Posted on Tuesday, 27th January 2015 by

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1099-R Forms

I like to complete my taxes as early as possible and often end up waiting for key documents such as our 1099-R form and various bank and investment forms. The online availability of most of these documents does save time. I visited OPM’s Services Online on January 22nd and was able to download my 1099-R annual annuity statement. You must call OPM at 1-888-767-6738 to register for access to this site.

For those of you not yet retired the 1099-R form is equivalent to the W-2 form we received while still employed with a few key additions. It lists your gross annuity payment for the previous year, the taxable amount – not all of your annuity is taxable, federal income tax withheld, any state taxes if applicable plus it lists your insurance premiums that you paid.

I receive many email messages each year at tax time asking how to get a replacement 1099-R form. It’s quite easy, especially if you have access to OPM’s services online. All you do is sign in and you can print out copies at any time. You can also call OPM to have one sent out. Everyone should be receiving their 1099-R in the mail shortly but if you don’t visit OPM’s web site or call to get a replacement.

Tax Time – FREE Tax Prep Software

I use Turbo Tax to complete my taxes for home and business and it makes the process easy and inexpensive. After using this program one time, each year thereafter, you simply import the general information from the previous year’s program and follow the questions they ask for each area of your return. They include a lot of support and you can electronically file your return. The software program is available at all of the office supply stores, online, Costco and Sam’s Clubs. I filed electronically for the first time last year and it is quick and easy and saves time.

If you decide to try Turbo Tax be sure to get the correct program. The price ranges from FREE for first time filers and students to $79 for their Home and Business product. I always buy the Home and Business version, most would use the Premiere especially if you own a home, and have income from stocks and bonds. Here is a list of the four available versions:

  • Absolutely Zero (Free) – For first-time filers or students that want easy prep, print, and efile.
  • Deluxe – Use this program if you own a home, have charitable donations to deduct, and have high medical expenses
  • Premiere – If you sold stock, ESPP, bonds or mutual funds, want automatic cost basis calculations, and have rental property income and expenses
  • Home and Business – If you have profit or loss from a small or home business, have home office tax deductions and have small business asset depreciation

Other programs are available from H&R Block and the government offers IRS Free File for those with an adjusted gross income in 2014 of $60,000 or less. Free File offers easy-to-use, brand-name software, tax prep and e-filing. You can even get help locating important tax credits.

Updates

We had a site visitor report a small problem with our FREE 2015 Leave & Schedule Excel Chart. One of the cells would not accept data. The cell was located on the schedule and it didn’t impact leave balances. We corrected this several weeks ago and the updated form is online. Please distribute this free excel leave and schedule chart to all in your organization. Keep the excel chart on your desktop and use it to track your schedule and leave throughout the year and to set target retirement dates that will provide maximum benefits when you leave.

Employment Opportunity

We are currently looking for a retired federal annuitant with an extensive background in HR and federal benefits to host one of our Benefits and HR Forums. If you are retired, enjoy writing about things that matter to federal employees and annuitants, and would like to stay active and involved after leaving federal service, send an email to ddamp@aol.com and include a short bio with phone number. As a Forum Host you will join our other experts contributing articles, replying to questions from our site visitors, and help to keep our site up-to-date.

Helpful Retirement Planning Tools Distribute these FREE tools to others that are planning their retirement

Visit our other informative sites

The information provided may not cover all aspect of unique or special circumstances, federal regulations, medical procedures, and financial information are subject to change. To ensure the accuracy of this information, contact relevant parties and ask them to review your official personnel file and circumstances concerning this issue. Retirees can contact the OPM retirement center. Our article is not intended nor should it be considered investment advice and our articles and replies are time sensitive. Over time, various dynamic economic factors relied upon as a basis for this article may change. The advice and strategies contained herein may not be suitable for your situation and this service is not affiliated with OPM or any federal entity. You should consult with a financial, medical or human resource professional where appropriate. Neither the publisher or author shall be liable for any loss or any other commercial damages, including but not limited to special, incidental, consequential, or other damages.

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    Posted in ANNUITIES / ELIGIBILITY, BENEFITS / INSURANCE, FINANCE / TIP, RETIREMENT CONCERNS

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    Posted on Friday, 23rd January 2015 by

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    Please forward this article to everyone in your organization that is planning on retiring over the next five years and tag it for your Facebook and other social media pages.

    Once you retire you lose access to many online agency and government web sites that hold valuable information that you may need after you leave. Several recent retirees asked if they could still access their eOPF (electronic Official Personnel File) in retirement. Once you leave federal service all of your official documentation is forwarded to the National Records Center (NRC) to be archived with all those who retired before you. You can still access much of his information through written requests but it does take time, often months, for them to find, copy, and send you the information you may need. If you are already retired and need information that was in your personnel file contact the NRC for assistance.

    Access to your eOPF is often needed for those who wish to work for a contractor in retirement. The retiree may need critical information about their official training, duty stations, security clearances, pay, and positions held during their career for the detailed applications and resumes that contractors often require. If you are thinking about employment in retirement review your eOPF and obtain copies of promotions, details, training, and other pertinent information that you may need to provide your new employer, including security clearances that you may have held.

    If you had a job that required a security clearance within the past two years print out your security clearance authorization from your records. Federal employees that retire are often sought after by contractors that require their employees to have security clearances. If you had a security clearance with your agency before retiring visit the Security Clearance Center to explore lucrative and often high paying contractor employment opportunities.

