Can you lose your retirement benefits if fired from federal job

As experienced federal employment attorneys, we often receive questions from employees facing termination.

Employees ask, Can you lose your retirement if you’re fired? And what happens if you get fired from a federal job? In this article, we’ll cover these frequently asked questions and others.

If you have any more questions or want advice specific to your situation, we’re always here to help. Even if you are facing termination, you don’t have to give up without a fight. Contact one of our skilled MSPB lawyers by filling out our online form or calling (800) 801-0598 today.

Please be aware: Our practice focuses on full-time federal employees only. We encourage contract employees/contractors to reach out to another firm. However, if you are a federal contractor who is supervised by a federal employee and have suffered discrimination or retaliation, we may be able to help.

Question #1: Can You Lose Your Retirement If You Are Fired?

Yes, it’s possible. However, it’s fairly rare and depends on the circumstances of your termination. As a member of the Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS), you are entitled to three retirement benefits. 

These include:

  • A basic retirement benefit,
  • A Social Security benefit, and 
  • A Thrift Savings Plan (TSP).

In the case, Morrison v. Department of the Navy, the Merit Systems Protection Board reiterated that “[r]etirement benefits earned over the course of one’s federal career are generally available upon separation from federal service.” This axiom applies even when the agency initiates the separation. 

However, there are a few exceptions to this rule. United States law states that employee forfeits their retirement benefits when a court convicts them of one of several specific crimes. 

These include:

  • Harboring or concealing persons,
  • Delivering defense information to aid a foreign government,
  • Treason,
  • Enlistment to serve against the United States,
  • False testimony before a federal court, and
  • Rebellion.

Clearly, most federal employees don’t commit these kinds of crimes. Consequently, it’s highly likely you will be able to hold onto your retirement benefits after termination. 

Question #2: Is It Better to Resign or Be Fired from the Federal Government?

Most people see resignation from a federal job as a much less severe action than removal. Therefore, resigning can maintain the integrity of your employment record. In addition, when you resign, you can give notice and prepare for your departure. This can help you leave on good terms with your employer. Resigning is also a more proactive choice, rather than waiting for a negative outcome. This means less anxiety and stress about your future.

Yet, there are drawbacks to resigning. For instance, resigning without cause can lead you to lose out on important unemployment benefits. Additionally, see below it can harm any potential case that you may want to file as an appeal of your removal.

On the other hand, termination often has strongly negative consequences. Specifically, it will damage your employment record and may limit your future job opportunities. However, if your employer fires you, you can often collect unemployment benefits. As a federal employee, you can often challenge the termination through legal means, such as an MSPB appeal.

Questions about your federal retirement? Request a consultation online Or, call our office at (800) 801-0598

Question #3: What Happens If You Get Fired from a Federal Job?

There are several unmistakable effects of termination from a federal job. 

First, you will lose your source of income. You may also face difficulty finding new employment, particularly in the federal government. One reason for this is that federal agencies and contractors frequently share information about employees who were terminated for misconduct or poor performance.

Another consequence of termination from a federal job relates to your security clearance. Depending on the reason for your termination, you may lose your security clearance. In more serious situations, the government may deem you ineligible for future security clearances. As you can imagine, this will also limit your future job prospects.

However, after your employer walks you out the door, you have several benefits. First, you are eligible to receive a lump-sum payment for your unused annual leave. Second, you may also be eligible for unemployment benefits in your home state. Finally, most federal employees have the right to appeal their termination. 

Question #4: Do You Lose Your Federal Pension If You Get Fired?

can you lose your retirement if fired

As we mentioned, there are only a few situations where your FERS retirement is affected if you’re terminated.

These situations apply whether you are getting fired before your retirement or after you reach retirement age.

Nonetheless, there are situations where your agency or the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) erroneously decides to cancel your retirement benefits after your termination. In these situations, you may appeal OPM’s decision before the Merit Systems Protection Board. 

Even if you are eligible for retirement benefits after your retirement, you need to jump through several hoops to obtain your benefits. This includes submitting a Standard Form 3107 and contacting your agency’s human resources department.

Indeed, the retirement application takes a significant amount of work and patience. For that reason, we recommend seeking legal counsel so that your retirement process goes smoothly.

Do Not Resign from Your Job Until You Speak With an Attorney!

This point is absolutely critical. Even if you are sure your agency is going to fire you, contact an attorney before making any final decisions. There are a few reasons for this. First, you may lose out on an opportunity to bargain with your employer and negotiate a more graceful exit. Second, resigning may cause you to lose out on valuable appeal rights.

At the very least, you can expect a resignation to weaken your chances of successfully appealing your employer’s actions down the road. This is primarily because resignations are often viewed as involuntary retirements rather than removals. Involuntary retirement appeals are more difficult to win, while removal-related appeals provide several key benefits to the appellant. 

How Our Federal Employment Lawyers Can Help

At Pines Federal, we specialize in representing federal employees who face problems in their workplaces. Our attorneys have a wealth of knowledge and experience in the laws and regulations that govern federal employment. That means we understand all the complexities of your situation and the challenges you face. We also know what it feels like to face unjust termination, especially when you are close to the finish line.


“A change in leadership brought me the worst of luck with a suddenly very hostile work environment, but pure serendipity led me to Pines Federal. I am so lucky to have found Pines Federal which not only has considerable expertise in federal employee cases, but also has the compassion to recognize the emotional impact on their clients.”

– Jennifer H.

If you are facing possible termination, we can help you understand your rights and develop a strategy tailored to your needs and the facts of your case. We will work with you to gather evidence, prepare your response, and represent you in administrative proceedings before the MSPB or EEOC. Whatever you choose, our goal is to help you achieve the best possible outcome in your case and protect your rights.

Ready to move forward? Contact us online or call us at (800) 801-0598 to schedule a consultation and learn more about how we can help you.