11 questions on military buyback


Q. 1. How are the days of active-duty service calculated?

2. Is that a one-to-one credit added to years of service?

3. Can you buy it back after you retire and adjust the annuity accordingly?

4. Can you buy back portions of it?

5. Can you pay in installments?

6. What percentage of military pay per year would you get in retirement? For CSRS, it is roughly 2 percent based on high-3; would it be calculated on actual salary back then or adjusted for inflation?

7. Any chance for a retroactive payment once established?

8. Will I lose any benefits if I do this?

9. Can I do this if I was not in the military long enough to earn a pension?

10. How does Social Security fit into this picture?

11. Can I get all three (FERS/CSRS, Social Security, military/Defense Department) separately? What is the penalty for collecting multiple pensions if done separately?

A. 1. The same as they are for civilian service. For example, if you were called to active duty on Dec. 1, 2009, and mustered out on Nov. 30, 2013, you’d get credit for four years.

2. Yes.

3. No.

4. Only if you had one or more breaks in service; then you could make a deposit for any particular segment.

5. Yes.

6. Your total service, both actual and the amount for which you made a deposit, would be computed using the standard formula, which is based on your highest three consecutive years of average basic pay.

7. No.

8. If you are receiving military retired pay, you’d have to waive that pay when you retire; if you were receiving reserve retired pay, you wouldn’t.

9. Yes.

10. You would be entitled to the benefit you earned while covered by Social Security. However, if you were receiving an annuity from CSRS, you’d be subject to the windfall elimination provision. The WEP reduces the Social Security benefit of anyone who receives an annuity from a retirement system where he didn’t pay Social Security taxes and has fewer than 30 years of substantial earnings under Social Security.

11. Yes, with the caveats mentioned above.


About Author

Reg Jones was head of retirement and insurance policy at the Office of Personnel Management. Email your retirement-related questions to fedexperts@federaltimes.com.


  1. I plan to retire the end of the year. Just was told I dodnt biy my active duty time back and now my time for retirement computation has been adjusted from my SCD. I was told years ago by the HR personnel that the 5 months and 21 days could not be bought back. I even took my DD 214 to that person. And a year ago I asked HR for a retirement estimate and nothing was said about buying back time. At this point I either lose the pay from my retirement or wait. And I dont know how much it will cost now to buy back.

    • To find out what you’d owe, complete OPM form RI 20-97, Estimated Earnings During Military Service, and mail it, along with a copy of your DD 214, to the military finance center for your branch of service. When you receive that estimate, take it to your payroll office, along with copies of your DD 214 and an Application to Make Deposit or Redeposit (Standard Form 2893 (CSRS) or 3108 (FERS)), and ask for an estimate of the amount you’d owe, plus accrued interest. Once you have that information, you can decide if the benefit is worth the cost. (The OPM and Standard forms are available for download at http://www.opm.gov, click on Forms.)

  2. I have completed everything to buy back my time I am just waiting for it to show up on my les, however it has been a very long time. So my question is where would this buy back information be located on my les and who can I talk to about seeing where it is in the process

    • It’s not uncommon for there to be a long delay before that change shows up on an LES. About the only thing you can do is check with your agency’s payroll office.

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