Title 38 and military service


Q: I am a 58-year-old physician with 16 years of military service from 1978 to 1994. I am taking a job with the Veterans Affairs Department. In the benefits booklet I received, there is a note as follows: “Physicians and dentists covered under Title 38 provisions must complete 15 years of creditable service in order to use Physicians/Dentists Special Pay as basic pay in determining the high-3 average salary used in the computation of a [Federal Employees Retirement System] annuity. If I buy into FERS for my 16 years of military service, does this count toward “creditable service,” or is creditable service only the service performed working for the VA directly?

A:  The 15 year rule ended on Jan 8, 2006 with the new pay system (law) for physicians and dentists. all base and specialty pay (market pay) is now used for high 3 calculation purposes as long as you are eligible for retirement. If one has 5 years federal service and is age 62 then he can retire. Buying back military active duty time will also add to your retirement years for pay.


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. Hi Reg,

    As a title 38 Nurse Educator age 61 in June 2019 with an SCD date of 10/7/08, can I retire on a full high 3 pension at age 62 when I will have 11 years of service with the VA?

    Would my FERS be calculated at $92,673 (average of high 3) X .01 = $926.73 X11 years =$10,194 /12 mo = $849.50?

    Thank You.

    • Assuming that the rules under Title 38 are the same as those under Title 5, you can retire at age 62 with as few as 5 years of service. The formula you used to calculate your potential FERS annuity is the same as that used under Title 5. I haven’t done the arithmetic but the formula you used is right.

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