Q. I was speaking with a Thrift Savings Plan representative recently and they said that not all of my years working with the federal government were vested. I started my career with the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), then went to DoD, and now I’m with the Department of Veterans Affairs. I have 25 years served all together with just one break in service of two years. Do I need to speak with each agency to see if I’m vested?
A. From the TSP Bulletin 15-1: Thrift Savings Plan Vesting Requirements and the TSP Service Computation Date:
The TSP Vesting Requirement
The term “vested” refers to the eligibility of participants in an employer-sponsored retirement plan to keep all the money from their accounts when they leave their jobs. TSP participants are immediately vested in (entitled to) their own contributions and any Agency Matching Contributions. However, there is a minimum amount of time in service a TSP participant must meet in order to be vested in the Agency Automatic (1%) Contributions and associated earnings in their accounts.
If a FERS employee separates from Federal service before meeting the TSP vesting requirement, the Agency Automatic (1%) Contributions and associated earnings will be automatically forfeited to the TSP.
A FERS employee who dies in service is deemed to be vested in the TSP, no matter how many years of service the employee had completed. Consequently, an employee’s beneficiary (or beneficiaries) will be entitled to all the funds in the employee’s account.
For most FERS employees, the TSP vesting requirement is 3 years. However, employees serving in certain positions (see below) only need to complete 2 years of service to meet the TSP vesting requirement.
How is the TSP-SCD determined?
New hires: The TSP-SCD for new FERS employees who have had no prior civilian service is the effective date of their appointment.
Rehires: The TSP-SCD for FERS employees who have had prior civilian service is determined by adjusting their latest date of appointment to include all prior Federal service that is creditable for TSP vesting purposes. This adjustment is done the same way as the computation of the SCD for leave purposes; the only difference is the type of service that is included in the TSP-SCD computation.
Your agency personnel office must verify the TSP-SCD upon receipt of the employee’s Official Personnel Folder (OPF). If the TSP-SCD is incorrect, you must correct it in your agency personnel system and submit an EDR to the TSP containing the correct date.
A TSP-SCD can be no earlier than January 1, 1984. If your computation results in a date earlier than January 1, 1984, just report the TSP-SCD as January 1, 1984.
Transfers: When a FERS employee transfers from one Federal agency to another or changes agency payroll offices, the losing agency must provide the TSP-SCD (and other TSP data) to the gaining agency. Form TSP-19, Transfer of Information Between Agencies, should be used for this purpose. (Form SF-75, Request for Preliminary Employment Data, has fields for some TSP data, but it does not provide sufficient information about the employee’s TSP contribution election.)
Upon receipt of the OPF, the gaining agency must verify the TSP-SCD and correct it if necessary.
Agencies have the opportunity to update and correct a TSP-SCD by submitting an EDR with the correct date until the employee separates from Federal service or transfers to another Federal agency. Agencies should review the TSP-SCD one final time prior to an employee’s separation and, if necessary, submit the corrected date prior to processing the separation action.If incorrect employee data results in a forfeiture, the employee is entitled to have the forfeited money restored to their account. Information on restoring erroneous forfeitures is contained in a separate bulletin.
What service counts toward the TSP-SCD?
Any non-military service that is creditable under either 5 U.S.C. § 8411 (FERS retirement law) or 5 U.S.C. § 8332 (CSRS retirement law) must be credited when calculating the TSP-SCD. That includes all of the following:
Service for which FERS contributions have been made, whether or not an employee has received a refund of these contributions;
Service for which CSRS contributions have been made, whether or not an employee has received a refund of these contributions; and
Civilian service for which no retirement contributions have been made but which would be potentially creditable under 5 U.S.C. § 8332 (CSRS retirement law) or 5 U.S.C. § 8411 (FERS retirement law). (This includes service that is potentially creditable under CSRS retirement law, even if it is not creditable under FERS law.)
This calculation is made without regard to any time limitations; deposit or redeposit requirements contained in those statutory provisions; requirement that the individual become subject to either of those statutory provisions after performing the service involved; or requirement that the individual give notice of his or her desire to become subject to the retirement system established by either 5 U.S.C. Chapter 83 or Chapter 84.
How do periods of nonpay affect the TSP-SCD?
Aggregate nonpay status of up to 6 months in any calendar year is creditable service, and should be counted when calculating the TSP-SCD. Generally, periods of nonpay that exceed 6 months in any calendar year must not be counted, but there are exceptions:
FERS employees who have been placed in a nonpay status because of an on-the-job injury, and who are entitled to receive benefits from the Office of Workers’ Compensation Programs must be given credit for the entire period of nonpay.
When FERS employees separate or enter “Absent-US” status to perform military service and are subsequently reemployed under the provisions of the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act of 1994 (USERRA), the period of the absence that resulted from their performance of military service must be included when computing their TSP-SCD.
You’ll find the complete bulletin, with examples, at https://www.tsp.gov/PDF/bulletins/15-01.html.