Overview of the Congressional Pension Plan

Congressional pension is a pension plan available to the members of U.S. Congress. It is part of the Federal Employee Retirement System. Members of Congress use it to supplement retirement funds generated through social security. The qualifications and benefits vary slightly, depending the age of the member of Congress and how long they served. Members of Congress receive benefits even if they left Congress before retirement age, though their benefits are deferred until they retire.

Understanding the Congressional Pension Plan

The congressional pension plan was originally introduced shortly after the end of World War II. At the time, it was justified as an incentive to encourage the members of Congress to retire rather than stay in office until they die. Originally, the plan was part of the Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS). In 1984, it was transferred to the Federal Employees' Retirement System (FERS). Members of Congress who were elected before 1984 could either remain in CSRS, or transfer to FERS. The benefits they received varied depending on which system they are part of.

Congressional Pension Qualifications

Eligibility for the congressional pension program varies depending on age. Members of Congress who are 62 or older are eligible after serving in either house of Congress for five years. Members of Congress between between 50 and 62 are eligible for the plan after 20 years of service. Members of Congress who are younger than 50 are eligible after 25 years of service. Members of Congress who left service before reaching retirement age will have their beneifits deferred until they turn 65. Members of Congress can choose not to receive the pension, but very few of them actually do.

How Congressional Pension Program is Funded

The congressional pension program is funded using the combination of taxes and contributions from the members of Congress. The maximum required contributions vary depending on whether a member of Congress falls under FERS or CSRS. They could also generate additional retirement funds by enrolling in a Thrift Savings Plan (TSP). Members of Congress who fell under FERS can contribute up to 10 percent of their salaries. Members of Congress who fall under CSRS could contribute up to 5 percent of their salary.

How Much do the Members of Congress Receive

The amount of money a retired member of Congress receives is determined using complex mathematical formulas that factors in when they joined Congress, how old they were when they retired, how many years they served in Congress and in federal government and their salary.

CSRS and RERS use different formulas. Generally speaking, members of Congress who fall under CSRS earn more money than FERS. However, this is somewhat balanced out by the fact that members of Congress who fall under FERS can save more money though TSP. The amount of money they get every year cannot exceed 80 percent of their annual salary. TSP contributions don't fall under this limit.

Congressional Pension Plan and Criminal Behavior

Members of Congress are convicted of crimes while in office can still receive their congressional pension, even if they were expelled from Congress. There have been several bills that attempted to address this, but so far, none of them passed.

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