    I also suggest that you keep a copy of your most recent employment application, the old SF-171, OF-612, or whatever application format your agency used that includes this critical information. Many retirees simply shred most of the paperwork they have at the office before walking out the door only to regret it down the road. I kept several of my old SF-171s that basically provided a comprehensive time line of my military and federal service. These documents provide a wealth of information, not only for future employment but to provide a history of our service for genealogy research or simply to provide to your heirs down the road. Sort of your own personal story of where you where when and what you were doing while you were there.

    Others have asked how to access the govtrip.com web site and their LES data, Leave and Earnings Statements, after retiring. You can’t access this information after you retire so take advantage of the access before you leave. You will have to find a suitable replacement for travel and as far as LES information goes use OPM’s Retirement Services Online that provides similar annuity payment statements, copies of your 1099R misc income tax forms, and benefit information for retirees. You will be able to access their online services after your retirement paperwork is processed.

    You will retain full access to your TSP account just as you did while still employed and you can go in and change allocations and check your balances daily if desired.

    When you select your retirement date be sure to review your eOPF and other agency/OPM sites prior to your departure to capture the information you may need after you leave.

    Helpful Retirement Planning Tools Distribute these FREE tools to others that are planning their retirement

    Visit our other informative sites

    The information provided may not cover all aspect of unique or special circumstances, federal regulations, medical procedures, and financial information are subject to change. To ensure the accuracy of this information, contact relevant parties and ask them to review your official personnel file and circumstances concerning this issue. Retirees can contact the OPM retirement center. Our article is not intended nor should it be considered investment advice and our articles and replies are time sensitive. Over time, various dynamic economic factors relied upon as a basis for this article may change. The advice and strategies contained herein may not be suitable for your situation and this service is not affiliated with OPM or any federal entity. You should consult with a financial, medical or human resource professional where appropriate. Neither the publisher or author shall be liable for any loss or any other commercial damages, including but not limited to special, incidental, consequential, or other damages.

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      Posted in ANNUITIES / ELIGIBILITY, BENEFITS / INSURANCE, EMPLOYMENT OPTIONS, RETIREMENT CONCERNS, SURVIVOR INFORMATION

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      Posted on Monday, 12th January 2015 by

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      This is a good time of year to look forward and decide on a path to take either towards retirement or to what you would like to accomplish while retired. It’s easy to let another year slide by without taking action – procrastinating – on a number of issues.

      Federal employees who are approaching retirement must start planning years in advance of their departure. Too many wait too long to start researching their benefits and selecting a realistic departure date. Retirees often see their retirement dreams languish as each year goes by. It has been over ten years since I retired and it seems like yesterday! Time flies by at a faster rate as we age and when we look in the rear view mirror many wonder what they missed along the way?

      Don’t let this happen to you. If you are thinking about retirement NOW is the time to start exploring your options, learning about the process, and evaluating whether or not you can financially afford to leave. Another very important aspect of retirement is what you will do when you get there.

      Retirees on the other hand are already there and if you are one of those wondering why you haven’t achieved what you set out to do take steps to get back on track.

      I’m not talking about making a New Year’s resolution, resolutions are too easy to break. What you need to establish is a plan. Write down your goals (take baby steps) and list the actions needed to achieve them. I discovered a long time ago that if you don’t write your plans down on paper, with specific actions to take along the way, you will easily forget about it and another year will pass you by.

      Your plan has to be realistic and achievable within the time and means available. Too often we start off setting unrealistic goals, get frustrated and abandon the plan.

      Most know when it’s time to retire or at least they are aware that things aren’t what they use to be and it’s time for a change. It takes courage to make a decision that will affect the rest of your life and your entire family as well. The only way to reduce the fear and stress is to address it head on and start researching retirement from your very personal perspective. You need to ask yourself the following questions:

      • Can I afford to retire?
      • What are my current expenses?
      • What is my total income from all sources?
        • Salary
        • Dividends / Interest Income
        • Investments
        • Social Security
        • Spouses income
        • Other
      • How much will my federal annuity be?
      • What will I do in retirement?

      We have a free report that you can download titled How to Be Financially Prepared When You Retire that includes a link to a free spreadsheet we developed to capture much of this information. Just taking this first step will help you get started.

      If you have a target retirement date or several tentative dates in mind request official annuity estimates from your HR department. They must provide you with this information.

      Don’t get overwhelmed if you are just getting started. There is a lot to consider but if you take it a step at a time you will find your way and discover the answers you need to make an informed decision. Visit our Federal Employees Retirement Planning Site for additional guidance, helpful reports, retirement forms, and much more.

      Helpful Retirement Planning Tools Distribute these FREE tools to others that are planning their retirement

      Visit our other informative sites

      The information provided may not cover all aspect of unique or special circumstances, federal regulations, medical procedures, and financial information are subject to change. To ensure the accuracy of this information, contact relevant parties and ask them to review your official personnel file and circumstances concerning this issue. Retirees can contact the OPM retirement center. Our article is not intended nor should it be considered investment advice and our articles and replies are time sensitive. Over time, various dynamic economic factors relied upon as a basis for this article may change. The advice and strategies contained herein may not be suitable for your situation and this service is not affiliated with OPM or any federal entity. You should consult with a financial, medical or human resource professional where appropriate. Neither the publisher or author shall be liable for any loss or any other commercial damages, including but not limited to special, incidental, consequential, or other damages.

