Credit for military service


Is military service creditable for civilian retirement purposes? Both current employees and military members who are considering working for the federal government e-mail me looking for answers to that question.

Creditable military service is:
* Active duty in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps or Coast Guard; after June 30, 1960, in the Public Health Service commissioned corps; or, after June 30, 1961, in the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration commissioned corps.

* Time as a cadet in the Army, Air Force or Coast Guard academies or as a midshipman at the U.S. Naval Academy.

* Active duty or active duty for training while in the Army Reserve Officers Training Corps or the Naval or Marine Corps Reserve Officers Training Corps.
Service in the Merchant Marine is not considered military service; nor, in most cases, is service in the National Guard or reserves, unless you were called to active duty.
Through Dec. 31, 1956, active-duty military service was fully creditable when determining a civilian employee’s eligibility to retire and in calculating his annuity. After this date, when military members first were covered by Social Security, military service credit is handled in one of two ways to avoid dual compensation under Social Security and the federal retirement systems:

* If you were first hired before Oct. 1, 1982, you will get credit for your military service time in determining your eligibility to retire. You’ll also have the option of making a deposit to the civilian retirement system to get credit for that post-1956 service in the computation of your annuity.

If you are eligible for Social Security and do not make a deposit to the civilian retirement system, your years of military service will be deducted from your combined total of military and civilian service and your annuity will be reduced accordingly. This occurs at age 62 if you are already retired or at your older age if you retire after 62.
If you won’t be eligible for a Social Security benefit at either of those two points in time and haven’t made a deposit, your annuity won’t be reduced.

* If you were hired on or after Oct. 1, 1982, you will get credit for your military service only if you make a deposit to the civilian retirement system for that time. If you don’t, your military time won’t be used to determine your eligibility to retire or in your annuity computation. As a result, when you do retire, your annuity will be based solely on your years of civilian employment.

Other rules
If you are receiving military retired pay when you are hired as a civilian, you’ll have to make a deposit to the civilian retirement system to get credit for your military service and, with one exception, waive your military retired pay before you retire.

Here’s the exception. You may keep your military retired pay if you were awarded it because of a service-connected disability either incurred in combat or caused by an instrumentality of war.

On the other hand, if you are receiving — or will be receiving — retired pay from a reserve component, you won’t have to waive that pay. However, you will need to review the rules spelled out above to determine if you need to make a deposit to get credit for any periods of active-duty reserve service.

If you are called to active duty during federal service and are placed on leave without pay-uniformed service (LWOP-US), that period will be governed by the same rules that apply to all employees who want to get credit for periods of active duty. You’ll have to make a deposit for the LWOP-US period to get credit for that time.

However, there are situations where a deposit won’t be required: For example, if you take annual leave or if you are approved for regular leave without pay. If you are approved for regular LWOP, you may take up to six months’ leave within a calendar year and get credit for that time without having to make a deposit. However, any period of absence beyond that can’t be credited for any purpose nor can a deposit be made to get credit for it.


About Author

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

Leave A Reply