NEWS | Dec. 27, 2013

Voluntary Early Retirement Authority and Voluntary Separation Incentive Pay Q&A

By Joint Base Charleston Public Affairs

Q. What is VERA?

A. The Voluntary Early Retirement Authority (VERA) is a management tool used to downsize or restructure the civilian workforce to meet mission objectives. It authorizes employees to retire before reaching normal retirement eligibility based on age and years of Federal service. Reasons for approving VERA include substantial reduction in force (RIF), reorganization or transfer of function (TOF).
Eligibility for VERA may be based on occupational series or grade; skills, knowledge or other factors related to a position; organizational, geographical, non-personal and objective factors; or a combination of these factors.

Q. Who can authorize the use of VERA?

A. Authority for VERA previously delegated to installation commanders, tenant commanders and agency heads was recently rescinded. The Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Manpower and Reserve Affairs retains the authority.

Q. Who can approve VSIP?

A. The Secretary of the Air Force has delegated this authority to HQ AF/A1, who has further delegated it to local installation commanders, tenant commanders and heads of activities. This authority cannot be delegated to any lower level. HQ AF/A1 retains the authority for employees assigned to the Central Salary Account. To maximize the use of voluntary measures to rebalance the civilian workforce, we expect all MAJCOM, installation and tenant commanders and heads of activities to use VERA/VSIP to the maximum extent possible to reduce or preclude future involuntary actions for AF employees. The goal is to preclude involuntary separations.

Q. What are the basic age and service requirements for VERA?

A. To be eligible for VERA, an Air Force employee must be either age 50 with 20 years of creditable service or have 25 years of total creditable service at any age. It is important to note that if an Air Force employee covered by the Civil Service Retirement System takes a VERA, he or she will face a 2 percent reduction in annuity for each year he or she is under the age of 55. There is no reduction for Air Force employees covered by the Federal Employee Retirement system.

Q. Are there any other restrictions that could prevent civilian employees from retiring under VERA?

A. Yes. Air Force employees on time-limited appointments (i.e., temporary or term appointments), and those who have not been continuously employed by DoD for more than 30 days before the date on which the determination to conduct a workforce reduction or restructuring action has been approved, are ineligible to receive a VERA. In addition, Air Force employees in receipt of a decision of involuntary separation for misconduct or unsatisfactory performance are not eligible for VERA.

Q. After the VERA window is opened, can management change the number of available VERAs, the targeted positions for which it is being offered, the deadline for applying or the date by which employees must retire if their applications are approved?

A. Yes. If the downsizing and/or restructuring needs change, management may subsequently revise the closing date for receipt of VERA applications or the effective date for VERA retirements, or reduce or increase the number of early retirement applications it will accept. Once an employee is approved for VERA, he or she will know all the final details before committing to retirement through the normal application process.

Q. If an employee accepts VERA, when will the retirement be effective?

A. It will depend on the effective date that AF decides upon for VERA/VSIP in FY14. At this time the proposed effective date is Feb. 28, 2014.

Q. What is VSIP?

A. Voluntary Separation Incentive Pay (VSIP), commonly referred to as a buyout, is a payment of up to $25,000 to encourage eligible civilian employees to separate from service voluntarily (either by retirement or resignation) to avoid or minimize the need for involuntary separations due to reduction in force (RIF), base closure, reorganization, transfer of function or workforce restructuring. The buyout payment is equivalent to an employee's severance pay entitlement up to a maximum of $25,000 (before taxes). Buyouts are used at management's discretion and are not an employee entitlement.

Q. What are the basic eligibility requirements for VSIP?

A. An employee must be a U.S. citizen, employed in an appointment without time limitation and must have been employed by the Department for a continuous period of at least 12 months. An employee is ineligible for a buyout if he or she:
· Is a reemployed annuitant
· Is or would be eligible for disability retirement under any Federal employee retirement system
· Is on a Schedule C excepted appointment
· Is a non-compensated employee
· Has accepted a position with another Federal agency
· Has received a specific notice of RIF separation
· Has declined to relocate with his/her position or declined a transfer of function
· Has received a decision notice of involuntary separation for misconduct or unacceptable
performance or
· Has previously received a buyout

Q. If an Air Force employee meets the basic eligibility requirements, are there any other restrictions that would prevent offering VSIP?

A. Yes. Absent a waiver, an Air Force employee is ineligible for a buyout if he or she:
· Is covered by a written service agreement resulting from a Permanent Change of Station (PCS)
or training, or is in receipt of a recruitment or relocation bonus
· Is receiving a retention allowance
· Is occupying a position defined as hard to fill or
· Is occupying a position for which special salary rates are approved

Q. Are there any restrictions on employees returning to work for the Federal Government after they separate with VSIP?

A. Yes. VSIP is essentially a buyout, so employees who accept VSIP cannot come back to work for the federal government for a minimum of 5 years after their buyout separation date. If they do, they will be required to pay back the buyout funds.

Q. Is VSIP paid in a lump sum or do employees have other payment options?

A. In addition to lump sum payment, two installment options are available. The first option is bi-weekly payments in equal amounts. The employee selects the amount, but the payments must be completed within 1 year of the date of separation. Under the second installment option, one half of the buyout is paid 6 months after separation and the remaining half is paid 6 months later.

Q. What happens if the number of employees applying for VSIP exceeds the number of available buyouts?

A. When the number of applicants exceeds the number of available buyouts, applications within the targeted group are processed in order of seniority based on the employees' leave service computation date (SCD-LV). The Air Force procedure is to place employees into three groups. The first is the group of employees who are eligible for retirement. The second is the group of employees who are eligible for early retirement. The third and final group is the group of employees that are interested in resigning (that is, the employees in this third group are not eligible for any type of retirement).The first group (those who are eligible to retire) is ranked in SCD-LV order with the one who has the most seniority at the top of the list. Matches of the buyout are then made. If all matches are completed from the first group, then the next group is reviewed and matches made. Finally, if the buyout matches have been made against both the first and second groups, and yet more employees are needed to take a buyout, then the matches are made against the third group.

Q. What should an employee do if he or she gets a survey to indicate interest in VERA/VSIP?

A. First, employees should review all the available information on the programs at the myPers website at https://mypers.af.mil, and word search "VERA" and "VSIP". For annuity estimates, employees should go to the AFPC Benefits and Entitlements Service Team (BEST) automated web site (EBIS), and use the various tools, including the retirement calculator. With the information garnered at the myPers and BEST EBIS sites, employees should next contact their local CPS to discuss their individual situations and what steps to take in the event they are offered VERA and/or VSIP.

For more information, visit the myPers website at https://mypers.af.mil.