What is a Civil Service Retirement System?

The Civil Service Retirement System is a system that provided the retirement, disability, and survivor benefits for most U.S. civilian service employees working for the federal government. It was replaced in 1987 by the Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS), but employees who were originally set up through the CSRS still receive their benefits through that program, unless they were hired after 1983.

Understanding the Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS)

CSRS was created in 1920, and at that time possessed most of the features of traditional pension plans. Today, FERS also incorporates Social Security benefits, government contributions, and employee contributions.

How the System Works

According to Benefits.gov, FERS is a "retirement plan that provides benefits from three different sources: a Basic Benefit Plan, Social Security and the Thrift Savings Plan (TSP). Two of the three parts of FERS (Social Security and the TSP) can go with you to your next job if you leave the Federal Government before retirement. The Basic Benefit and Social Security parts of FERS require you to pay your share each pay period. Your agency withholds your contributions for the Basic Benefit and Social Security from your pay as payroll deductions. Your agency pays its part too. Then, after you retire, you receive annuity payments each month for the rest of your life."

The system has four categories of benefits:

  • Immediate: If you retire at the MRA with at least 10, but less than 30 years of service, your benefit will be reduced by 5 percent a year for each year you are under 62, unless you have 20 years of service and your benefit starts when you reach age 60 or later.
  • Early: The early retirement benefit is available in certain involuntary separation cases and in cases of voluntary separations during a major reorganization or reduction in force.
  • Deferred: If you retire at the MRA with at least 10, but less than 30 years of service, your benefit will be reduced by 5 percent a year for each year you are under 62, unless you have 20 years of service and your benefit starts when you reach age 60 or older.
  • Disability: You must have become disabled, while employed in a position subject to FERS, because of a disease or injury, for useful and efficient service in your current position. The disability must be expected to last at least one year. Your agency must certify that it is unable to accommodate your disabling medical condition in your present position and that it has considered you for any vacant position in the same agency at the same grade/pay level, within the same commuting area, for which you are qualified for reassignment."