Return to active duty and military buyback


Q. I separated from active duty after 11 years and began federal civilian service. I paid $19,000 to “buy back” my military time, and I am approaching 20 years of combined service. I now have an opportunity to return to active-duty status. If I complete nine more years of active service and qualify for an active-duty retirement, what happens to my “buyback” years? I assume they won’t count toward my FERS retirement anymore, but will I get a refund?

A. To receive credit for those additional years of active-duty service, you’d need to return to work for the federal government, make a deposit for that most recent period of service, and waive your military retired pay when you retire from your civilian position. If you don’t plan to work for the federal government, when you separate to go on active duty, you can ask for a refund of all your retirement contributions (FERS and bought back), which would void your entitlement to a FERS annuity.


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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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