Buying back active duty military service


Q. I am currently a federal employee and also a traditional Guardsman (one weekend a month and two weeks a year). I served 13 years on active duty Army. I am at around 16 years total military service right now as well. If I were to buy back my 13 years of active time, would those years still count toward my military retirement? How would it affect my military retirement? Just pay?

A. Yes, you can make a deposit to get credit for your active duty service and have it used in the computation of your civilian annuity. That would have no affect on any reserve pay you may be entitled to. However, if you were entitled to military retired pay, you’d not only have to make a deposit for your active duty service, but also waive your military retired pay when you retire from your civilian job.


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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. I’m hoping I have a clear understanding of when you can keep your military retired pay and when you can’t.
    1. Buying back active duty time counts toward civilian retirement time. However, you can’t receive military retirement pay (based solely on active duty time) and civilian retirement pay using the same time without giving one of the two retirement paychecks up.
    3. Retired reserve pay based on reserve, guard and active duty time is treated differently than military retirement pay base solely on active duty time (example 1 above). In this case buying back your active duty time does not effect your civilian retirement pay so you can keep both a civilian and retired reserve paycheck.
    Do I have it?

    • Just one amendment. In item 1, “without giving one of the two retirement checks up” is an overstatement. If you are receiving military retired pay, you’d have to give that up and make a deposit to receive credit for that time in your civilian annuity computation. However, if you didn’t waive your military retired pay, your civilian annuity would be based solely on your civilian service. You wouldn’t have to “give it up.”

      • Sir, Mr Smith’s comment is exactly my situation, but I’m still confused. I think it’s his point #3 (with no #2) that got me confused.

        If the Civil Servant has a combination of active duty and reserve time, s/he can buy back the active duty time, but not the reserve/guard time. This will boost the member’s civil service pension (a FERS pension); that’s the clear part. Now, here’s the confusing part:

        1. At age 60, the member can begin drawing a pension for his/her military service; that pension is based on the _total_ amount of duty performed. The pension is therefore based on a combination of active duty and as a guardsman or reservist. Will _that_ pension be reduced or waived by having bought back time?

        2. I really don’t have a #2 either.

        Thanks in advance.

        • Making a contribution to get credit for active duty time will have no affect on his or her entitlement to either military or reserve retired pay.

  2. I am 56 yrs old, 31yrs military, 22 years WG12 technician still in the ANG. Deployed Dec.2016 to combat zone, got injured and currently home receiving treatment. On MEDCON orders now waiting to start MEB. Will be medically discharged on the military side. Is it necessary to buy back any LWOP time? And any info on what imcome I will receive on both sides would be helpful. Thanks for everyones service.

    • Employees who perform active duty service while in a leave-without-pay status (LWOP-US) only need to make a deposit for the time they were not receiving civilian pay subject to retirement deductions.

      • HRO told me that it would not benefit me in any way. I have about 3yrs total of LWOP that I could buy back. I just don’t know if it would benefit me with my situation. Any ideas?

        • @Scott Ullmer – HR is wrong (unfortunately a common occurrence). It would give you 3 years of additional service. That is 3 percent more on your annuity.

          • Scott, Phoebe beat me to the punch. She is absolutely right. Your HR doesn’t know what he/she is talking about.

  3. Eduardo Ojeda on

    Okay, its clear to me that I can pay a deposit for my military service and have those years computed into my annuity. I am hoping to retire at 62 with 5 years service and I am paying a military deposit for 11 years military service. My question is: Do I need to have 5 years of creditable federal civilian service in addition to the 11 years military? I have prior federal civilian employment but I don’t think it is creditable because I withdrew my FERS contributions when I resigned from a position many years ago, so I am assuming I must pay into FERS for 5 years before I can become eligible. In that case, I would have a total of 16 years (11 military and 5 civilian at age 64 or so. Also, do I have to wait 3 years to be vested in FERS as we do for TSP?

    • Yes, you need 5 years of actual FERS service in order to qualify for a retirement annuity. Your 11 years of military service that you bought back will be added to that. FERS vesting is 5 years.

      • OK, just trying to understand cause every situation is different. A reservist can buy back their active duty time. In my case 28 years. I’m thinking of accepting a Term position for 3/4/5 years. Even if I buy back my military time I would still need 5 years total civilian time to be able to retire from federal service and a reserve retirement? so, either way, I need to do 5 years of federal service. If I am activated for two years of those five years do I have to continue an additional two years to have five full service years or are those two years rolled up in the five years?