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        Posted in ANNUITIES / ELIGIBILITY, BENEFITS / INSURANCE, RETIREMENT CONCERNS

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        Posted on Monday, 5th January 2015 by

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        The article we published on Survivor’s Benefits stated that “Upon your death, the funds in your TSP account cannot remain in the TSP. Your account will have to be distributed to the beneficiary(ies) you indicate on Form TSP-3, Designation of Beneficiary.” This information is correct for non-spouse beneficiaries.

        When a spouse is determined to be a beneficiary of part or all of a civilian or uniformed services account, the TSP will establish a beneficiary participant account in the spouse’s name if the spouse’s inherited share is $200 or more. The entire balance of the beneficiary participant account will be invested in the Government Securities Investment (G) Fund until the spouse makes a different investment choice or chooses to withdraw the money. The money in a beneficiary participant account is not subject to Federal income tax withholding until it is withdrawn.

        This is an important distinction for widows and widowers and the G fund is a safe haven for your account considering that it is the only fund guaranteed never to decrease in value. I updated this information on our blog and on our website today. I suggest downloading the TSP Death Benefits Brochure and keep it with your retirement and or estate planning paperwork. You should also download their pamphlet titled “Important Tax Information About Thrift Savings Plan Death Benefit Payments.” The TSP suggests that, “This information may be helpful in developing instructions so that your spouse, executor, or other person knows what to expect.” I downloaded both today and added

        If you don’t submit a TSP-3 Designation of Beneficiary form the TSP will use the order of precedence required by law:

        1. To your spouse;
        2. If none, to your child or children equally, and to descendants of deceased children by representation;
        3. If none, to your parents equally or to the surviving parent

        Caution – By law, the TSP must pay your properly designated beneficiary(ies) under all circumstances. For example, if you designate your spouse as a beneficiary, that spouse will still be entitled to death benefits if you separate or divorce from that spouse or remarry and do not change your beneficiary designation. This is true even if the spouse you designated gave up all rights to your TSP account(s). Consequently, if your life situation changes, or if any of your beneficiaries change their addresses or other identifying information, you may want to file a new Designation of Beneficiary form that cancels or updates your current beneficiary designation. A properly completed and submitted Designation of Beneficiary form will automatically cancel or update any previous Designation of Beneficiary forms for your TSP account.

        There are many things to consider that if not handled properly could negatively impact your intended heirs. Review this information and include a copy of this article with your estate plans.

        Learn more about your benefitsemployment, and financial planning issues on our site and visit our Blog frequently at http://fedretire.net to read all forum articles.

        Helpful Retirement Planning Tools Distribute these FREE tools to others that are planning their retirement

        Visit our other informative sites

        The information provided may not cover all aspect of unique or special circumstances, federal regulations, medical procedures, and financial information are subject to change. To ensure the accuracy of this information, contact relevant parties and ask them to review your official personnel file and circumstances concerning this issue. Retirees can contact the OPM retirement center. Our article is not intended nor should it be considered investment advice and our articles and replies are time sensitive. Over time, various dynamic economic factors relied upon as a basis for this article may change. The advice and strategies contained herein may not be suitable for your situation and this service is not affiliated with OPM or any federal entity. You should consult with a financial, medical or human resource professional where appropriate. Neither the publisher or author shall be liable for any loss or any other commercial damages, including but not limited to special, incidental, consequential, or other damages.

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          Posted in ANNUITIES / ELIGIBILITY, BENEFITS / INSURANCE, ESTATE PLANNING, RETIREMENT CONCERNS, SURVIVOR INFORMATION

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          Posted on Friday, 2nd January 2015 by

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          Why It’s Difficult to Hear in Large Rooms

          If you experience difficulty understanding speech in public areas, you will be happy to learn that there are several technologies that can enhance your ability to hear in these venues. These technologies are free as they are mandated by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Before discussing them, let’s back up for a moment and explain why you may need technologies other than your hearing aids or implants when listening in large rooms.

          Speech is a complex, fast-moving target. How audible it is at your ears depends on how loud the other person is talking (vocal effort) and how far away you happen to be from the person talking (the farther away you are from the talker or the loudspeaker, the softer the voice will be). It also changes in pitch depending upon gender/emotion and the various sounds uttered. Speech can be spoken in a quiet room or in a noisy room. In large rooms, even if there is no noise, speech will be smeared due to room reverberation (room echo) caused by sound bouncing off the hard surfaces of the (floor, ceiling, walls, furniture, etc). How well you hear and understand speech depends on all of these factors, as well as the exact degree, configuration (shape) and nature of your hearing difficulty.

          If fitted properly, today’s hearing aids and implants should provide you with sufficient audibility to hear speech in quiet, provided you are close to the talker. You may even hear fine in noise if you are close, your hearing aids/implants have directional microphones, and noise is spatially separated behind you. However, in large rooms (movie theaters, concert halls, lecture halls, etc), you are usually seated at a distance from the talker. Even if the room has a public address (PA) system, you may be seated too far from the loudspeaker(s). What happens in these spaces is that the talker’s voice bounces around as it is reflected off of the various surfaces of the room. This causes the microphones of your hearing aids/implants to pick up these reflections which cause speech to sound smeared and thus difficult to understand. You can try moving closer to the talker/loudspeaker(s), but that does not always help. In addition, may not be practical (or even possible) to move closer.

