Returning to federal work


Q. I am 48. I was active-duty enlisted Navy from 1983 to 1993, so I have 10 years’ active duty. I got out as an E-6 with an honorable discharge. I am also 10 percent disabled, which happened when I applied for the CAVET program. I live in California. I took an early-out special separation bonus lump sum to get out after 10 years. President Reagan was drawing down the forces at the time and offered the early out.

I don’t see any money because I understand I have to pay back the SSB lump sum.

I have been working in the civilian community (nonfederal jobs) since I got out in 1993.

I am employed with a good company and have been so for more than five years, so I am vested.

Lately, I have had the bug put in my ear that I should get a federal job because I can continue the 10-year tenure I started in the Navy.

1. Is this true?

2. If this is true, I have also been told I would have to buy back my military time to continue my tenure? ‘Is this true too?

3. If questions 1 and 2 are true, what should I do? If I can get a federal job and buy back my time, would it be worth it to quite my current stable (knock on wood) job? I would like to just understand my choices. I care more about using the 10 years I have in the Navy than making more money.

A. If you went to work for the federal government, you could make a deposit to the civilian retirement system to get credit for your active-duty service. If you did it within two years, no interest would be charged. After you worked for five years full time for the federal government, you’d be vested in the retirement system. Here are the age and service requirements to retire: age 62 with five years of service, 60 with 20, at your minimum retirement age with 30 or at your MRA with 10 but fewer than 30. MRAs range between 55 and 57 depending on your year of birth. In general, your annuity would be based on the following formula: .01 x your highest three consecutive years of average salary (your high-3) x your years and full months of service (actual and military service for which you made a deposit).

Further benefits that might help you make up your mind include getting credit for your active-duty service in setting your annual leave accrual rate; participation in the Thrift Savings Plan, where contributions you make would be matched up to a certain level by your agency; health benefit and life insurance coverage, with the premium costs shared by you and the government; and the opportunity to take those two benefits into retirement.


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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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