Reserve retirement


Q: I have just been offered a GS job that I plan to start in a couple of months. However, I have a unique situation. I have the opportunity to retire in September and start receiving my retirement pay immediately because I will have obtained more than 20 years of total combined active-duty time during my 29+ years of active duty and reserve service. So, basically I can begin receiving my retirement immediately beginning in October 2011 even though I have not reached the 60 years of age that is normally required for reservist retirement because of the “sanctuary” provision given to military members who have reached at least a total of 18 years while still on active service. Sanctuary laws mean that if you are on active duty (I am on active duty recall orders but I am still a reservist) when you hit 18 years or more of total active service, the military is required by law to not involuntarily discharge you until you reach 20 years of total active service, which then entitles you to immediately receive your retirement payments). I have a total of 29+ years, with 20 of them being on active duty or on active duty recall, but I am still a reservist. I am not classified as an active duty person even though I will be receiving my retirement immediately like an active duty person would. Is the key here that I get my service to retire me as a reservist, i.e., that my retirement forms say I am retiring as a reservist but that I will be getting it immediately, rather than them saying I am getting an active duty retirement? If I do get them to officially retire me as a reservist but with the benefit of getting my retirement immediately upon discharge, will I still be able to buy the 20 years of active duty time toward my FERS retirement because it is classified as a Reserve retirement??

A: Whether you are receiving reserve retired pay or only eligible to receive reserve pay makes no difference. Once you are hired, you can still make a deposit for all your active duty service to the civilian retirement system and get credit for it in determining your length of service and in your annuity computation. FYI, not withstanding the major leg up you have toward retirement from your civilian position, you’d have to be covered by FERS for five years to be eligible to do that.


About Author

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


  1. I had both NG and Reserve (nonactive) time from 1981 to 1989. Was brought on AD from 1989 thru 2000. And moved back into the Reserves from 2000 thru 2009. Because of the AD time in the 90’s and additional AD time I had during the mid 2000’s I reached Sanctuary in 2007. I was brought into Sanctuary in 2008 then retired from the Army in 2009 under the Sanctuary rule (Title 10 US Code Chapter 12686) as documented on my Sanctuary military orders . These orders had nothing but this reference saying that the individual cannot be held from completing 20 years of Active Federal Service . The orders do not reference Chapter 1223 (Non Regular Service) that defines the Reserve retirement that can be received at age 60.
    I started GS service in 2002 and for the active duty years I had between 2002 thru 2009 I was put on LWOP. When I retired from the military I rolled back into the GS Service (2009) and stayed until Sep 2016 when I “retired from GS” based on accepting VERA.
    In 2004 I bought back 10 years of Military Service and in 2007 I bought back 7 years of Military Service based on guidance provided saying I could receive both FULL retirements.

    When I accepted the Voluntary Early Retirement (VERA) Summer of 2016 I explained to HR that I already am receiving military retirement but it was as Reserve. No one said anything until 4 months after I retired (Sep 2016) and already started receiving an Interim retirement for GS. I then got a call and emails saying that I MUST waive my Military retirement to receive the GS annuity OR change the reason for leaving the GS service to “Resignation” and receive only the number of full time GS work (without military buy back time) annuity at age 62.

    I have talked to many personnel in DFAS, OPM, and Civilian Personnel and the frustrating part is each only knows their part of the regulation. Now OPM says that I cannot receive the GS annuity by using the Military Deposit buy back and at the same time use the same years under the Army Sanctuary retirement. OPM is retracting my GS retirement , making me pay back the interim GS annuity payments. They said that I could apply to retrieve the $30K in military buy back but it would be without interest.

    I have looked at every angle but can’t tell who is telling me the truth. I only know that the guidance I have been given over the past 10+ years may be wrong… AND that there is NO reference saying that you cannot get both retirements under Sanctuary, Military Deposit and GS.

    What is the correct answer??

    — Chapter 1223 Para 12731 (f) (1) – reference the age as 60 to receive retirement under the Non Regular Service Rule.
    — Chapter 12686 – Reference Sanctuary and allowing to complete 20 years of active federal service

    • Unfortunately, I’m not able to answer your question. Since your inquiry will be posted on the site, maybe one of our readers who understands the Sanctuary provision will be able to provide an answer.

  2. John Cloninger on

    Mark, sorry you’ve gotten caught in this situation where you made decisions based on unfortunate guidance and then are being penalized when regulations are interpreted differently. I realize trying to fight this is tough and time consuming, but offer the following:
    – Chapter 1223 is very specific in some ways, but in other ways is foggy. Though you weren’t retired under this chapter I suspect you were retired under a related chapter. This being the case, Chap 1223 / Sec 12741 states ” a person may elect to receive retired pay under this chapter, instead of receiving retired or retainer pay under chapter 65, 367, 571, or 867 of this title, if the person … (B) served in an active status in the Selected Reserve of the Ready Reserve after becoming eligible for retirement under chapter 65, 367, 571, or 867 of this title (without regard to whether the person actually retired or received retired or retainer pay under one of those chapters…” If the Army will adjust your retirement orders based on this, or OPM will accept it as is, you’re golden.
    – Title 38 – USERRA would not give you all your military time back, but if OPM honors returning veterans in the same way states and corporations are required by the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Act you would be able to use all your mobilization time while you were a GS employee. Specifically, Title 38 in Section 4318 ‘Employee pension benefit plans’ states “(2)(A) A person reemployed under this chapter shall be treated as not having incurred a break in service with the employer or employers maintaining the plan by reason of such person’s period or periods of service in the uniformed services.” There is nothing in Title 38 that states wording like ‘credit for military service’, all Title 38 wording relates that a returning veteran will be treated as though they had never left as it relates to retirement and benefits. There is no clause that you would forfeit your reserve retirement if you made sanctuary, no more than a returning veteran to Wal-mart after mobilization would be expected to forfeit their military retirement.
    For background, I am a retired Marine Colonel who also was mobilized for quite a while and was fortunate enough to be allowed to enter into sanctuary. Any knowledge I’ve gained has been much due to experiences from counseling my Marines as they mobilized and demobilized to help ensure they were aware of various benefits, laws, and who the real experts were, like Reg, to get additional information. Hope this may help. Good luck.

  3. I may have an answer. According to the FERS you can buy back your active duty federal military service time/years towards your FERS retirement. You can only elect to one retirement or the other. Meaning if you elect to receive the FERS using your active duty military years, then, you cannot get both the FERS and the active duty military retirement. You can’t get both retirements for the same amount of years of service in either case. If you want to retain the active duty military retirement, then, that has to be separate from the FERS. Again, you can’t get credit for both when you completed only one. You have to get the 20 years active duty military retirement, then, complete at least 5 years in the FERS to get the additional retirement.

    • The short answer is that you can make a deposit to get credit for any active duty service. If you are receiving reserve retired pay for your service, you can receive both with no reduction in either. if you are receiving military retired pay, in most circumstances, you’ll have to make a deposit for that time and waive that pay.

Leave A Reply