          How Large Area Assistive Listening Devices Can Help

          For listening situations where distance, noise, and/or reverberation make listening difficult, special large area Hearing Assistance Technology (HAT) – also known as Assistive Listening Devices (ALDs) – can be used along with hearing aids/implants to provide sufficient audibility for maximal understanding/enjoyment of the desired signal. These systems serve as a wireless link or bridge between the sound source and the listener. Just as binoculars make a far away image appear larger and easier to see, ALDs function in much the same way. These binoculars for the ears™ pick up the desired signal at its source and, wirelessly send it directly to your ears, preserving its loudness and clarity despite noisy and/or reverberant surroundings. People who use large area assistive listening systems report their listening experiences to be almost magical.

          Figure 1 shows how large area wireless ALDs work via the “three Cs” principle: Catch, Carry, and Couple. A microphone catches the sound you want to hear at its source and changes it into electrical energy. In the case of a pre-recorded sound track, the sound is already in the form of an electrical signal. The electrical signal from the microphone or recording is then led to the room’s public address (PA) system’s amplifier/mixer. A wireless transmitter is then plugged into the output of the mixer. It is the wireless transmitter that broadcasts or carries the sound across the room to a receiver that you wear. The receiver is then coupled to your ear, hearing aid, or cochlear implant.

          Figure 1. How large area wireless ALDs work.

          radio waves

          There are three basic types of wireless systems in use in public areas today: (1) Infrared (IR) (2) FM, and (3) loop. IR and FM transmitters attach to the output stage of the room’s public address system mixer. They then broadcast an IR or FM radio wave across the room to wireless, battery-powered IR or FM receivers that you borrow from the venue.

          Infrared and FM Systems

          Figure 2 shows an example of how an IR or FM system might be used in a concert hall and how you might couple to the system. When you look at the box that entitled “AC-powered IR or FM Transmitter” remember that the system you will encounter in real life will be either an FM or an IR transmitter, not both. This figure is just for explanation purposes. Note that both hardwired and wireless microphones can be used to pick up voices and/or instruments. Also note that the system has loudspeakers.

          Figure 2. Example of an IR or FM system and how to couple to it.

          mixer-amps

          There are two ways you can use the IR or FM reliever. If you have enough hearing, you can use the receiver along with earphones (Figure 2-A). However, if you use hearing aids and/or implants equipped with telecoils, then you ask the venue to loan you a neckloop that you place around your neck and plug into the FM or IR receiver (Figure 2-B). You then turn on the IR or FM receiver and switch your hearing aids/implants to the telecoil mode. The neckloop takes the signal from the infrared or FM receiver and re-broadcasts it to your hearing aid/implant telecoil(s) where it eventually changed to sound (in the case of hearing aids) or electrical energy (in the case of implants). Important: If you have a wireless hearing aid that does not contain a telecoil but you use a personal streamer that DOES contain a telecoil, then you would place your streamer inside of the neckloop and activate the streamer’s telecoil (Figure 2-C).

          Loop Systems

          Loop systems have been around for many years but are enjoying a renaissance thanks to the efforts of the Hearing Loss Association of America and interested citizens who appreciate the ease of use that comes with this type of system. As with the infrared and FM systems, a public address system picks up the sound using a microphone or direct connection. Unlike the other two technologies, the transmitter in a loop system consists of a wire placed around the room (or a grid of wires placed under the carpet) and plugged into a second amplifier that plugs into the PA system’s main amplifier/mixer (see Figure 3). The wire placed around the room serves at the wireless transmitter because it sends electromagnetic energy throughout the room that is then picked up by a telecoil receiver located inside of your hearing aids, implants, streamer, or inside of a special receiver that you use without hearing aids (Figure 3-A, B, and C).

          Figure 3. Example of a large area loop system and how to couple to it.

          mixer amp 3

          If your hearing aids/implants are equipped with telecoils and the large area venues of your community are equipped with loop systems, then you will enjoy the convenience (and dignity) of being able to walk into the room, flip your hearing aids/implants to telecoil mode and hear. There is no need to borrow a receiver because, as shown in Figure 3-A, the telecoil in your hearing instrument IS your receiver. If your hearing aids do not have telecoils but you own a personal telecoil-equipped streamer, then you would activate it and wear it to receive the loop signal (Figure 3-B). If you do not have telecoils or if you do not own hearing aids, then you can borrow a loop receiver that you wear around your neck (or under your chin) with earphones (Figure 3-C).

           Important Telecoil Options

          In order to get the most from your hearing aids or implants, you might want to see if your audiologist can fit you with a hearing instrument that not only provides you with telecoil (T-only) mode but also with a telecoil plus microphone (M + T) mode.

          Why is this important? Well, if you have a severe loss and are in the T-only mode, then you hear the sound coming through the large area ALD, but you will not be able to hear your own voice or the voice of your companion because your hearing aid/implant microphone is turned off when in the T-only mode.   When you cannot hear your own voice, you will tend to speak more loudly than normal, thus disrupting the other patrons. To have a conversation and monitor your voice, you will have to switch from T to M and then back again to T. However, if you have the M + T option, then you will be able to hear through the ALD and simultaneously through your environmental microphone. Thus you can monitor your voice, hear your companion and enjoy the show. If you have any feedback issues with this mode, then talk to your audiologist to see if adjustments need to be made.

