Active duty, reserve and buyback

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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.

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About Author

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

46 Comments

  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 . . .

        Jim

        • 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.

        • While its been a few years since he posted above, I’m wondering if Jim ever got his short term active duty periods correctly accounted for to be bought back? I am also a federal employee and long term reservist with over 1.5 years of active duty composed of short periods that were all too short to rate a DD214. I’m hoping to buy that period back in addition to my 10 years of active duty for which I did get DD214s. But finding paperwork sufficient to prove that 1.5 years is looking difficult, so I’d like to know if Jim made it happen.

      • 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?

  7. I am a Traditional Reservist and will be retiring in the next 6 months from being a reservist. I am also a Federal employee for Homeland Security, and I plan on working there for a very long time before I retire from that job. I started my buyback paperwork a couple of weeks ago to find out how much I will need to pay. I’m hearing the buyback process is very behind and may not be completed before my retirement with the military is finalized. I’m hearing split answers regarding whether or not my buyback must be paid in full before my military retirement with the reserves. I am 40 years old and will not be collecting any retirement any time soon. My question is, can I pursue my buyback if I’m retired from the reserves and it still go towards my federal retirement? Than you.

    • When you retire from the reserves is irrelevant. All you have to do is complete your deposit before OPM finalizes your retirement papers.

  8. I’am 63 yrs old, presently work for the DOD and planning to retire in approx. March 2020, I was an Army Reservist from 1984-1992. To buy back my military time what forms besides my DD 214 can be utilized to get the buyback. I read that the Chronological forms can not be used.

    • If you don’t have a Certificate of Release or Discharge from Active Duty, DD 214 (or equivalent), you’ll have to enter any available records of pay or promotions on the RI 20-97 (available at http://www.opm.gov, click on Forms)and send to the your military finance center. They’ll provide you with the information you need, which you can then take to your agency payroll office.

  9. JoAnn Henderson on

    I retired from the AF Reserve but am not receiving pay as I am not 60. I bought back my military time as I am a government civilian employee. Will SCD for leave allow me to earn eight hours annual leave since buyback pushed me to 18 years toward FERS retirement? HR said I’m retired from the military, so No you won’t earn eight hrs annual leave. Thank you

    • Your HR is mistaken. The authority they cited only applies to employees who are either receiving or eligible for military retired pay. Since you will be receiving reserve retired pay, all the active duty service for which you made a deposit is creditable when determining your annual leave accrual rate.

  10. I am currently in the National Guard. I have 12 years active, 4 years reserve and 6 years Guard. I have been employed with the DOJ for 6 years. I am currently buying my active duty time. I basically have approximately 22 years of service, 12 active and the rest reserve/Guard. I am currently buying my active duty time back. Will buying my active duty time effect my reserve retirement? For example, could I retire today as a reservist with 22 years even though I’m buying my active time back? Thank you.

    • Receiving reserve retired pay now or in the future would have no affect on your civilian annuity. So go ahead and complete the buying back of your active duty service.

      • I am also on the same predicament. But the questions is guided towards the reserved retirement. Will that affect the reserved retirement if I already completed the buy back for 12 yrs Active duty time? What kind of effects that has on reserved retirement? Or do I need to do additional time to qualify for reserved retirement? I don’t want to submit a retirement application and find out later that they don’t count my active duty time because I bought it back for the FERS retirements.

        • Buying back your period of active duty service will not affect your entitlement to reserve retired pay.

    • I need to find out information on Reserve Component Survivor’s Pension Benefit RC-SPB CONDITIONS. Who do I contact online?

  11. Larry Dean Gouge on

    I completed 12 years of active duty in the USAF. I transitioned to the USAF Reserve and finished with 22 years (2012). I had started with Department of Veterans Affairs in 2001. I completed the military deposit and bought back the 12 years of active duty. I am not eligible for the USAF Reserve retirement pay because I am 54 years old. I currently have 30 years of FERS service (12 active USAF and 18 VA). I am looking to retire at 56 and 4 months for the immediate FERS benefits if possible. Wondering if this is possible and will it affect my USAF Reserve retirement when I turn 60.

    • With 30 years of combined service, you can retire on an immediate annuity when you reach your minimum retirement age. Doing so will have no affect on your USAF retirement benefits.

  12. I’m considering going back to active duty army. I’ve completed 21 years of military service (6 years active and 15 years National Guard). I’m also a GS employee that bought back my Active Duty time for a total of 14 years GS time. Since I bought back my active duty time for GS service, how will this affect me going back to active duty status? Just trying to figure out what is the best scenario for me in regards to retirement. I’m already eligible for NG retirement at 60, I’m a GS-9 at my civilian job, I’m a 03 in the NG, and I’m 40 years old. Is it possible to recoup my active duty time that I bought for GS service?

