Federal employment reinstatement


Q. I am eligible for federal employment reinstatement with military preference. I was a GS-12 Step 3 with six years of seniority. I left federal employment in 1986. If I am reinstated as a GS-12, will I re-enter at Step 3 or Step 1? Will I retain my six years of seniority plus four years for my military service?

A. The fact that you are reinstatement eligible doesn’t mean that you have automatic entitlement to a particular grade or step. You’ll have to find a position for which you are qualified and apply for it. Depending on your qualifications, you could be offered one at your previous grade or one above or below it. Part of the step determination may depend on what you are making now.

If you come back to work for the government, you will get credit for you prior years of civilian service. And it will also be used in your annuity calculation, unless you took a refund of your retirement contributions when you left. If so, you’ll have the option of redepositing that amount plus accrued interest or having your annuity reduced acturially based on how much you owe and your age at retirement. Depending on when your active-duty service was performed, you may have to make a deposit to get credit for it.


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 have a question I separated from the Federal Government in 2016 as a GS 8-5 In 2019 I came back to a different Federal agency I accepted a GS 6 position and was told that I could not get my GS 8-5 pay because I was separated more the 5 months, I have now been at the job for 2 years and was told that I should have received my GS 8-5 pay rate is this true?

    • The fact that you were separated for more than 5 months when you came back to work was irrelevant. There is no such rule. However, the agency you went to wasn’t required to hire you back at the same grade you had when you left. You could have turned down that offer and asked to be reemployed at your former grade. Whether they agreed would be up to them.

  2. I have a question, I separated from USPS in 1996 after 11 years, 8 months of service. I was recently told that if I went back to USPS now I can request to have my previous years of service reinstated. Is there any truth to these?

        • If you go back to work for the government, your agency personnel office will get your prior service record from the National Records Center in St. Louis, Missouri. If you didn’t ask for a refund of your retirement contributions when you resigned from the government, for service credit purposes it will be as if you had never left. If you did get a refund, you may want to repay that amount, plus accrued interest, so that the time can be used in your annuity computation when you retire from the government.

  3. I was recently reinstated to the same agency I left less than 3 years ago. Prior I was a federal employee with over 15 years. Now that I am back does my reinstatement go back to my original service date or will I have a new service date? I did withdraw my retirement when I left 3 years ago.

    • Because you took a refund of your retirement contributions when you left, you were barred from redepositing that money when you returned to federal service. As a result, that time isn’t creditable for determining your length of service, and can’t be used for FERS annuity computation purposes. On the other hand, that refunded FERS service is creditable for annual leave, RIF and Thrift Savings Plan (TSP) vesting purposes. Therefore, if you were placed in the wrong leave accrual category, your agency must adjust their records and put you in the correct one.

  4. Former federal civil service employee with over 30 years of service. I applied for a job that has 2 different announcements for the same position. One for public and the other for current/Former employees via MERIT. I meet reinstatement criteria and was sent a letter for both announcements that i qualified for the position. My name was sent to the selecting official on both openings. I was offered a position for the “public” announcement but for a lower grade. I asked the contact person for the public announcement and inquired on whether i should accept or deny it given the fact that my name was also sent to the selecting official for the other opening geared for current/former employees. The person told me there was no difference between the 2 and to accept the offer. Which i found odd and if they had no idea what reinstatement Involves. But i will ask anyway, is this true? I have always been of the mindset, that reinstatement is in fact to reinstate. Grade/pay and a few other previous criteria. By accepting a PUBLIC announcement, does this eliminate my application for reinstatement? Or, could i be able to have my reinstatement request honored if i were to accept a public position at a lower grade? Or, should request to be hired at my previous grade which the position does reach? What say you?

    • Reinstatement means exactly that. You would be reinstated at the grade and step you had when you left government. Since the posting of announcements is an agency matter, your accepting of the public announcement position could result in their cancelling the reinstatement announcement. Anyhow, you are free to negotiating with the agency about the grade and step you’d accept. If they agree to your terms, fine. If they don’t, you can either accept the lower grade or decline the offer.

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