Voluntary Early Retirements in the Civil Service Too Often Misused

FPCD-81-8: Published: Dec 31, 1980. Publicly Released: Dec 31, 1980.

Additional Materials:


Office of Public Affairs
(202) 512-4800

Under the civil service retirement system, employees with 30 years' service can elect to retire at age 55. In certain circumstances, they can voluntarily retire earlier. Early retirements were meant to open up jobs for younger employees who would otherwise be dismissed during agency reductions or reorganizations.

The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) is permitting too many employees to retire earlier than they normally could. Such retirements may be appropriate if they prevent younger employees from being laid off, but usually this is not the case. GAO found that: (1) agencies are not considering and exhausting other management techniques for solving staffing problems before turning to the early retirement program; (2) early retirements are not restrictive enough to insure a high probability of job savings; and (3) under the current program employees can retire early even though none of an agency's employees are facing involuntary separation. In some cases, agencies' estimates of the impact of reductions were poorly documented and proved to far exceed the eventual outcome. Early retirements in these agencies resulted primarily in new hiring, not job savings. GAO found a tendency for agencies to overstate the benefits derived from early retirement authorizations. GAO estimates that early retirements cost at least $109 million in fiscal year 1980. OPM has begun to examine more closely agency requests for early retirement authorizations. However, its basic criteria for approval remain unchanged.

Matter for Congressional Consideration

  1. Status:

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Matter: Congress should repeal the early retirement provisions included in the Civil Service Reform Act and mandate that OPM establish controls necessary to insure itself that before an early retirement authorization is granted it would (1) correct staffing difficulties which could otherwise only be corrected by a reduction in force and (2) save other employees' jobs.


Explore the full database of GAO's Open Recommendations »

Oct 30, 2020

Sep 24, 2020

Aug 28, 2020

Aug 13, 2020

Jun 16, 2020

Feb 27, 2020

Jan 9, 2020

Dec 18, 2019

Oct 21, 2019

Looking for more? Browse all our products here