          Final Notes

          There are pros and cons to each of the three systems. However, when installed and maintained properly all three systems sound great and can help you hear better in large rooms, provided that you know how to couple correctly. The advantage of loops is that you do not need to borrow a receiver, provided that you wear hearing aids or implants equipped with telecoils.

          Not all public areas are required to install large area listening systems. For example, houses of workshop are exempt from the law. But, this does not mean that your community should join together to raise funding for such a system.

          For large area solutions that require simultaneous two-way communication, language interpretation, team teaching, portability, encryption and many other features and applications, the Digi-Wave system is a great solution.

          With today’s technology there is no reason why you should not be able to go out on the town and enjoy a good movie or lecture.

          Additional Information:

          Learn more about your benefits, employment opportunities, and financial planning issues on our site and visit our blog frequently at http://fedretire.net to read all forum articles.

          Helpful Retirement Planning Tools Distribute these FREE tools to others that are planning their retirement

          Visit our other informative sites:

          Limits of Liability and Disclaimer of Warranty

          We do not provide medical advice. This website and the information provided on this site are intended solely for consumer education. This website and its information services do not constitute the practice of medicine, nursing, or other professional health care practice and nothing contained in this website is or should be considered, or used as a substitute for, medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Do not disregard, avoid or delay obtaining medical advice from your physician or other qualified health care provider because of something you have read on this website.  While the publisher and author have used their best efforts in providing information on hearing loss and associated hearing enhancement or hearing protection technology, they make no representations or warranties with respect to the accuracy or completeness of the content of this forum and Website, replies to site visitor questions, or prepared articles, and they specifically disclaim any implied warranties of merchantability or fitness for a particular purpose. The advice and strategies contained herein may not be suitable for your situation. You should consult with a physician or audiologist where appropriate. Neither the publisher or author shall be liable for any loss or any other commercial damages, including but not limited to special, incidental, consequential, or other damages.

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            Posted in LIFESTYLE / TRAVEL, RETIREMENT CONCERNS, WELLNESS / HEALTH

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            Posted on Friday, 12th December 2014 by

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            If you have a spouse or other loved ones that are dependent on you, you should make sure that they are provided for upon your death. More importantly, you must make sure that the information is made available to them. During this period, it’s very difficult for people to focus, so the more you can do now, the better it will be for your loved ones. This article will help you organize information regarding the following Federal Benefits: Annuity (CSRS & FERS), Health Benefits (FEHB), Federal Employees Life Insurance (FEGLI), Thrift Savings Plan (TSP) and Veteran’s Benefits. By organizing this information, your survivors will have the information they need to handle your affairs upon your death.

            Print a copy of this article and keep it with your retirement paperwork and forward this article to others in your organization that will benefit from this information.

            How to Report a Death

            Survivors, family, or estate representatives are required to notify OPM immediately in the event of the benefit recipient’s death. To report a death of a retiree or person receiving benefits from the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) your survivor(s)/representative must:

            • Contact OPM online: Report a Death,
            • Email OPM at: retire@opm.gov
            • Call OPM at: 1-88USOPMRET — 1 (888)767-6738 or TTY: 1(855) 887-4957.
              The hours of operation are 7:30 A.M. until 7:45 P.M (Eastern Time). or
            • Write to OPM at:

            U.S. Office of Personnel Management
            Retirement Services Program
            Post Office Box 45
            Boyers, PA 16017-0045

            When the death is reported, the following information must be provided to OPM:

            • The full name of the deceased and date of death
            • Their retirement claim number and social security number.

            The survivor or representative should also include their name, address, and telephone number. When OPM receives the report that someone who receives benefits has died, they will stop annuity payments. OPM will send the appropriate forms for claiming a survivor annuity or a lump-sum payment of retirement contributions, if applicable. In many cases, OPM can start monthly payments to an eligible surviving spouse based on the records on file.

            The Department of the Treasury will reclaim all direct deposit payments made after the date of death from the financial institution to which they were disbursed. The financial institution will debit the account to which the payments were previously credited. Therefore, the annuitant’s account should remain open until reclamation of any payments is completed.

            Uncashed checks payable to the deceased must be returned to the U.S. Department of the Treasury. The survivor should void any uncashed checks by noting the annuitant’s date of death on them before returning them. Voided checks should be returned to the following address:

            U.S. Department of the Treasury
            P.O. Box 24720
            Oakland, CA 94623-1720

            How To Apply for Benefits

            To apply for death benefits, the survivor/representative will complete the appropriate Application for Death Benefits SF 2800 for Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS) or SF 3104 for FERS retirees and the SF 3104B for when a FERS employee died while employed at the time of death. You can download these OPM Standard PDF fill-in Forms online.

            Attach a copy of the annuitant’s death certificate and a copy of the marriage certificate. Send the completed application to:

            Office of Personnel Management
            Retirement Operations Center
            ATTENTION: Death Claims Section
            Post Office Box 45
            Boyers, Pennsylvania 16017-0045

            A widow or widower who is claiming benefits for himself or herself and on behalf of children should file one application.

            Lump Sum Benefit

            If an employee dies and no survivor annuity is payable based on his/her death, the retirement contributions remaining to the deceased person’s credit plus applicable interest, are payable to the beneficiary.

