People who return to government after a break in service can boost their pensions by buying back their lost service time via installment payments from their monthly retirement checks under the Budget Reconciliation Act now at the White House.

The government will announce details of the new benefit shortly. It was outlined to key federal personnel officials at a meeting last week at the Office of Personnel Management.

Bear in mind that this change is for people who return to government. It has no connection with the lump-sum pension option available to people who retire from government. That option ends Nov. 30.

Seven of every 10 people who come to work for the government leave before becoming eligible for any kind of retirement benefit. Most withdraw the money they contributed to the Civil Service Retirement System -- about 7 percent of their annual salary -- when they resign because they need the money and don't plan to return to federal service.

But many people come back to work for Uncle Sam and wind up making the government a career. However, those who had withdrawn their retirement contributions lose service credit for that time.

Federal pensions are based on the individual's highest- three-year average salary and length of service. Each year of refunded service credit will increase an individual's annuity by 2 percent of the high-three-year salary. That is worth money. Depending on an employee's salary, each extra year added to service credit time means an increase in the annual pension of a few hundred to several thousand dollars.

Workers who return to federal service almost always find it to their advantage to redeposit their withdrawn contributions (plus interest) to get a higher annuity. But many people couldn't afford to redeposit the funds. Enter the proposed change:

If signed by the president, it would allow anyone who retires (except on disability) after Dec. 1 to make the redeposit refund in a single check (plus interest) or pay it off over the life of the annuity via deductions from monthly retirement checks. The repayment plan applies only to refunded service before Oct. 1, 1990.

By making the redeposit, the retiree gets a larger (usually much larger) pension that is indexed to inflation. The retiree gets cost-of-living adjustments on the larger amount, increasing the value of compounding that much more.

The monthly deductions are prorated actuarially and take a relatively small bite out of the check compared with how much smaller that check would be if the redeposit wasn't made.

Redeposits, Lump Sums

Tomorrow at noon on WNTR radio (1050 AM), Joe Richardson of Government Retirement & Benefits Inc. will talk about the lump-sum pension option, which expires Nov. 30. He will also discuss the new redeposit rule and other retirement changes made under the budget agreement.

Patent Examiners

The Patent and Trademark Office in Arlington will have a job fair today and tomorrow to recruit patent examiners. Hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Call Keith Ariola at 703-557-5817.