and entitlements, active duty members may claim authorized payments at any time.

There is a six-year statute of limitations on collecting pay or entitlements once an individual has separated from the service. To make inquiry contact: Defense Finance and Accounting Service, 1931 Jefferson Davis Highway, Arlington, VA 22240-5291. Be sure to include service branch, rank, serial number, and all appropriate military records, where available.

To make inquiry by phone, use the following phone numbers: Active duty pay issues: (800) 346-3374; Reserve pay issues: (800) 255-0974; Retired pay issues: (800) 321-1080. For recorded, general information on all types of DoD (Dept. of Defense) checks and payments call: 216-522-5630.

The Federal Employees Retirement System covers most new civilian Federal employee hires after 1983. Retirement benefits generally consist of three components: Social Security, Basic Benefits, and Thrift Savings.

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TSP Thrift Savings Plan

The Thrift Savings Plan is a defined-contribution plan created by the Federal Employees' Retirement System Act of 1986 (ERISA) to supplement FERS (Federal Employees Retirement System) benefits. It provides employees in all branches of the federal government, as well as U.S. Postal Service employees and members of the uniformed services, with a tax-advantaged way to save and invest for retirement, similar to a 401(k) in the private sector.

Each pay period, FERS (Federal Employees' Retirement System) TSP accounts are automatically credited 1% of their basic pay. They may also contribute up to 10% of basic pay each period up to $10,000 on a tax-deferred basis, receiving matching funds on the first 5%. (CSRS - Civil Service Retirement System) employees may contribute 5% of basic pay tax-deferred with no matching contribution.)

Participant Statements summarizing contributions, investment selections, and designated beneficiaries are mailed semiannually, so it is imperative to look these over carefully and keep TSP apprised of any name and/or address changes. To change address submit form TSP-9, "Change of Address for Separated Participants;" to submit a name change file Form TSP-15, "Change in Name."

Plan participants are immediately vested in all voluntary contributions and matching funds, but there is a 2 or 3 year vesting period on the automatic agency contributions of FERS employees. Plan participants are given several investment options, including a menu of three mutual funds: The "G" fund invests in short term U.S. Treasury Securities, "C" fund allocations are invested in Barclays Equity Index Fund, and the "F" Fund is Barclays U.S. Debt Index Fund.

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Given the arcane way the government administers its retirement programs - failing to classify accounts as dormant or unclaimed while owners retain the right to claim them - both the dollar amount and value of unclaimed accounts is unknown, but is estimated at several billion dollars.

Upon separation from government service, participants can choose to receive a single lump sum - which may be transferred a 401(k) or IRA - a series of monthly payments, or an annuity from a private provider.

Participants may also elect to keep their accounts open, but withdrawal must begin by April 1st of the later of: (a) the year following the year you became age 70; or (b) the year following the year you separate from federal service. Accounts valued at less than $3,500 are automatically terminated and refunded, unless other arrangements are made.

In the event of death of a participant, account proceeds are distributed in accordance with Form TSP-3, "Designation of Beneficiary." (If no beneficiary has been designated, funds are distributed according to the statutory order of precedence, i.e. to your widow, children or descendants of deceased children, then to your parents or other next of kin.

For a search of the Thrift Savings Plan Lost Participant database contact: Thrift Savings Plan  |  P.O. Box 385021  |  Birmingham, AL  35238   |  1-877-968-37781-877-968-3778 or www.tsp.gov

Finally, it's important to note that if a participant chooses an annuity on separation, TSP purchases a policy from a private contractor, currently Metropolitan Life. TSP's service office at the National Finance Center does not maintain records on private annuities once they are purchased and the participant's account is closed, so all inquiries must be directed to the underwriter. MetLife can be reached at: Customer Service Center, P.O. Box 336, Warwick, RI 02887-0336. On the Internet: www.metlife.com; or phone: (800) 638 5433.

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