            When Benefits Begin

            • Widow/Widower (The survivor annuity begins on the day after the annuitant’s death).
            • Former Spouse (If a former spouse is awarded a survivor annuity based on a court order, the survivor annuity begins to accrue on whichever day is later:)
            1. The day after the annuitant’s death, or)
            2. The first day of the second month after OPM receives a certified copy of the court order along with any additional necessary supporting documentation.
            • Child (The survivor annuity begins to accrue on the day after the annuitant’s death).

            Federal Employees’ Group Life Insurance (FEGLI) Death Benefits

            To claim FEGLI benefits for the death of an annuitant, the beneficiary/representative will need to complete Form FE-6 , Claim for Death Benefits. For assistance in completing the form, contact the Office of Federal Employees’ Group Life Insurance (1-800-633-4542). The form must be printed out and sent along with a certified copy of the death certificate to:

            Office of Federal Employees’ Group Life Insurance
            P.O. Box 6080
            Scranton, PA 18505-6080

            To claim FEGLI benefits for a family member’s death, the beneficiary/representative must complete Form FE-6DEP Statement of Claim, Option C . For assistance in completing the form, contact the Office of Federal Employees’ Group Life Insurance (1-800-633-4542). The form must be printed out and sent along with a certified copy of the death certificate, to:

            OPM
            Retirement Operations Center
            Attn: FE-6 DEP
            Boyers, PA 16017

            Additional FEGLI death benefits information is available through OPM.

            Federal Employees Health Benefits

            If you are not enrolled or enrolled in Self Only coverage, your survivors are not eligible for FEHB benefits upon your death.

            If you are enrolled in Self and Family, all of your survivors who meet the definition of “family member” can continue their health benefits coverage under your enrollment as long as any one of them is entitled to a survivor annuity.

            Additional FEHB information is available online including links to the FEHB Handbook.

            Veteran’s Survivor Benefits

            Survivors can receive an annuity after a veteran dies, under the Survivor Benefit Program (SBP) . When a veteran dies, his/her retirement pay stops. However, if the veteran enrolled in the Survivor Benefit Program, a surviving spouse or minor children can continue to receive a portion of that pay. At the time of retirement, veterans can enroll in the Survivor Benefit Program. Under this program, a retiree forfeits 6.5 percent of “covered” retirement pay each month in premiums. In return, when the retiree dies, the surviving spouse or minor children get an annuity equal to 55 percent of the covered retirement pay.

            Burial benefits available for eligible spouses and dependents include burial with the Veteran and perpetual care of the interment site at a national cemetery. The spouse or dependent’s name and date of birth and death will be inscribed on the Veteran’s headstone at no cost to the family. Some Veterans may also be eligible for burial allowances. For additional burial benefits information read Dennis Damp’s article titled “Final Arrangements: Funeral and Burial Options (Part 2).” You can also visit the National Cemetery Association’s web site for additional information.

            Thrift Savings Plan (TSP) Death Benefits (Updated 1/5/2015)

            When a spouse is determined to be a beneficiary of part or all of a civilian or uniformed services account, the TSP will establish a beneficiary participant account in the spouse’s name if the spouse’s inherited share is $200 or more. The entire balance of the beneficiary participant account will be invested in the Government Securities Investment (G) Fund until the spouse makes a different investment choice or chooses to withdraw the money. The money in a beneficiary participant account is not subject to Federal income tax withholding until it is withdrawn.

            When a non-spouse inherits a TSP account funds cannot remain in the TSP. Your account will have to be distributed to the beneficiary(ies) you indicate on Form TSP-3, Designation of Beneficiary. A will or any other document is not valid for the disposition of your beneficiary participant account. It is not a substitute for a Designation of Beneficiary form. If you do not submit a

            In order for your beneficiaries to receive your account balance after your death, they (or their representatives) must complete the Form TSP-17, Information Relating to Deceased Participant and send it to the TSP along with a copy of the certified death certificate. Once the TSP processes this information and determines the beneficiaries for your account, they will be contacted with additional information and instructions.

            If you submit a withdrawal form requesting a TSP Life Annuity and you die before the annuity payments begin, the amount used to purchase the annuity will be returned to the TSP. The TSP will, if possible, distribute this money consistent with your annuity beneficiary designation.

            For additional information visit the TSP’s web site and read their detailed death benefits information.

            • TSP Survivor Withdrawal Options

            Designation of Beneficiary Forms – Keep Them Updated

            Remember that unless you change or cancel your designation, the person named-such as a former spouse-will receive the benefit. You also need to keep your designated beneficiaries’ addresses current. Failure to do so may mean that your beneficiary cannot be located and therefore benefits will not be paid to that person. You can download the forms listed below on our Retirement Forms page.

            • If retired under FERS, use SF 3102 , Designation of Beneficiary/FERS.
            • If retired under CSRS, use SF 2808 , Designation of Beneficiary/CSRS.
            • For TSP, use TSP-3, Designation of Beneficiary/TSP.
            • For FEGLI, use SF 2823 , Designation of Beneficiary/Federal Employees Group Life Insurance.

            Although, this article covered some federal benefits your survivors should know about, you should also organize all other personal and financial information as part of your estate planning. You will need to provide your survivors with information about your assets, financial accounts (401k, banks, stocks, etc.), and insurance (life, long-term care, auto, etc.). The Survivor’s Guide and checklist available on this site will help you compile this information and includes an eleven part series on how to prepare a comprehensive survivor’s binder for your loved ones.

