Q. What is the difference between being vested in the retirement service and being eligible for a retirement benefit?

A. There isn’t any difference. To be vested in the retirement system, you must you must have at least 5 years of creditable civilian service. If you were to leave government after having 5 years of creditable service under your belt (and didn’t ask for a refund of your retirement contributions), you’d be entitled to an annuity at age 62.


About Author

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


  1. Is there a Windfall Exclusion Provision exception for Peace Corps Volunteer service?

    While a volunteer in the Federated States of Micronesia (Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands when I served), I paid US social security taxes on a Peace Corps stipend that was less than the substantial earnings for years 1975-78. My SS form doesn’t seem to be counting those three years as substantial earnings. Is it? And if so how can I qualify?

    • No, there isn’t an exception for Peace Corps Volunteers. Whether it will apply to you depends on whether your have earnings from wages or self employment that weren’t subject to Social Security deductions. For more information about the WEP and how it might apply to you, go to

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