Thousands of people who switched from the old Civil Service Retirement System to the new Federal Employees Retirement System are eligible for substantial refunds on most of the money they contributed to the older pension plan.

In some cases those refunds are worth several thousand dollars.

Employees eligible are those who weren't "titled" (vested) in the CSRS system, generally meaning they had less than five years of CSRS service when they switched to FERS.

When Congress set up FERS for employees hired after 1983, it allowed a six-month open season last year when those covered by the old system could move into FERS. Less than 2 percent of the 2 million eligible employees made the switch.

An immediate advantage of FERS for those not vested in the old pension program was that they could get refunds on most of their retirement contributions. Generally that would equal 5.7 percent of their pay under CSRS plus interest.

Most CSRS workers contribute 7 percent of pay to that system. Those under FERS contribute 1.3 percent. The 5.7 percent refund amount represents the difference between what they contributed to FERS and the 1.3 percent they would have paid had they been under FERS.

The Office of Personnel Management has already paid thousands of refunds, but stopped early this year when Congress made changes in the way refund interest is paid. That temporary halt has affected the 1,500 to 2,000 refund requests OPM received after Jan. 8. Officials expect they will be processed and paid within the next three weeks.

Workers who made the switch and think they qualify for a refund should contact their personnel office. Refunds should be handled by your agency and forwarded to OPM.

Police Pay Raises

Special-rate pay raises have been approved by OPM for 1,939 uniformed members of the Secret Service and U.S. Park Police, as well as for 879 police officers at the National Institutes of Health, Defense Department, Treasury and General Services Administration:

Secret Service: The new annual salary for officers is $23,487, an increase of 12 percent; officer-technician, $24,297, (12 percent); sergeant, $30,751 (8 percent); lieutenant, $34,878 (6 percent); captain, $40,537 (4 percent); inspector, $46,988 (4 percent); deputy chief, $55,136 (4 percent); and chief, $65,370 (4 percent).

Park Police: Privates' salaries will rise to $23,487 and private-technicians' to $24,297, both 12 percent raises; private pilot, $25,757 (11 percent); detective, $28,312 (8 percent); line sergeant, $30,751 (8 percent); sergeant technician, $31,561 (8 percent); and lieutenant, $34,878 (6 percent). Four percent increases will go to captains, $40,537; majors, $46,988; deputy chiefs, $55,136 and chiefs, $65,370.

DOD, NIH, Treasury, GSA Rates: Grade 4 trainee will be paid $16,663 annually, an increase of 23.3 percent; GS 5 officer, $17,638 (16.7 percent); GS 6, $19,099 (13.3 percent); GS 7, $20,598 and GS 8, $22,812 (10 percent); GS 9, $24,435 (6.7 percent); and GS 10, $26,067 (3.3 percent).

Reps. Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.) and Frank R. Wolf (R-Va.) pushed the raises to bring the federal police up to salary levels of the D.C. police.