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Questions and Answers: Separations for Political Appointees

1. Can I be separated before the resignation date of the Attorney General, and how much notice will I receive?

ANSWER:   Yes. If you are a noncareer SES appointee, you may be removed at any time. Noncareer SES appointees must be given a written notice at least 1 day before the effective date of a removal.

If you are a Schedule C employee, you may be separated whenever your confidential relationship with your superior or the confidential nature of your job ends. There is no statutory notice requirement. The Justice Management Division, Human Resources, can advise you of notice procedures (202-514-4350).

2. Do I have appeal or grievance rights?

ANSWER:  There is no appeal right to the Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB) on the removal of a noncareer SES appointee. Most employees separated from their Schedule C positions have no appeal rights to MSPB.

3. Do I have additional procedural and/or appeal rights if I am a veteran?

ANSWER:   An employee’s status as a veteran does not change an employee's rights beyond those described in the answers to Questions 1 and 2 above.

4. If my boss has a statutory term appointment that extends beyond the resignation date of my agency head, do I have to leave before the resignation date?

ANSWER:  Not necessarily.

5. If my boss is asked to stay beyond the Attorney General’s resignation date, will I be allowed to remain in my position also?

ANSWER:  Your continued employment may depend on whether both your confidential relationship with your boss and the need for such a relationship to do your job continue to exist.

6. Can the Department provide outplacement assistance?

ANSWER:  The Comptroller General has concluded an agency may not provide outplacement assistance to political appointees unless it generally offers these services to all its employees. The CG decision says, “... an agency may not expend public money for the specific purpose of helping political appointees return to private life although an agency may offer its existing outplacement assistance program to political appointees, it may not provide outplacement services exclusively to appointees of the outgoing Administration.” [B251488, Letter to The Honorable William L. Clay, Chairman, Committee on Post Office and Civil Service, House of Representatives, December 23, 1992.].

7. Can DOJ pay my travel and transportation expenses when I leave Government service?

ANSWER:  The Government is not authorized to pay relocation expenses for separating Presidential appointees, noncareer SES appointees, or Schedule C appointees to return to private industry or to their place of residence. See the General Services Administration’s website for additional information about travel and transportation allowances, in particular those for departing political appointees. (


8. What happens to my accrued annual and sick leave?

ANSWER:  When your Federal employment ends, you will receive a lump-sum payment for any unused annual leave. The lump-sum payment equals the pay you would have received if you had remained in Federal service on annual leave (as provided in OPM regulations). This payment excludes any allowances that are paid for the sole purpose of encouraging an employee to remain in Government service, such as retention allowances and physicians comparability allowances. No payment is made for accrued sick leave. Generally, sick leave will be recredited if you are reemployed in a Federal position.

9. Will I be eligible for severance pay?

ANSWER:  No. Employees serving under noncareer SES or Schedule C appointments are not eligible for severance pay.

10. If I am separated, will I be eligible for unemployment compensation?

ANSWER:  The U.S. Department of Labor advises that Presidential appointees, noncareer and limited SES appointees, and Schedule C employees are generally eligible for benefits under the Unemployment Compensation for Federal Employees (UCFE) program because their separation from Federal service is viewed as being involuntary (i.e., occurring through no fault of their own). To ensure State unemployment compensation offices are aware your separation is due to a change in agency leadership, it is important that this reason be clearly indicated on the SF-50 (Notification of Personnel Action) and all UCFE claims inquiry forms. Agencies are encouraged to use reasons such as “separation due to change in agency leadership” or “separation due to transition to new Presidential administration.”

11. If I resign, will I be eligible for unemployment compensation?

ANSWER:  If you resign by request due to a change in Presidential administrations or agency leadership, you may be eligible, provided you meet all other eligibility requirements. If you resign before being requested to do so, you may not be eligible. To assure State Workforce Agencies are aware your resignation is by request due to a change in Presidential administrations or agency leadership, it is important that this be clearly stated in your written resignation. Your agency should also indicate the same on the SF-50 and all UCFE claims inquiry forms. Again, you should check with your State Workforce Agency if you have any questions.

