Q. I served for 13 years and four months in the active-duty Air Force after graduating from a service academy. After taking a job in the airline industry, I continued serving in the Air Force Reserve for another 10 years. I turned 60 in March and started drawing reserve retirement pay in April. I am considering employment as a Federal Aviation Association air safety inspector when I retire from my airline job, perhaps this year.
I’ve been told by a friend at the FAA that all of my active-duty time plus my time at the service academy will count toward federal retirement if I buy back some military time. He was not sure how long I’d have to work for the FAA at a minimum to be “fully vested” for federal retirement, but he thought that it could be as few as three years (13 active + 4 service academy + 3 for a total of 20). Also, based on some of the Q&As here, it sounds as though I may have to stop my reserve retirement pay and perhaps pay back any that I’ve received to start federal employment.
Can you explain this and clear up any misunderstandings that I may have?
A. If you go to work for the federal government, you could make a deposit to the civilian retirement system and get credit for all of your military service academy and active-duty time. Because you are receiving reserve retired pay, you wouldn’t have to waive that pay when you retired from your civilian job.
For service before Jan. 1, 1999, the deposit equals 3 percent of your basic military pay (not allowances or differentials). For periods of service during 1999, the deposit is 3.24 percent. For periods of service in 2000, 3.4 percent. For any periods of service after 2000, it’s 3 percent.
To be vested in the civilian retirement system, you would have to have five years of actual civilian service. Once you had that, the active-duty service for which you made a deposit would be creditable for retirement. Your annuity would be calculated using the following formula: .011 x your highest three consecutive years of average basic pay x your years and full months of creditable service (actual and active-duty service for which you made a deposit). The first multiplier would be .011 instead of .01 because you’d be at least age 60 and have at least 20 years of service.