    • There are only two ways you can get a refund of your deposit. You can resign form the government and ask for a refund. Or you can wait until you are ready to retire from your civilian job and ask for a refund.

  13. Anthony Wiggins on

    Good day-

    I completed 4 years of active duty service in the USCG from 7/1985 to 7/1989. I joined the USCG Reserve around 02/1991 and finished with approx. 29 years of combined service in 2015. During my reserves time I accumulated another 5 to 6 years of active duty time due to deployments after 911. After retiring from the Sheriff Department in 2009, I accepted a position with the Department of the Navy (2009) which I have completed 11 yrs. of employment to date. I can collect my USCG retirement at age 57 1/2 due to time being reduced back from age 60 because of my deployments from 2008-2015. I would like to retire in 6years at the age of 60, but that would only give me a total of 17 years in FERS. I was thinking of buying back approx. 4 years of my active duty time give or take, so to have at least 20 years or more with my FERS retirement.

    I spoke with a Consultant with the Chartered Federal Employee Benefits and I explained what I was seeking to do. After the consultant asked me some questions and we talked he advised it would not benefit me to buy back any of my Active duty time because I would lose my Military retirement. After speaking with some other people who have done this and reading some of the comments above, I’m somewhat confused if I was given the right advise/information.

    I just want to know if I decide to buy back my 4 years of active duty time 07/1985 – 07/1989 does my Coast Guard pension go away or would I only collect on my 25 years of reserve years?

    I’m also wondering if I’m able to buy back my four years of active duty time and apply it towards my FERS retirement to get it up to 20+ years and then retire at age 60 would I still be hit with the 5% penalty for each year prior to age 62?

    • Making a deposit to get credit for your active duty service will have no effect on your entitlement to a full Coast Guard retirement benefit. Further, if you retire at age 60 with 20 years of service – actual and active duty years for which you’ve made a deposit – there wouldn’t be any penalty.

  14. Reg,

    You have provided some great information. Thank you. As you can tell this is near and dear to a lot of hearts. I have not yet bought back my military time. I am medically retired from active duty. I have been worried that if I buy back the military time I would lose my medical. My agency HR is zero help with this question. I know you have said that it is not the case… can you point me to the direction of any documentation that will confirm this. Once I waive the retirement pay I can’t get it back, so I am hesitant to pull that trigger without the full understanding of possible ramifications.

    • I checked this out with DoD, which gave me the answer I’ve been passing on for the last 20 years. Every one who followed it has told me that waiving their military retired pay has had no affect on their other military benefits.

  15. Reg,
    I am currently a federal employee working in a covered position as an 1811. In 2001 I left the Coast Guard with 15 years of active duty and was hired on in my current position at 37 years of age. I never bought back my military time because I believed that I would be recalled and eventually have enough for an active duty retirement. Over the course of time I was involuntarily recalled on title 10 orders and in 2012, retired as active duty. Now, I am turning 57 and my mandatory retirement has arrived. However, my HR I formed that my active duty time of 5 years does not apply towards my mandatory 20 years of LEO service and am short five years. When presented with buying back all of my active duty time, I was told that the time on active duty while employed with the federal government (5years) would not be computed at the 1.7% for LEOs and I would get 15 for LEO and 20 years at 1% per year. I thought the time I was recalled while employed as LEO would count towards my years for retirement. Am I right and if so where can I find the answer for HR to review.

    • While active duty service that interrupts a civilian career can count toward the years needed to retire if a deposit is made for that time, I can find nothing in writing that says it can be counted as special category (LEO) time. If anyone who reads this can offer evidence to the contrary, it would be very much appreciated.

  16. Thanks for the great info, Reg. I’m trying to determine whether I need to buy back time for FERS, or not, based on these parameters:

    * Traditional Reservist 1983-2013 (retired)
    * Federal employee 2002-current
    * I served five different times on active duty orders between 2003 and 2013, ranging from a year to 1.5 years each, and was on LWOP-US from my federal job for those periods

    Do I need to buy back that time or am I credited with it since I was still employed?

  17. Reg,

    I’m retiring from USNR on 1 December 2020 with 32 years of service and 18 years of cumulative active duty time. I am also eligible to start collecting my reserve retirement on 1 December 2020. I have never served in the federal civil service, but I have several applications in and a few interviews scheduled. If I am hired after 1 December 2020, am I still eligible to buy back my active duty time even though I am collecting my reserve retirement?

    • Regardless of when you are hired, you’ll be able to make a deposit to get credit for your periods of active duty service.

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