12. What will my SF-50 say if I resign or if I am separated?

ANSWER:  If you resign from your position due to a change in agency leadership or as a result of a transition to a new Presidential administration, the “Remarks” section of your SF-50 (Block 45) will state “Reason for Resignation” and then summarize whatever reason you give in your written resignation. You should state as your reason for resignation, “Resignation due to a change in Presidential administrations” or “Resignation due to a change in agency leadership.” If your resignation is requested, you should state, “Resignation due to a change in Presidential administrations” or “Resignation by request due to a change in agency leadership.” If you are separated, your agency will state in Block 45 under the “Reason for Termination” that you were separated “due to a change in Presidential administrations” or “due to a change in agency leadership.” (Note: The reason given for resignation may affect your eligibility for unemployment benefits. Resigning before receiving a request to resign is generally considered an unprompted resignation and is not usually viewed as sufficient for unemployment compensation purposes. See also Questions 10, 11, and 13.)

13. How do I apply for unemployment compensation?

ANSWER:  States act as agents of the Department of Labor in the taking, processing, and payment of UCFE benefits. Therefore, all applications must be filed with a State Workforce Agency in the State of the employee’s last official duty station. Employees returning from overseas can file in the State of residence after the most recent period of employment. Most States accept UCFE applications by telephone or through the Internet, so you may not have to report in person to file a claim. To locate unemployment benefit information in the State of your choosing, visit When you file a claim with the appropriate State agency, you may be asked to provide a copy of your Standard Form (SF) 8 (Notice to Federal Employee about Unemployment Insurance), a copy of your SF-50, and/or copies of your leave and earnings statement.

Unemployment benefits are payable under State unemployment insurance laws. To receive these benefits, you usually must register with the local unemployment office in the State of your last duty station. Employees returning from overseas file in the State of residence. When you file a claim with the State Workforce Agency, you must provide a completed copy of Standard Form SF-8, Notice to Federal Employee about Unemployment Insurance, and proof of your Federal employment earnings (an earnings and leave statement). If you have moved out of the State of your last duty station, you can file your claim with the State office nearest to your new residence. If you resigned by request, you may need to provide a copy of the request when filing. Your agency’s Human Resources Office will provide you with a copy of form SF-8 and answer any questions you may have in this area.

14. Can I keep my Federal employee health insurance coverage when I leave?

ANSWER:  After separation, your group health insurance continues at no cost for 31 days. In addition, if you file an election with the separating agency and you pay both the employee and employer cost (plus 2 percent administrative cost), your current plan, or another Federal Employees Health Benefits plan you may choose, can be continued temporarily for 18 months. When the group coverage ends, you have a right to convert it to non-group coverage.
If you retire under a retirement system for Federal employees, you can continue your group health insurance into retirement, provided you qualify for an immediate annuity and you were enrolled for the 5 years of service immediately before retirement, or – if less than 5 years – for all service since your first opportunity to enroll. As a retiree, you would pay the same contribution for health insurance as active employees do.

15. Can I keep my Federal employee life insurance coverage when I leave?

ANSWER:  Life insurance continues for 31 days after separation at no cost, and the insurance can be converted, without medical examination, to non-group coverage at that time, with rates based on age and class of risk.

If you retire under a retirement system for Federal employees, your group life insurance (but not accidental death and dismemberment) can be continued into retirement, provided you qualify for an immediate annuity and you were enrolled for purposes of each type of coverage for at least the 5 years before retirement, or since the first opportunity to enroll. As a retiree, you would pay the same premiums as employees, except that premiums stop at age 65, when the amount of insurance begins to decrease by 2 percent per month. The post-retirement reduction continues until the Basic and the $10,000 Optional coverage is 25 percent of insurance in force at retirement and until other optional insurance expires completely. At the time of retirement, you can also elect to pay additional premiums to prevent the Basic and Optional insurance B and C from decreasing.

16. Can I keep my Federal long term care insurance coverage when I leave?

ANSWER:  Long term care insurance coverage is fully portable, which means it continues without change when employees leave the Federal Government – the same product and the same price – as long as premiums continue to be paid. OPM is still the policyholder and the coverage continues to be administered by Long Term Care Partners, LLC. If the employee is paying premiums through direct bill or automatic bank withdrawal, those arrangements continue unchanged. However, employees paying through payroll deduction should contact Long Term Care Partners directly so that they can switch their payment methods to direct bill or automatic bank withdrawal.

