Military buyback and local-government service


Q: I am 50 years old and have been working for the last five years in a civil service position for a county sheriff. I served eight years and three months in the Coast Guard and have an opportunity to move to a federal job. If I stay in my current position, I will have to wait until I am 65 to retire. Is there a retirement benefit to moving to the federal job? Can I combine the periods that I have worked in the military, civil service and in a federal job for a total of 20 years and retire when I am 62? Can I use the civil service job to count toward retirement, and if so, will I have to buy that time back? Will it require that I “buy back” military time? How do you find out how much that would cost?

A: While employment by a state or local government wouldn’t be creditable, your active-duty service in the Coast Guard would be. However, to get that credit you would have to make a deposit to the federal civilian retirement system, plus accumulated interest. As a practical matter, you won’t be able to find out exactly how much you’d owe until you enter the federal service, at which point your agency would lead you through the process. In the meantime, you can get a good handle on the cost by using the calculators at
As a Federal Employees Retirement System employee, you would be eligible to retire with an immediate unreduced annuity with the following combination of age and years of service: 62 and five, 60 and 20, and at your minimum retirement age with 30. You could also retire at your MRA with at least 10 but fewer tham 30 years of service; however, your annuity would be reduced by 5 percent for every year you were under age 62. MRAs range between 55 and 57, depending on your year of birth.


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Reg Jones was head of retirement and insurance policy at the Office of Personnel Management. Email your retirement-related questions to

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