Military buyback


Q. I left the active-duty Army with 15 years of service to take a federal law enforcement position (6c). I’ve bought back all 15 years of service, and now I have the opportunity to go back on active duty with the Army (I’ve been in the Reserve) and complete five years for an active-duty retirement. What happens to the buyback time and money when I return to my federal job if I complete the active-duty retirement after I’ve finished the military buyback payments and I have an updated service computation date?

What if I finished the federal retirement first with the military buyback years, then went on to finish my active-duty retirement? Would I lose the federal time and money from the military buyback?

A. If you were called to active duty, meaning that you had no option but to go, and returned to your former covered position, that service would be credited toward your eligibility to retire under the more generous law enforcement officer formula but only if you made a deposit to the retirement system. If you volunteered to go on active duty and returned, you’d still have to make a deposit to get credit for that time, but it wouldn’t count as covered service. Note: The active-duty service for which you have already made a deposit isn’t creditable toward a law enforcement retirement. It, like the voluntary service I referred to above, would be treated as regular service and computed accordingly.

If you retired and then went on active duty, the outcome would depend on whether you were eligible for military or reserve retired pay. If you were retired from the Reserve, receiving that pay would have no effect on your civilian annuity. However, if you retired as an active-duty member of the military, you would have to waive your military retired pay to get credit for the 15 years of earlier active-duty service. If you didn’t, those years would be deducted from your civilian annuity and you’d receive a refund of your deposit for that time.


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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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