Q: I’m 56 years old, and I retired from the Air Force in 1995 ( I took the early-out with 15.5 years active-duty service).
I am eligible to retire from corporate life after 15 years there. So, now I’m below age 59 and considering starting one last career in the State Department. If I join the State Department, do I understand correctly that I can pay 3 percent of my active-duty base pay for the 15.5 years and thus have credit for 15.5 years toward a 20-year retirement with the State Department? Could I retire from the department with benefits in five years? Also, would I lose any of my military retirement pay and benefits? Could I collect both Air Force and State Department retirements and benefits? Also, do I have to pay in for the entire 15.5 years? What if I only wanted to pay in for 10 years and serve 10 years with the State Department, to reach 20 years?
A: If you went to work for a civilian employee of the federal government, you’d be covered by the Federal Employees Retirement System. The earliest that you would be able to retire would be age 62 with five years of actual FERS service. If you wanted to get credit for your active-duty service in determining your total years of service and in your annuity calculation, you’d have to deposit 3 percent of your basic military pay for every period of service prior to Jan. 1, 1999, 3.25 percent for 1999, and 3.40 percent during 2000. Any service after that would be back to 3 percent. If your active-duty service was continuous, you’d have to make a deposit for the entire time to get any credit. If you did make that deposit and worked for five years under FERS, you’d have more than 20 years of service and could retire at age 60.