In all of the discussion of the firing of Andrew McCabe, various news outlets focused his “loss” of his pension as opposed to the fact that career officials called for his firing for serious misconduct. It now appears that what was lost will soon be found for McCabe. The firing denied McCabe early pension recovery at age 50 of roughly $60,000 a year. However, that only means that he will receive the pension like other federal officials when he reaches the federal retirement age. If Democratic members have their way, it could be even shorter than that.
The FERS (Federal Employees Retirement System) benefits are vested at five years and thus were not lost with the decision. He is entitled to recover at the standard period between 57 and age 62.
The OPM manual states the following:
The early retirement benefit is avail-able in certain involuntary separation cases and in cases of voluntary separations during a major reorganization or reduction in force. To be eligible, you must meet the following requirements: [Age 50 and 20 years of service]
There is a special formula for law enforcement and other special classes:
Firefighters, Law Enforcement Officers, and Air Traffic Controllers These groups of employees receive an unreduced benefit at age 50 with 20 years of service, or at any age with 25 years of service. If you are in one of these employee groups, you contribute an additional .5% of pay to the Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS). Your annual annuity is: 1.7% of your high-3 average pay times 20 years of service plus 1.0% of your high-3 average pay times years of service exceeding 20. You also receive a Special Retirement Supplement until age 62 that approximates the Social Security benefit earned in Federal service. After you reach the Minimum Retirement Age (MRA), if you have earnings from wages or self-employment that exceed the Social Security annual exempt amount, your supplement will be reduced or stopped. In addition, you are entitled to an annual Cost-of-Living Adjustment (COLA), regardless of your age.
McCabe did lose his pension on a temporary basis since he could have benefitted under the early pension rules. However, some Democratic members are offering him a job to allow him to finish the required period on the congressional payroll. However, Forbes is reporting that that could be a problem.
Indeed, when you look at 5 U.S.§ 8412, it expressly exempts personal terminated “for cause”:
(d) An employee who is separated from the service, except by removal for cause on charges of misconduct or delinquency— (1) after completing 25 years of service as a law enforcement officer, member of the Capitol Police or Supreme Court Police, firefighter, nuclear materials courier, or customs and border protection officer, or any combination of such service totaling at least 25 years, or (2) after becoming 50 years of age and completing 20 years of service as a law enforcement officer, member of the Capitol Police or Supreme Court Police, firefighter, nuclear materials courier, or customs and border protection officer, or any combination of such service totaling at least 20 years.
McCabe was clearly removed “for cause on charges of misconduct.”
One last cautionary note for those members seeking to fill this gap in pension coverage. We have yet to see the IG report and the specific of the underlying allegations. All we know is that the allegations were reportedly serious enough for FBI Director Andrew Wray to push McCabe into terminal leave; OPR career staff to issue the rare recommendation of termination for a Deputy Director, and the Attorney General to fire him a day before his retirement. If any of these jobs require a clearance, those details may prove relevant.
Finally, as I discuss today in a column, there is still the danger of a criminal referral from the IG. That again will depend on the details.
As for the value of McCabe pension, it is estimated to be around $1.8 million given his relatively young age. He joined the FBI in 1996 and finished at an ES Level 4 pay scale. The Federal Employees Retirement System allows for law enforcement officers to receive 1.7 percent of their average highest salary over a period of three consecutive years per year in the agent’s first 20 years of service. They then receive 1 percent of the highest average salary for each year exceeding 20 years of service, which in McCabe’s case would be for a single year. His highest salary was $160,300 in 2016 and , after James Comey appointed him deputy director. In 2017, remaining in an ES Level 4 position, he receive $161,900 in 2017
He will is also be eligible for cost of living adjustment above his base pension.