Active duty, reserve and buyback


Q. I am 60 and have 18 years of FERS service. Also, I have been an Army reservist for 25 good years, with two years of active-duty time, and about 2,200 points, of which about 720 are from active duty.

1. Could I buy back military time that would bring me up to 20 years of FERS service so I could retire now, instead of waiting for age 62? 2. If I buy the two years back, I would still have more than 20 years for an Army Reserve pension. Must I waive the whole thing, or just the pay that comes from the active-duty points?

A. You may only make a deposit for your active-duty service. Doing so would not affect your entitlement to reserve retired pay, which would be based on your entire military career. Only those employees receiving military retired pay — not reserve retired pay — are required to waive that pay to get credit for the time in computing their civilian annuities.


About Author

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


  1. William T. Mitchell on

    I am a retired Air Force NCO who retirement with 19 years and 11 months active duty and 2 1/2 years as an Air Force active reservist. I have an adjusted DD Form 214 which indicated my period of military from 11/10/1971-11/30/1993. I currently working as a CBP Officer who plan on retiring soon. I bought back my military time and was wondering how my retirement time would be calculated since I had a 2 1/2 year split as an active duty reservist in my military time. I have enhanced 6c coverage since I am a CBP Officer. .

    • The answer first depends depends on whether you are receiving military retired pay or reserve retired pay. Secondly, it depends on whether your reserve active duty service was performed before you became a federal employee or if it interrupted a period of federal service.

  2. Greetings Reg Jones. Could you point out any documentation that explicitly states what is described above? I’ve contacted my HR and haven’t gotten a definitive answer that proves that I can buy back my active duty military time and put it toward my Federal Retirement, and then go into the Reserves and have that Active Duty time still count toward the time-in-service AND also the points/good years needed to retire. My concern is that the active-duty time that would normally translate into points would be lost if I buy back my time.

  3. Pingback: Buying back Active Duty time for retirement as a Reservist? | Robert Haycraft

  4. I am in the process of buying back active duty periods in a 37 year stint in the Reserve System. OPM Guidelines specify that periods of active duty must be “honorable.” That is easy to do for those periods where I have received a DD 214. But what about the periods of Annual Training or Active Duty for training? Talking with ABC-C, they won’t recognize these periods because I can verify my honorable performance. As I am still in the Reserve and will soon retire, I am also confused if I have to complete the buyback before I retire from the Reserve. When OPM Guidelines specify that the buyback has to be complete before retirement, are they speaking about my Reserve Military Retirement or my FERS Civilian Retirement? Can I wait until I retire from the Reserve System to verify my honorable service through my discharge order or do I have to pay now on only those periods of active duty substantiated by a DD224 or perhaps a 1059 that is received after completing a military course on active duty orders? I have every LES over the past 37 years and I can verify when I was paid on active duty. Please advise.

    • Weekend drills are never considered to be creditable civilian service. No additional credit is given for annual active duty for training occurring while you are an employee; that’s because it’s an excused absence and your length of civilian service isn’t affected. Therefore, no deposit is required for that time. However, if you had any periods of active duty service before you became a federal employee (or were called to active duty in the service of the United States for an extended period of time while an employee), you’ll need to make a deposit for that time in order for it to be considered creditable toward your civilian retirement.

      • Sir,

        Thank you for your response. I understand what you have said as I have researched thoroughly. I really need to figure this out, as it is currently 11PM and I have been working this issue non-stop for the last week because I am confused as to when I have to submit the forms to DFAS / ABC-C for processing.

        Let me rephrase the question: Can a Reserve Non-regular Retiree buy back his Reserve Active Duty time . . . that is, submit all of the paperwork after I retire from the Reserve on 31 Jan 2018? Or, am I required to submit the paperwork prior to my Retirement on 31 Jan 2018 to receive the credible service for my civilian job? I will not be a “grey area retiree” and will move into a full retirement on 1 Feb 2018.

        DFAS/ABC-C needs the paperwork submitted 120 days out before retirement . . . but are they referring to my “Reserve Retirement” or my “Civil Service Retirement?”

        Why is this important for me? Upon Retirement from the Reserve, I will receive an Honorable Discharge. This will prove that all of my Active Duty time spent in the USAR is “honorable.” If I submit the paperwork now, before I retire from the USAR, I do not have proof that my Annual Training Time (AT) or Additional Duty for Training (ADT) is credible, as I can’t substantiate the “honorable” status unless the duty has a Graduation Certificate or some other type of substantiating documentation. I am not referring to the 8 mobilizations I have been on, as I have a DD 214 for each.

        I was required to complete a lot of Fragmentary Annual Training over the years–literally one or two day Orders. One person I spoke with at ABC-C told me straight forward that those periods won’t be considered for credible time. Currently, I am on my 29th Form RI 20-97s, Estimated Earnings During Military Service Form, covering 37 years of USAR time. You can make six entries per document, for an approximate total of 170 periods of active duty (including mobilizations).

        What I got going for me is the fact that I have all of my Leave and Earning Statements or a DD 214 for each and every 170 periods of active duty over the last 37 years and almost all active duty orders affiliated with them. I am beginning my fourth year of Civil Service, so I have 33 years prior that can be directly applied.

        I also just came off of a year-long mobilization for which I was mostly on the civilian status of Military Leave without Pay. There are periods of paid status during that time (eg. my 120 leave hours allotted for Military Duty) and know that those have to be subtracted out. I have my civilian LESs as well and can verify that also.

        I have an amazing military career, having reached the enlisted rank of Command Sergeant Major before 911, then commissioned as a Captain Chaplain after. I will retire as a Lieutenant Colonel. It is difficult for me to accept that they would consider part of my service time as “non-credible” after having been awarded seven Meritorious Service Medals.

        So, what is your understanding as to exactly when the forms are due? Am I required to send them in now, prior to my Reserve retirement for the time to be considered credible?

        Please advise.

        Thanks & blessings . . .


        • Any questions about DFAS/ABC-C will have to be answered by them. As far as making a deposit, the sooner you do it, the less interest you’ll have to pay. Since you active duty periods of service aren’t consecutive, you can make a deposit for any one or more of them whenever you want. Just remember that deposits for active duty service must be made before you retire from the civil service.

          • In reference to this exact situation…Can you drop a lump sum payment to buy back multiple non consecutive periods?…or must you handle them one at a time, one pay period at a time?

          • You can make a deposit for any or all periods of active duty service. The choice is yours.

      • Kathryn Parker on

        Can you tell me where I can find where this is cited? Upon entering the Mil-Tech program I bought back all my AD and ADT time prior to becoming a Mil-Tech. Now I work for the VA and they told me that ADT does not count. So not only did I pay for it but now I am not getting credit for it either.

  5. Good evening,

    I am currently working in the VA and I have already bought my active duty time back to put towards FERS retirement. However, I have not yet bought back my active duty training time in the USAR (I have old LESs which show the dates for which I was on ADT orders). For medical reasons, I am leaving my position early and would like to buy back my ADT to get me over 17 years federal service rather than falling short. Do I have to buy this time back before I leave my current position? I’m not sure they would get the paperwork back to me in time? I will be deferring my retirement until I am 62 (currently 41) and I’m hoping to leave my current job this upcoming March. Thanks!

    • As a rule active duty for training isn’t considered to be creditable service. You’ll have to check with your personnel office to see if any of the periods when you served can be credited.

  6. I am 61. I did my FERS military deposit buyback when I was 60 1/2. Because of administrative delay I have not been paid my retired pay but have my card. The fact that the buyback was accomplished after my 60 birthday is relevant?

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