Under 5 U.S.C. § 5724(i), for an employee to be eligible for relocation expenses associated with a transfer to a new duty station, the employee must agree in writing to remain in government service for twelve months after his transfer. While the statute allows for relaxation of the one-year commitment in limited instances where facts show that an employee is separated for reasons beyond his control, an announced intention to retire does not nullify a signed permanent change of service (PCS) service agreement. See In the Matter of Dale W. Shepherd, GSBCA 16921-RELO, 06-2 BCA ¶ 33,435.
For example, in a recent Civilian Board of Contract Appeals (CBCA) appeal, the claimant Richard Hudon sought to have a debt - the result of a demand for repayment of permanent change of station (PCS) transportation costs - nullified. On May 17, 2011, Mr. Hudon received notice of PCS transfer from Seattle, WA to the DEA headquarters in Arlington, VA. On May 23, Mr. Hudon submitted an unsigned service agreement to DEA and noted on the service agreement that he was refusing to sign because he intended to retire on June 30, 2012. On May 24, 2011, DEA notified Mr. Hudon that absent his signing the service agreement, PCS orders could not be issued. Then, on May 25, 2011, Mr. Hudon submitted retirement paperwork in Seattle which specified a retirement date of June 30, 2012. See In the Matter of Richard M. Hudon, CBCA 3056-RELO (Apr. 25, 2013).
Thereafter, Mr. Hudon requested DEA postpone his transfer until his retirement date of June 30, 2012. Mr. Hudon advised DEA by e-mail message, "[A]s per my earlier e-mails, I will not have any relocation expenses and will not expect authorization since I will retire this spring and prefer not to pay it back." DEA denied his request to delay his transfer. Further, DEA informed Mr. Hudon that, if he refused to sign the service agreement, DEA would not authorize funding for his PCS; however, DEA would still require Mr. Hudon to report, as ordered, to headquarters in Arlington, Virginia. Id.
On July 7, 2011, Mr. Hudon signed the service agreement, which included a one-year commitment to remain with DEA. Mr. Hudon completed the relocation, submitted a claim of $1956.88 for reimbursement, and was later reimbursed. On March 31, 2012, less than a year after the transfer, Mr. Hudon retired. DEA then sought repayment of the $1956.88 it had paid him, ultimately leading to Mr. Hudon’s appeal to the CBCA. See id.
Finding that at the time Mr. Hudon signed the service agreement he did not intend to fulfill the one-year commitment and that he knew that a failure to meet the commitment would require him to repay any PCS funds provided, the CBCA found the debt valid and denied Mr. Hudon’s claim. See id. Thus, even the best laid retirement plans may run afoul of your employer’s right to assign work.