by Ron Spangler
A large misconception amongst the general public is all Congressmen and Senators automatically receive a pension upon their retirement from serving as a member of Congress. This is not the case. A good example is the recent announcement by Senator Bayh that he will retire and not seek re-election in 2010.
Reading the eligibility requirements for retiring members of Congress Senator Bayh will likely fall under the Deferred Retirement Provision because of his age (55) and he served less than 15 years as a Member of Congress. His pension or annuity could also be reduced by 1% for every year he retired before reaching full eligibility requirements. Unless Senator Bayh has had prior Military service he will be 3 years short of the 15 year requirement.
Under this provision if a Senator elects to leave his retirement contributions in the retirement fund, he can start drawing his annuity after reaching age 60. Requirements for Congressmen and Senators differ in some degree.
There are other options that members of Congress have when considering retirement. All of them have penalties and reductions in the amount of annuities payed to the retiree. Under all provisions members must be at least 50 years old with 20 years of service, except for the additional provision that a member may retire at age 60 with 10 years of service and age 50 with service in 9 Congresses (18 yrs).
While I am not defending the amount of benefits and sweet deals provided to Members of Congress, everything we think we know or things we hear may not always be the case. If you would like to know the facts they are available at CRS Report For Congress, Retirement Benefits For Members of Congress
There are a lot of plans available and every Congressman or Senator must decide which plan is best for them. The bottom line, no Congressman or Senator automatically becomes eligible for a immediate full or reduced pension just because he has been elected to Congress.
Following are some of the plans:
Retirement with an immediate, reduced pension is available to Members aged 55 to 59 with at least 30 years of service. It is also allowed if the Member separates for a reason other than resignation or expulsion after having completed 25 years of service, or after reaching age 50 and with 20 years of service, or after having served in nine Congresses.
Retirement with a deferred, full pension is available if the Member leaves Congress before reaching the minimum age required to receive an immediate, unreduced pension and delays receipt until reaching the age at which full benefits are paid. A full pension can be taken at age 62 if the Member had five through nine years of federal service, or at age 60 if the Member had at least 10 years of service in Congress. At the time of separation, the Member must leave all contributions in the plan in order to be eligible for the deferred pension.
Retirement with a deferred, reduced pension is available to a Member at age 50 if he or she retired before that age and had at least 20 years of federal service, including at least 10 years as a Member of Congress.
Retirement Under FERS. There are four possible retirement scenarios for Members who are covered by FERS:
Retirement with an immediate, full pension is available to Members at age 62
or older with at least five years of federal service; at age 50 or older with at least 20 years of service; and at any age to Members with at least 25 years of service.
Retirement with an immediate, reduced pension is available at age 55 to Members born before 1948 with at least 10 years of service. The minimum age will increase to 56 for Members born from 1953 through 1964 and to 57 for those born in 1970 or later.
Retirement with a deferred, full pension is available at age 62 to former Members of Congress with at least five years of federal service.
Retirement with a deferred, reduced pension is available at the minimum retirement age of 55 to 57 (depending on year of birth) to a former Member who has completed at least 10 years of federal service. The pension annuity will be permanently reduced if it begins before age 62.4
Like everything in government and the media the truth is sometimes hard to find.