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Government shutdown brings uncertainty for workers hoping to retire during impasse

Roughly 800,000 federal employees don't know when their next paychecks will arrive, because of the partial government shutdown. But there is also uncertainty for federal employees of currently closed agencies who planned to retire in the last few weeks.

According to guidance on the Office of Personnel Management's website, if an employee requested a retirement date that conflicts with a shutdown, the agency should "make the retirement effective as of the date requested," adding that the retirement request can be informal, but any additional required paperwork, such as the formal retirement application form, may be completed when the agency reopens.

But in a webinar Tuesday, Jessica Klement, staff vice president for advocacy at the National Active and Retired Federal Employees Association in Washington, said there are still some questions. "If you submitted your retirement application before the government shut down and your retirement date is during the shutdown then yes, you are in fact retired," she said. "But you're also probably wondering if your paperwork's been processed and unfortunately I don't have a good answer for you there because there is no one answer. If your payroll department is furloughed, processing of your retirement package may be delayed."

A representative from OPM could not immediately be reached for comment.

In an email Thursday, Kim Weaver, spokeswoman for the $553.8 billion Thrift Savings Plan, explained that once an employee submits retirement paperwork, the employee's agency then transmits it to OPM, which then sends a separation code to the TSP to process any withdrawal requests the employee makes.

"At the agencies affected by the shutdown, most HR employees are furloughed so there is no one to send the paperwork to OPM," Ms. Weaver said. (OPM is) working through retirement applications that they already had received pre-furlough, so that information is being sent to us as it is finalized."