            Learn more about your benefitsemployment, and financial planning issues on our site and visit our Blog frequently at http://fedretire.net to read all forum articles.

            Helpful Retirement Planning Tools – Distribute these FREE tools to others that are planning their retirement

            Visit our other informative sites

            The information provided may not cover all aspect of unique or special circumstances, federal regulations, medical procedures, and financial information are subject to change. To ensure the accuracy of this information, contact relevant parties and ask them to review your official personnel file and circumstances concerning this issue. Retirees can contact the OPM retirement center. Our article is not intended nor should it be considered investment advice and our articles and replies are time sensitive. Over time, various dynamic economic factors relied upon as a basis for this article may change. The advice and strategies contained herein may not be suitable for your situation and this service is not affiliated with OPM or any federal entity. You should consult with a financial, medical or human resource professional where appropriate. Neither the publisher or author shall be liable for any loss or any other commercial damages, including but not limited to special, incidental, consequential, or other damages.

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              Posted in ANNUITIES / ELIGIBILITY, BENEFITS / INSURANCE, ESTATE PLANNING, FINANCE / TIP, RETIREMENT CONCERNS, SURVIVOR INFORMATION

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              Posted on Tuesday, 25th November 2014 by

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              Federal employees target a retirement date that suits their personal situation and desires. There is no standard convention that dictates when one should leave or for that matter retire at all. The decision to retire is based on many factors and your personal circumstances. Some can’t afford to leave until they pay off their home or other bills while others take the plunge simply because they are tired of the old routine and want a change. Health considerations are also a major factor for many. Everyone has their unique reasons for leaving and select a departure date accordingly.

              To maximum your retirement annuity and benefits select a departure date that meets your needs and leaves you with the highest annual and sick leave balances as possible. We publish an Excel Leave Chart each year that federal employees can use to track their annual, sick, credit, and comp time hours. You can also track your work schedule with our free 2015 spreadsheet. Download the 2015 leave schedule and share it with everyone in your organization.

              The benefit of knowing exactly what leave balances you have at any point in time is critical to ensuring you receive the maximum benefits allowed, including leave buyback for the tentative retirement dates that you select. You will know how much sick leave credit you will be able to carry into retirement and your annual leave lump sum payment that you will receive shortly after you leave. I selected my retirement date for end of year so that I could carry over the maximum amount of annual leave. I had a total of 448 hours, 240 hours that I saved over the years plus 208 hours that I didn’t use my last year. A month after retirement I received an annual leave lump sum check for the full amount less 20% that they kept for taxes.

              I also timed my departure so that that I had just over one year of sick leave (2087 hours equals one year) on the books which added another year to my annuity computation. Even if you don’t leave at the end of a year you can select a date that provides as much credit as possible. If you retire with 5 months and 29 days of sick leave (1038 hours) on the books you effectively loose the 29 days and only receive credit for five months. Staying until you accrue 1044 hours, two more pay periods, will give you a full 6 months credit. Our Sick Leave Conversion Chart can be used in conjunction with your leave schedule balances to determine how much sick leave you will have on the books for any given target date less any unforeseen medical emergencies.

              Helpful resources: (Forward the following reports and spreadsheets to others in your organization that are approaching retirement)

              If you are within three years of retiring start by requesting retirement annuity estimates from HR for several target retirement dates. Use the resources listed above to start planning your retirement.

              Learn more about your benefitsemployment, and financial planning issues on our site and visit our Blog frequently at http://fedretire.net to read all forum articles.

              Helpful Retirement Planning Tools Distribute these FREE tools to others that are planning their retirement

              Visit our other informative sites

              The information provided may not cover all aspect of unique or special circumstances, federal regulations, medical procedures, and financial information are subject to change. To ensure the accuracy of this information, contact relevant parties and ask them to review your official personnel file and circumstances concerning this issue. Retirees can contact the OPM retirement center. Our article is not intended nor should it be considered investment advice and our articles and replies are time sensitive. Over time, various dynamic economic factors relied upon as a basis for this article may change. The advice and strategies contained herein may not be suitable for your situation and this service is not affiliated with OPM or any federal entity. You should consult with a financial, medical or human resource professional where appropriate. Neither the publisher or author shall be liable for any loss or any other commercial damages, including but not limited to special, incidental, consequential, or other damages.

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                Posted in ANNUITIES / ELIGIBILITY, BENEFITS / INSURANCE, FINANCE / TIP, RETIREMENT CONCERNS, SOCIAL SECURITY / MEDICARE

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                Posted on Friday, 21st November 2014 by

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                Best Practices and the State of Audiological Care

                In my June post, How to Manage Your Own Hearing Health Care, I discussed the steps that should be taken to enhance your hearing, including identifying and achieving your hearing goals. While setting goals may sound trivial, research has shown that following clinical best-practices (including goal-setting) improves your chances for a successful hearing outcome (Valente, Abrams, et al, 2006).

                Despite the obvious benefits of clinical best-practices, and despite having a popular set of best-practice guidelines for audiology (Kochkin. et al, 2010), many audiologists still fail to provide essential hearing services. A large percentage of audiologists still fail to verify that hearing aids are set to the patient prescription, and many fail to set or measure hearing goals.

                That’s OK, right? You’re in the hands of an expert … right?

                Unfortunately this couldn’t be farther from the truth. Consumer Reports estimates that as many as two-thirds of hearing aids in the US are “misfit.” With such poor outcomes, and with the cost of hearing devices at a premium, is it any wonder why so many consumers put off visiting the hearing clinic?