17. Can I keep my Federal dental and/or vision insurance coverage when I leave?

ANSWER:  After separation, FEDVIP coverage terminates unless you are eligible for an immediate annuity.

If an employee retires under a retirement system for Federal employees, FEDVIP coverage eligibility is retained. Retirees must have retired with an immediate annuity (a FERS Minimum Retirement Age plus 10 annuity, postponed, counts as an immediate annuity). Those in receipt of a deferred annuity are not eligible to enroll in FEDVIP. However, unlike FEHB coverage and FEGLI coverage, there is no length of time you must be enrolled in FEDVIP as an active employee in order to continue coverage after retirement.

18. What are the basic age and service rules for retirement?

ANSWER:  Under the Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS), you can retire voluntarily after reaching age 55 with 30 years of service, age 60 with 20 years, or age 62 with 5 years. Under the Federal Employees’ Retirement System (FERS), voluntary retirement is available at minimum retirement age (MRA, 55 to 57, depending on year of birth) with 30 years of service, age 60 with 20 years, or age 62 with 5 years. Individuals under FERS can also retire on a reduced annuity at MRA with as little as 10 years of service.

19. How do I know if I am eligible for early retirement?

ANSWER:  Contact the Justice Management Division, Human Resources, on 202-514-4350 to schedule a retirement briefing.
You would be eligible for early retirement if you qualify for a discontinued service retirement (DSR) based on an involuntary separation (see next question) and meet the following age and service requirements. Under both CSRS and FERS, you must be age 50 and have at least 20 years of service, or you may retire at any age if you have at least 25 years of service.

20. What is considered an involuntary separation for purposes of qualifying for discontinued service retirement?

ANSWER:  Generally, a separation is qualifying for DSR if it is an agency-initiated action that is not a removal for cause on charges of misconduct or delinquency. A resignation qualifies you for DSR if you resign in response to a written request from an administration representative having the authority to request such resignation or the new agency head. The resignation of a Presidentially-appointed policy-making officer qualifies for DSR whenever the individual’s resignation is accepted by the President. When it is known that a Presidential appointee is leaving, the resignation of a noncareer SES or Schedule C appointee who works for that person is also considered an involuntary separation for purposes of DSR.

21. What if I am not yet eligible for retirement?

ANSWER:  You might be eligible for a deferred annuity. Under both CSRS and FERS, if you have at least 5 years of civilian service, you can receive a deferred annuity at age 62. Also, a FERS employee with at least 10 years of Federal service (which must include at least 5 years civilian service) may elect to receive a deferred annuity as early as the minimum retirement age (see Question 18). To qualify for deferred benefits, you must leave your retirement contributions in the retirement fund. If you have less than 5 years of civilian service, you do not qualify for a deferred annuity.

Whether or not you qualify for a deferred benefit, you may elect to receive a refund of your contributions as long as you are not eligible for an immediate annuity. To qualify for the refund, you must be separated for at least 31 days and apply for the refund at least 31 days before you qualify for a deferred annuity.

Generally, interest is payable on FERS refunds, but no interest is payable on CSRS refunds. Desirability of the refund depends on individual circumstances (how far from or close to retirement you are and whether you anticipate future Federal employment). Under CSRS rules, you can reinstate credit for the service if you return to Federal service under CSRS or FERS, and redeposit the refund with interest. However, you cannot repay a refund of FERS deductions if you return to Federal service. In addition, the service will not count toward retirement.

22. With regard to my benefits, is there anything else I need to watch out for?

The Justice Management Division, Human Resources, may need to get involved to look at your particular circumstances. For example, you may need to make a deposit for military service before you leave the agency. Please call 202-514-4350 for additional information.

Thrift Savings Plan (TSP)

23. What are my TSP withdrawal options after I leave Federal service?

ANSWER:  The TSP provides several ways to withdraw your account. You can make a partial withdrawal of your account in a single payment. You can make a full withdrawal of your account by any one, or any combination, of the following methods:

  • A single payment o A series of monthly payments
  • A life annuity
  • A combination of any of the above three full withdrawal options is called a “mixed withdrawal.”

You can have the TSP transfer all or part of any single payment or, in some cases, a series of monthly payments, to a traditional Individual Retirement Arrangement (IRA) or eligible employer plan. Payments to you can be deposited directly into your checking or savings account by means of electronic funds transfer (EFT).

