The basics of military buyback


Q: I served in the Marine Corps for more than 13 years, entering Dec. 27, 1979, and leaving active service in November 1987. I re-entered the Corps on Dec. 7, 1989, and was involuntarily but honorably discharged in the middle of 1995 as part of force reduction after the first Gulf War. I did not retire, but I did receive a separation allowance, all of which I have paid back. I paid back the money by not receiving any disability pay for about 12 years (20 percent disabled for service-connected foot and back injuries).

In the spring of 2001, I became a permanent-hire working for the Navy Department at the rate of NT-802-4 (GS-12). I’m currently maxed out in that grade. What steps do I have to take to get credit for my military time applied to my civil service time? What are the exact advantages? And what rate of repayment do I have to make?

A: You can get credit for your years of active-duty service by making a deposit to the civilian retirement fund. The deposit equals 3 percent of your basic military pay, excluding differentials and allowances. To find out how much you would owe, fill out form RI-20-97, Estimated Earnings During Military Service, and mail it to the finance office for your branch of service along with a copy of your DD 214, Report of Transfer or Discharge. When you get an answer, take that document, a copy of your DD 214 and Standard Form 3108 to your local payroll office. They’ll figure out how much you owe, including any accumulated interest. If you decide to make a deposit, you can do so either by periodic deposits or deductions from your paycheck.


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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

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