                Enter Hearing Tracker

                One company has come up with a clever solution to this issue that should prove to be a win-win proposition for both consumers and providers. Meet Dr. Abram Bailey, a doctor of audiology, and graduate of Vanderbilt University. Dr. Bailey and his partner, Logan Lowell, a data scientist, founded HearingTracker.com, a website which helps consumers find hearing providers who adhere to best practices.

                The company publishes an online directory of over 17,000 hearing providers throughout the United States – the largest directory of its kind – and provides intuitive tools for locating providers with positive customer feedback. HearingTracker.com also boasts the largest collection of online hearing aid reviews in the world, giving undecided consumers a place to investigate their options.

                Information is the Key to Success

                As much as he wanted to, Dr. Bailey realized that he could not change audiology “one patient at a time.” He realized that the key to changing hearing outcomes in audiology was to expose the good and bad in the profession, in order to help consumers make more informed decisions when selecting audiologists.

                Many online resources provide tips and suggestions for “interviewing” audiologists – to improve your chances of finding someone competent. Visiting and interviewing multiple providers to find the right one sounds cumbersome and inefficient, especially in an era of abundant information. Dr. Bailey reasoned that if patient outcomes were published online, consumers could select community-vetted audiologists and more easily improve their chances for a success.

                Where Can You Find Good Hearing Care?

                Audiologists on HearingTracker.com are ranked based on customer feedback and patient-reported hearing outcomes, so consumers may readily find a provider with a proven track record. The site also reveals a provider’s educational background and professional qualifications, making it easier to find knowledgeable experts.

                Looking toward the future, HearingTracker.com has begun the process of verifying the clinical protocols of providers on the site. The first step for a provider is to complete a best-practice survey, to show the site that he or she is providing essential services. To become fully-verified, the provider must also submit de-identified files for clinical review. One of HearingTracker.com’s staff audiologists personally reviews the files to ensure that all essential services are provided and documented.

                It is hoped that this attention to detail will set HearingTracker.com apart from other online services, and help ensure the best possible hearing outcomes for consumers suffering from hearing loss.

                Hearing Aid Consumer Reviews

                HearingTracker.com currently hosts the largest number of authenticated hearing aid reviews anywhere on the internet. Consumers may browse hundreds of new hearing aid models and learn about the latest advancements. They may also narrow their search based on a number of important technological features, such as iPhone-compatibility or remote control functionality. If a visitor finds a hearing aid in the hearing aid reviews section, and wishes to discuss it with an audiologist, the visitor can be matched with a local expert on that brand.

                Closing Thoughts

                As a consumer, you have many ways to navigate the hearing health care system. A good first step is to consult an audiologist who takes the time to ask you about your hearing needs – at home, at work and while engaging in leisure activities – and who assesses your hearing issues using standardized best practices. HearingTracker.com may be worth checking out since it is a network composed of vetted audiologists whose reputations are on the line if you are not satisfied. If you give HearingTracker.com a try, be sure you let Dr. Bailey know how you like it. And feel free to email me as well: cccomptonconley@gmail.com.

                Hopefully, through the efforts of Dr. Bailey, and other innovative thought-leaders in the profession, the day will come when all Americans will be able to obtain high-quality, standardized hearing health care

                References:
                Valente, M., Abrams, H., et al. (2006). Guidelines for the Audiologic Management of Adult Hearing Impairment. Audiology Today, 18(5)

                Kochkin, S., et al. (2010). MarkeTrak VIII: The Impact of the Hearing Healthcare Professional on Hearing Aid User Success. Hearing Review, 17(4):12-34.

                Cynthia Compton-Conley Ph. D. is a Board Certified Doctor of Audiology, Professor of Audiology, Hearing Industry Consultant and Host of the Hearing Loss Help Forum. Dr.  Cynthia is a retired Professor of Audiology who taught in the graduate school at federally-funded Gallaudet University for 32 years and retired in the CSRS system.  In 2013 she founded Compton-Conley Consulting.

                Learn more about your benefits, employment opportunities, and financial planning issues on our site and visit our blog frequently at http://fedretire.net to read all forum articles.

                Helpful Retirement Planning Tools Distribute these FREE tools to others that are planning their retirement

                Visit our other informative sites:

                Limits of Liability and Disclaimer of Warranty

                We do not provide medical advice. This website and the information provided on this site are intended solely for consumer education. This website and its information services do not constitute the practice of medicine, nursing, or other professional health care practice and nothing contained in this website is or should be considered, or used as a substitute for, medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Do not disregard, avoid or delay obtaining medical advice from your physician or other qualified health care provider because of something you have read on this website.  While the publisher and author have used their best efforts in providing information on hearing loss and associated hearing enhancement or hearing protection technology, they make no representations or warranties with respect to the accuracy or completeness of the content of this forum and Website, replies to site visitor questions, or prepared articles, and they specifically disclaim any implied warranties of merchantability or fitness for a particular purpose. The advice and strategies contained herein may not be suitable for your situation. You should consult with a physician or audiologist where appropriate. Neither the publisher or author shall be liable for any loss or any other commercial damages, including but not limited to special, incidental, consequential, or other damages.

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                  Posted in BENEFITS / INSURANCE, RETIREMENT CONCERNS, UNCATEGORIZED, WELLNESS / HEALTH

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