High-3 and LWOP for military service


Q: I am a federal employee GS 1811-14 step 10 with the ATF. I am also a member of the Army Reserve. For the last several years I have performed extensive military service in LWOP status from my civilian position with ATF. I am now approaching retirement and being told that my high-3 is based upon “actual” pay received and not my grade and step at the time. In that the LWOP I used to perform military duty significantly reduces the pay I would have received for my grade/steps/25 percent LEAP, I am significantly penalized for my military service. As I understand USARA, I should be viewed under the “elevator principle” as if I would have been present for my civilian position continuously. How to I guarantee that my high-3 years of service for retirement are not reduced for all of the LWOP days I had to take for military service? My military duty is fragmented throughout the year and as high as 180 days of LWOP. My annual salary with ATF (for grade and steps w/ LEAP) is approx $155,000 (including my LEAP). The “actual” pay I received for what should have been one of my high-3 last years is about half.

A: Whoever told you that you would only get credit for the time you were actually at work when determining your high-3 was mistaken. Up to six months of LWOP in a calendar year would be treated as if you were still on the rolls for all retirement purposes. Therefore, your high-3 would be unchanged. Further, if that was military leave was taken under 5 U.S.C. 6323(a), your civilian pay would remain the same, including any premium pay (except Sunday premium pay) you would have received if not on military leave regardless of how long you were on LWOP.


About Author

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


  1. I am a GS-12, Step 10 in the National Guard. I have been on Title 10 orders for the last 5 years of my service. When I come off of this Title 10 tour I will retire.

    My question is: Will my high 3 be based on the last 3 years of what I would have made as a GS-12, Step 10 or will my high 3 be based what I made as a GS-12 prior to my Title 10 tour? How will my pay be calculated?

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