        • If you were activated and then returned to your civilian position, you’d only have to make a deposit to the retirement system to have those years treated as actual civilian service.

          • So even as a Term I could buy those years? What if I end my Term before I hit five years? If I buy the years and I never vest do I get my money back?

      • Actually then, I don’t even need to pay the military deposit; I can just do the 5 years and retire with full benefits.

        • Edwardo, Your retirement pay would be based on only 5 years if you didn’t buy back your 11 years of military time. You need to do the math to find out if it’s more advantageous to buy back the military time.
          In my case buying back 7 years active duty time takes 14 months in retirement before I see a positive return on that buy back money.

        • No, you don’t have to make a deposit. Your annuity would then be based on 5 years of service and, if your prior and current service equaled 5 years of coverage, you’d be able to continue your enrollment in the FEHB and FEGLI programs.

  4. Just found this website and it is a GOLD MINE of info. Thank you! I have a similar situation I am trying to figure out.

    I’m currently 53yrs old. I was on active duty for 7 years 1983-90, 9 years of FERS 1991-2000. Army reserve from 1990 to present with a deployment or two mix in there. I’m considering quitting my current job and going back to FERS for a few more years. If I do and buy back my military time are they going to charge interest from 1990 to present? Sounds like that would be a heck of a lot of money! Is there any place to calculate how much that buy back would cost? I would like to retire from everything before 60 if possible I understand it would be much lower than if I stayed to 62.

        • REG JONES.. Are you saying that while I was an federal employee, went into AD and under USERRA returned to the same position in less than 5 years, I can pay a deposit to capture back those years to count towards retirement AND keep the years for my military retiree pension? I did get LWOP military pay of 120 hrs per year and had tsp withdraws taken from that fed pay while AD. Where do I find info on this and who would I talk to?

          • Yes, you can make a deposit to get credit for time when you were called to duty in the service of the United States, regardless of how long ago that service occurred. This doesn’t apply to periods of annual active duty for training – for which you’ve already received credit -or weekend training, which is never creditable.

            If you will be receiving reserve retired pay, your deposit will have no affect of that benefit. If you will be receiving military retired pay, you’d not only have to make a deposit but waive your military retired pay when you retire from your civilian job.

  5. Valuable info on this website. Thanks. Just hired on for Federal service @ 54 years old, and already completed the paperwork for the military buyback. Received the amount I need to pay, which is just over 1k. I did 4 years years of military service back in the late 80s.
    Question: Exactly how many years of creditable civilian service do I need to complete, at the very minimum, to start receiving an annuity @ age 62? I read a few sites where it said ‘5 years’, then another site said ‘3 years’ vested + my 4 years military service to start receiving a very small annuity at age 62. I’m not sure how many year(s) I may work in FERS, but let’s say I do 3 years and quit at age 57, paying off my buyback long before I quit, am I eligible for that small annuity at 62? Would be total of 3 years civilian service + 4 years military = 7 years? Seven years should amount to a few hundred a month? I just don’t see why anyone would not do the buyback, unless they are already receiving a retirement already.
    Anyway, great site with very knowledgeable folks… Thanks!

    • You need to have 5 years of actual civilian service. Only then would the active duty service for which you made a deposit counted when determining your retirement benefit.

  6. I had 8 years active duty then went army reserve and I am retiring after 26 total years of service. during my reserve time, i was involuntarily recalled for 8 quarters after January 2008. I was told that if I bought back my time from the mobilizations that I can not apply it to the military early reserve retirement program.
    Can you tell me the rules or provide me a reference for deciding if I can buyback this time and still start receiving my reserve retirement at 57?

  7. I have a family situation at my 17 yr mark. I can get a federal job at the location I need to be in. I know what everyone will say, tough it out, but we just can’t. This option seems doable. I don’t need a lot of money for retirement. I am still in good shape and relatively young. Is the buyback option still available at such a late time?

    • Yes. There’s isn’t any time limit on when employees can make a deposit to get credit for their active duty service.

  8. I have another scenario. I did 6 years Active Duty, joined the Postal Service for 8 years, bought back the 6 years AD. Then went back active duty, now with 32 years Time in service with 25 of that Active Duty. I am looking at another Federal position now, will buying that 6 years back for FERS hurt me either way?

  9. I’m 54 years old and have been a GS-11 for 8 years and have 3.5 years enlisted time. Looking to leave Civil Service to go private and am wondering if I need to buy back my military time while I’m still Civil Service or can I do it after leaving my current position.

    Please advise

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