Military service


Q. I have around 13 years active Army and three years Army National Guard time total. I was a sergeant when I separated in October 2011 from the Army. I just accepted a position at the U.S. Postal Service. How much will it cost me to buy back my military time, or is it even worth it? Would that mean I now would have 13-16 years with the post office counting toward my retirement? Does buying time back do anything for your new or current pay grade in a federal job? Does it count toward leave accruals?

A. While you would receive credit for your active duty service in determining your leave accrual rate, it would only count for retirement if you make a deposit to the civilian retirement system. To find out what you would owe, you’ll have to 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 a Standard Form 3108, Application to Make Service Credit Payment, and ask for an estimate of the amount you’d owe. 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; click on Forms.) Note: Active duty service would only have an affect on your entering pay grade if the knowledge and skills you acquired there were relevant to the job into which you were being hired. That determination would have be made by the agency that hired you.


About Author

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


  1. Are you sure about the “plus accrued interest” part? I paid a deposit for service academy time from 35+ years ago and I don’t think they added any interest.

      • OK, technically I guess that’s correct, albeit misleading. My understanding is that interest does not begin to accrue until two years after you start civil service employment. So for this case, since the writer “just accepted” a position with the Post Office, as long as he pays the deposit within two years, no interest would be due, even though he separated from the Army 7+ years ago. So, yes, he has to pay the deposit plus “accrued interest,” but that accrued interest would be $0. Is that correct or am I mistaken?

        • Good catch. I’m so used to answering questions from people who first became aware of the possibility of making a deposit after they’ve been on the rolls for 10 or more years. I’ve dropped the phrase that doesn’t fit.

  2. So to caveat off this post, I have 7 1/2 years Active before going into the reserves and have been with the Postal Service since Mar’01. My plan is to retire from the Reserves with 30 years and the Post Office with 30 years at the age of 57 after buying back 18 months that I deployed while in Reserves and working with PO. I’ve been thinking about buying back the 7 years Active on the off chance they have an early out when I’m in my early 50’s. My question is would buying back the Active time somehow affect my reserve pension and is it allowed to get 3 gov’t checks….Postal, Reserves, and Social security? People keep telling me there is a rule about that.

    • Making a deposit to get credit for your active duty service would have no affect on your reserve retired pay. Further, there is nothing that would bar you from receiving Postal, Reserve and Social Security benefits.

  3. I have a friend that works for the USPS now for 10 years and was in the Army for 2 years and the reserves for 2 years. Can he buy back the reserve time as well towards his USPS retirement?

    • He can make a deposit to get credit for his period of active duty service. However, reserve duty such as weekend drills and annual active duty for training isn’t creditable for retirement purposes.

  4. I have 16 years active duty. I have been trying to get the years added to LEAVE accrual with USPS but was told by HR that I have to do the buy back to get my LEAVE category adjust. Can you point me to the regulation that states otherwise?

    • According to OPM, “All civilian service (including previous civilian service of a reemployed annuitant) that is potentially creditable for Civil Service Retirement Service (CSRS) purposes, including service covered by the Federal Employee Retirement Service (FERS) is creditable for purposes of annual leave accrual. Potentially creditable service includes service that could be credited if the employee made deposits to the retirement fund. Such deposits are not required before the employee receives credit for annual leave accrual purposes. (See OPM’s Guide to Processing Personnel Actions, Chapter 6 – Creditable Service for Leave Accrual.)”

  5. While employed by the USPS, I have deployed with the TXARNG 3 times…my question would be, can I buy back those deployment times.

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