Military and civil service retirement pay


Q. I have 26 years as an Air Force Reserve technician; I have been offered an Active Guard Reserve tour that would give me 20 years’ active duty in five years. Will I lose my civil service retirement if I retire on the military side with 20 years, or will I be able to draw both since I have worked both?

A. If you will be receiving military retired pay, to get credit for your years of active-duty service in your civilian annuity, you’ll have to make a deposit to the retirement fund and waive that pay when you retire. If you will be receiving Reserve retired pay, you’ll have to make a deposit for only your active-duty service. Your Reserve retired pay wouldn’t be affected.


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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


  1. Reg, If this individual goes on LWOP-US (Absent-US) and reinstates under the 5 year mark but still achieves enough time for an immediate retirement (20 years not under Chapter 1223) would he be able to buy back his LWOP-US time under USERRA without waiving retired pay? USSERA States:
    USERRA Section 4318 states that:
    (2)(A) A person reemployed under this chapter shall be treated as not having incurred a break in service with the employer or employers maintaining the plan by reason of such person’s period or periods of service in the uniformed services.

    (B) Each period served by a person in the uniformed services shall, upon reemployment under this chapter, be deemed to constitute service with the employer or employers maintaining the plan for the purpose of determining the nonforfeitability of the person’s accrued benefits and for the purpose of determining the accrual of benefits under the plan.

  2. Malone,

    USERRA offers the “Escalator Principle” it applies to the original position but with some caveats, nevertheless with regards to seniority, the person doesn’t have to buy back LWOP. Like an ascending escalator It is as if he or she never left, those years missed are actually good years for purposes of promotion and retirement. What you might be referring to is that the returning soldiers are allowed to catch up their 401k contribution payments that they missed while on active duty. Also the 5 year mark is not set in stone, there are exceptions to those 5 years, for one SecDef can deem that person to be essential to the mission. Hope this helps.

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