Break in service and vested time


Q. I am a 29-year-old federal employee and I may have to move at some point in next few years because of my husband’s work or if I go back to school. I have been working for 2½ years; if I leave, I am hoping to return to a job in the federal government at some point). I am wondering how vesting works for my FERS annuity. Will I have to work a consecutive five years to keep both before I can leave, or do I bank that time if I decide to come back? For example, if I work for 3½ years then leave and come back two years later and work for 30+ years, will I keep what was put into my annuity during my first 3½ years when I come back?

A. You have to have five years of service to be vested in the retirement system. Those years don’t have to be consecutive. For example, if you left after 3½ years, came back after a two-year break, and worked for 1½ more years, you’d be vested. If you took a refund of your retirement deductions when you left, you’d have to redeposit that amount, plus accrued interest.


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 have worked for the veterans affairs for 3.5 years. Thinking of taking a job in the community but working at the va part time 16 hrs per week. Can you acquire a vested status while working part time for the next 1.5 years?

  2. Hello!

    I am working at the VA as an intermittent employee. I currently do not receive benefits. Will I still be considered “vested” if I work for 3+ years, or does that only count if I am fulltime?

  3. Hi! I also work for the VA Hospital as a permanent employee. This October will be three yrs of consecutive employment.
    1. How many years would I need to be vested?
    2. If I decide to have break in service to work for private sector, how many yrs do I need to have completed first? Thanks

    • To be vested in the retirement system, you have to have three years of creditable service. Once vested, you could leave and work elsewhere. However, to be eligible for a retirement benefit, you’d have to have a minimum of 5 years of creditable service.

  4. Kozfey Murray on

    I would like to get my retirement from my years with the VAMC .How can this happen? I am at my actual retirement age as of December 16th.

    • Assuming that you’re a current employee, which retirement system are you in, CSRS or FERS? What is your date of birth? How many years of service do you have?

  5. Wayland Strickland on

    I have 10 years with the VA, and I paid my military deposit (14 years, 9 months, 18 days), so my total time is 24 years 9 months. I’m leaving to return to school full-time. If I come back after 3-5 years, I’ve been told I would be starting over, e.g. all that time is gone b/c of the break in service? Is that true?

    • No, it isn’t true. As long as you don’t ask for a refund of your retirement contributions and military deposit, you would get full credit for all that time when you return to work for the federal government.

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