24. Can I leave my money in my account, and can I add to this money after I leave Federal service?

ANSWER:  You can leave the money in your account. You cannot make direct deposits. However, under certain circumstances, you can make transfers (or rollovers) of eligible distributions from an eligible retirement plan, including a traditional IRA and an eligible employer plan (or its designated financial institution). Only TSP participants who have open accounts can transfer money into the TSP. This includes participants who are separated from Federal civilian service. However, a separated participant who is receiving monthly payments from his or her TSP account cannot transfer money into it. Your account will continue to accrue earnings, and you can continue to move your money among the TSP investment funds by making interfund transfers. Caution: You must receive your account in a single payment or begin receiving monthly payments from the Thrift Savings Plan, or from the annuity vendor, by April 1 of the year following the year you turn 70 ½ .

25. If I leave Federal service, can I have the TSP transfer my payment to an Individual Retirement Arrangement (IRA) or other eligible retirement plan?

ANSWER:  Yes, you can have the TSP transfer all or part of a single payment to an IRA or other eligible retirement plan. You also can transfer certain monthly payments.

26. Where can I find tax information about TSP disbursements?

ANSWER:  For detailed information about withdrawing your account, see the booklet, Withdrawing Your TSP Account after Leaving Federal Service. For detailed information about the tax consequences of your withdrawal choices and Federal income tax withholding requirements, see the TSP tax notice, “Important Tax Information about Payments from your TSP Account.” The booklet and notice are available from the TSP Web site ( Also, your agency Human Resources Office must give you this information when you leave Federal service. You should also ask your State and local tax authorities about State and local taxes.

27. Will I keep the FERS Agency Automatic (1 percent) Contributions to TSP when I leave?

ANSWER:  If you meet the TSP vesting requirements when you leave Federal service, you are entitled to the Agency Automatic (1%) Contributions in your account and their earnings.

Most FERS employees become vested in their Agency Automatic (1%) Contributions after completing 3 years of Federal (generally civilian) service. However, employees who are in one of the following positions at separation are vested after 2 years of civilian service.

  • A noncareer SES appointee.
  • Executive Schedule positions listed in 5 U.S.C. 5312, 5313, 5314, 5315, or 5316.
  • A position placed in level IV or level V of the Executive Schedule, under 5 U.S.C. 5317.
  • A position in the executive branch that is excepted from the competitive service by the Office of Personnel Management because of the confidential and policy-determining character of the position (i.e., a Schedule C position).
  • A Member of Congress or a Congressional employee.

28. How soon can employees start participating in the Thrift Plan?

ANSWER:  If you are a new FERS employee or rehired FERS or CSRS employee, you may begin contributing to the TSP immediately.

Social Security

29. Does my Federal employment have an impact on my Social Security benefits?

ANSWER:  Yes, it could affect your benefits. If you have ever worked under the Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS) or another retirement plan for Federal employees that doesn't include Social Security, such as the Foreign Service Retirement System, and you receive an annuity based on that service, these two provisions of the Social Security law may affect your Social Security benefits:
The Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP) may reduce the benefit you earned based on your work. The WEP doesn't apply if you were automatically covered by the Federal Employees’ Retirement System (FERS), or if you have 30 or more years of “substantial earnings” in Social Security-covered employment.

The Government Pension Offset (GPO) may reduce or eliminate any spousal benefit you are otherwise eligible to receive. The GPO doesn't apply if you were required by law to have coverage under the CSRS Offset provisions that are a combination of CSRS coverage and Social Security, or if you were automatically covered by FERS without electing coverage.

The Social Security Administration now sends an annual Social Security Statement to everyone who has paid Social Security taxes. The benefit estimates contained in the Statement are not adjusted to consider the WEP or GPO. Your agency’s benefits officer can help you determine whether either of these provisions will affect your benefits. The Social Security Administration also has fact sheets: The Windfall Elimination Provision (Publication No. 05-10045) and Government Pension Offset (Publication No. 05-10007), that can be printed from or ordered by calling 1-800-772-1213.

The Social Security website,, also provides a detailed calculator. If you enter your earnings history (found on your Social Security Statement) and specific information about your non-covered pension, the detailed calculator can refigure your benefit, including the adjustment for the WEP.


