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Office of Personnel Management Retirement Benefits

Frequently Asked Questions about Income Withholding and National Medical Support Notice (NMSN)

Published: March 1, 2012
Information About:
State/Local Child Support Agencies
Employer Responsibilities, Income/Wage Withholding, National Medical Support Notice
FAQs, Guides/Publications/Reports

How do I determine whether a noncustodial parent (NCP)/federal civilian retiree is receiving federal retirement benefits from the Office of Personnel Management (OPM)?

In order to determine if an NCP is receiving federal retirement benefits, child support workers may need locate information not available through the National Directory of New Hires (NDNH) or Federal Case Registry's (FCR) automatic data matching. Information on retirement benefits from OPM is not available through the automatic data matching that occurs between the NDNH and the FCR. However, by using the Federal Parent Locator Service's (FPLS) external locate service/State Systems Portal, state child support enforcement (CSE) agencies may request additional information to determine whether an NCP is receiving federal retirement benefits.

States can designate which sources the FPLS should check for information. The federal Office of Child Support Enforcement (OCSE) will process the requests and return information directly to the requesting state.

What are the OPM Regulations on Garnishment (Income Withholding for Child Support)?

The following citation from Title 5, Chapter 1, Part 581 of the Code of Federal Regulations (5 CFR 581), "Processing Garnishment (Income Withholding Orders) Orders for Child Support and/or Alimony," lists federal periodic (meaning paid on a regular basis) benefits that are subject to attachment:

  1. Periodic benefits
    1. Pensions;
    2. Retirement benefits;
    3. Retired/retainer pay;
    4. Annuities; and
    5. Dependents' or survivors' benefits when payable to the obligor;
  2. Refunds of retirement contributions where an application has been filed;
  3. Amounts received under any Federal program for compensation for work injuries;
  4. Benefits received under the Longshoremen's and Harbor Workers' Compensation Act; and
  5. Compensation for death under any Federal program, including death gratuities.
  6. Any payment by the Secretary of Veterans Affairs as compensation for a service-connected disability paid by the Secretary to a former member of the Armed Forces who is in receipt of retired or retainer pay if the former member has waived either the entire amount or a portion of the retired or retainer pay in order to receive such compensation. In such cases, only that part of the Department of Veterans Affairs payment that is in lieu of the waived retired pay or waived retainer pay is subject to garnishment.

What retirement benefits do federal agency employees receive?

The majority of federal civilian employees are covered by either the Civil Service Retirement System or the Federal Employees' Retirement System, the two primary retirement systems administered by OPM. Those not covered by either of these two primary retirement systems include federal civilian employees in:

  • foreign service;
  • retired employees holding temporary appointments, who are covered solely by Social Security; and
  • retired employees of the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA), who are covered by TVA's retirement system.

When a federal employee retires, it is the responsibility of the employing federal agency to inform the child support office why the income attachment is ending. The child support office then reissues the order to OPM, as OPM will not honor an income withholding order (IWO) that is directed to another federal agency unless there is a cover page indicating that the order is still in effect and should be honored. If OPM receives an IWO from a private entity (attorney, custodial parent or private agency), that entity must provide a copy of the underlying IWO.

Where do I send an IWO to attach the pension of a retired federal government civilian employee?

If a child support caseworker is sending an IWO to attach the pension or annuity of a retired federal government civilian employee, the worker should send the notice to:

Office of Personnel Management
Court Ordered Benefits Branch
P.O. Box 17
Washington, DC 20044-0017
Phone: (202) 606-0222
Fax: (202) 606-7958

Where do I send the NMSN for a retired Federal government civilian employee?

OPM must comply with the NMSN if a child support order had been issued prior to the employee's retirement. However, because retirees were not included in the Federal Employees Health Benefits Plan Children's Equity Act of 2000, OPM is not required to honor orders for medical support issued after the individual retires.

Send the NMSN to:

Office of Personnel Management
Chief, Retirement Benefits Branch/RESG
1900 E Street NW, Room 4H31
Washington, DC 20014

Where do I send a termination of the IWO or NMSN for the attachment of retired federal government civilian employee benefits?

Termination of the IWO or NMSN should be sent to the applicable addresses listed above.