Military buyback and leave accrual

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Q. A buddy and I both retired from military service recently and now work as civilians for the federal government (in different departments). We both “bought back” our academy time (just under four years) and they will now count toward our civilian careers. However, my department also counted these years for leave accrual, such that I have been earning six hours per pay period.

My friend’s department did not count these years for leave accrual, so he is only earning four hours per pay period.

It seems to me that his department only referred to 1-6 of this reference: http://www.opm.gov/feddata/gppa/gppa06.pdf (which I noticed you used in this Q&A: http://blogs.federaltimes.com/federal-retirement/2012/01/30/creditable-military-service-and-leave-accrual/)

However, looking at 1-4, there is another reference to consider: The law states: “In determining years of service, an employee is entitled to credit for all service of a type that would be creditable under section 8332” … And while paragraph J-1 of that reference would seem to indicate “No” for our situation, paragraph J-2 reads as follows: (2) The provisions of paragraph (1) of this subsection relating to credit for military service shall not apply to: (A) any period of military service of an employee or Member with respect to which the employee or Member has made a deposit with interest, if any, under section 8334(j) of this title;”

Do you believe his department is correct, or mine? If mine, then how can he go about correcting this, having already tried a couple of times?

A. According to the Office of Personnel Management:

“Section 1115 of the [National Defense Authorization Act] for FY 2008 is the applicable provision of law that explicitly makes academy service time creditable for retirement — and therefore for annual leave accrual purposes.

“Section 1115 of the NDAA amended title 5 United States Code so that it explicitly made academy service time creditable toward retirement for both CSRS and FERS employees. Service is creditable retrospectively, as well as prospectively. Here is the Section 1115 text-

“SEC. 1115. RETIREMENT SERVICE CREDIT FOR SERVICE AS CADET OR MIDSHIPMAN AT A MILITARY SERVICE ACADEMY.

(a) CIVIL SERVICE RETIREMENT SYSTEM.-Section 8331(13) of title 5, United States Code, is amended by striking “but” and inserting “and includes service as a cadet at the United States Military Academy, the United States Air Force Academy, or the United States Coast Guard Academy, or as a midshipman at the United States Naval Academy, but

(b) FEDERAL EMPLOYEES RETIREMENT SYSTEM.-Section 8401(31) of such title is amended by striking “but” and inserting “and includes service as a cadet at the United States Military Academy, the United States Air Force Academy, or the United States Coast Guard Academy, or as a midshipman at the United States Naval Academy, but

(c) APPLICABILITY. The amendments made by this section shall apply to

(1) any annuity, eligibility for which is based upon a separation occurring before, on, or after the date of enactment of this Act; and

(2) any period of service as a cadet at the United States Military Academy, the United States Air Force Academy, or the United States Coast Guard Academy, or as a midshipman at the United States Naval Academy, occurring before, on, or after the date of enactment of this Act.

“In terms of credit for annual leave accrual purposes, it’s important to understand how the statute governing service credit for annual leave accrual purposes is written. 5 U.S.C. 6303 (a) provides that service which would be creditable for CSRS retirement purposes is creditable for determining an employee’s years of service for leave accrual purposes.

Once one understands the 5 U.S.C. 6303(a) text, it becomes clear that, since academy service time is creditable for retirement purposes, it is creditable for purposes of determining an employee’s annual leave service credit date.

“Here is the title 5, chapter 63 reference —

“5 U.S.C. 6303 (a)-

“…In determining years of service, an employee is entitled to credit for all service of a type that would be creditable under section 8332, regardless of whether or not the employee is covered by subchapter III of chapter 83, and for all service which is creditable by virtue of subsection (e). However, an employee who is a retired member of a uniformed service as defined by section 3501 of this title is entitled to credit for active military service only if–

(A) his retirement was based on disability–

(i) resulting from injury or disease received in line of duty as a direct result of armed conflict; or

(ii) caused by an instrumentality of war and incurred in line of duty during a period of war as  defined by sections 101 and 1101 of title 38;

(B) that service was performed in the armed forces during a war, or in a campaign or expedition for which a campaign badge has been authorized; or

(C) on November 30, 1964, he was employed in a position to which this subchapter applies and thereafter he continued to be so employed without a break in service of more than 30 days…”

“Therefore, academy service time is creditable for annual leave accrual purposes. For military retirees who have had academy service time, the restrictions of 5 U.S.C. 6303(a)(A)-(C) would of course apply.”

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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 fedexperts@federaltimes.com.

4 Comments

  1. Does this mean that academy graduates no longer have to “buy back” their academy time to have that time count for federal retirement and leave? I’m not a legal expert, and, having read the applicable USC several times, it’s still not clear to me.

    • A deposit must be made to get credit for active duty service and/or attendance at one of the service academies.

  2. I just started again back in the GS sector after 16 years. I have 7 years, 4 months of active duty Air Force, honorable discharge. Previously, I was credited that service for leave accrual. Staffing at my Civilian Personnel office says I have to buy back my time before I’m bumped up to the 6 hour level, I’m currently at 4. I have not found anything that states I have to buy it back and I have relatives that have been in recent GS postions and civilians that work with my husband that say they my CPO is full of BS.

    Has this process changed over the years? I found chapter 6 of the OPM guide that says my service is counted, but nothing that says I have to buy it back first.

    • Your personnel office is mistaken. Nothing has changed. You should automatically receive credit toward your leave accrual rate. However, you’d have to make a deposit for that time if you want to get credit for it in determining your years of service for retirement purposes.

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