30. Are there restrictions on my seeking non-Federal employment while I am currently employed? Will I have any post-employment restrictions?

ANSWER: Yes, there are a number of restrictions. However, because of the complexity of the issues involved, you should address any questions to your agency’s Deputy Designated Agency Ethics Official or to the Departmental Ethics Office.

31. May I compete for other Federal jobs in my agency or in other Federal agencies?

ANSWER:  You may compete for any Federal career jobs that are open for applications from the general public. This would include jobs announced through OPM and jobs announced by agencies when the announcement specifies applications will be accepted from all sources. However, many agency jobs are open only to current career employees or status candidates. You could not apply for those positions unless you had previous Federal career service and the announcements were open to reinstatement or status candidates.
Some non-political jobs are filled in what is called the excepted service. These jobs are excepted from the specific appointment procedures required for competitive career jobs although they are subject to the basic principle of selection based on merit. Agencies may establish their own procedures and qualification requirements for filling certain excepted service positions. If you qualify for such a position, you will be considered in accordance with the agency’s procedures.

You may compete for an SES career appointment when the position is advertised under proper merit staffing procedures. However, if you are a noncareer SES appointee, you cannot receive a career SES appointment in your current position, or a successor position, since there is no bona fide vacancy.

32. Where and how can I find current job openings and other information on applying for other Federal jobs?

ANSWER:  OPM’s Federal Employment Information System, the official source for employment information, provides access not only to Federal job listings, but some State and local government and private sector listings. The system provides listings of the latest job openings, gives access to application materials, and provides information on a wide variety of Federal employment-related topics and programs. You can request application packages, forms, and other employment-related materials through the system. The system is accessible from a number of user-friendly media that are updated daily and most are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

  • USAJOBS. OPM provides access to employment information through USAJOBS, the official job site of the United States Federal Government. USAJOBS can be accessed through the Internet at
  • USAJOBS enables job seekers to use a single system to locate all public positions in the Federal Government and use a single resumé to apply for positions across the Government.
  • USAJOBS Interactive Voice Response System. By calling (703) 724-1850 or TDD (978) 461-8404, job seekers can obtain current worldwide Federal job opportunities, Employment Information Fact Sheets, and Optional Federal Application Forms.

33. What are my reinstatement rights if I previously worked for the Federal Government in a career (competitive) position?

ANSWER:  You do not have a right (i.e., an entitlement) to be reinstated to a career job. However, if you are eligible for veterans’ preference, if you had career tenure, or if you have not had a break in Federal service of more than 3 years since you left your competitive job, you do have reinstatement eligibility in the competitive service. This means you may apply for jobs open only to status candidates and do not have to compete for employment with candidates from outside the Government. However, agencies do not have to consider reinstatement candidates for any particular job.

If you are considered for reinstatement, you will have to compete with other employees and status candidates for any job that is at a higher grade than you held under your last competitive service appointment. If the job is at the same grade as your last competitive career job, the agency may reinstate you without competition, but that would be subject to the agency’s internal merit staffing policy. The agency could require you to compete with employees and status candidates at any grade.

You may be reinstated in the SES if you previously successfully completed the 1-year SES probationary period as a career appointee, or if you converted to a career SES appointment when the SES was established in 1979. However, separation from the SES career appointment must not have been for performance or disciplinary reasons.

34. If I am reemployed in the Federal Government, must the agency match my current salary and grade?

ANSWER:  An agency is not required to match your salary and grade. However, if you are reemployed in a General Schedule (GS) position, an agency may, if its internal rules permit, set your basic pay based on the highest previous rate you received in the Federal Government, but not above the highest rate for the grade of the new position.

35. If I retire, can I later return to Federal service?

ANSWER:  Yes. However, depending on the type of annuity you receive, your annuity will terminate or your salary as a reemployed annuitant will be reduced by the amount of the annuity, unless you return to work for the Department of Defense. If you received a lump-sum payment for unused annual leave and are reemployed in the Federal service before the end of the annual leave period covered by the lump-sum payment, you must refund that portion of the lump-sum payment. The refunded portion covers the period between the date of reemployment and the expiration of the lump-sum leave period. Your employing agency will recredit to you an amount of annual leave that is equal to the days or hours of work remaining between the date of reemployment and the expiration of the lump-sum leave period.

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