Buying back military time


Q: Does it ever make sense for a FERS employee to buy back 20 years of military time for credit toward a FERS retirement? What if the employee decides later to leave federal civilian service before retiring.

A: Whether it makes sense is a personal matter, often based on simple arithmetic. If you make a deposit, you’ll have to spend some money. In return, both your length of service and annuity would be increased. You’ll have 20 more years of civilian service and your annuity would be 20 percent higher. However, as a rule, you’ll have to waive your military retired pay before you retire from your civilian job.
If you were to leave government before being eligible for an annuity, you could request a refund of all your retirement contributions, not just the amount you deposited to get credit for your military service. In so doing, you would cancel all rights to any civilian retirement benefit. Presumably, you’d be able to regain your military retired pay. However, because I’m only qualified to answer questions about civilian benefits, you’d have to check with the payroll office for your branch of service.


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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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