Q. I had seven years of active military service prior to starting my civil service job as a firefighter. Am I eligible to buy back the military time to use toward my retirement?
A. Yes. To get credit for any active-duty service in the armed forces, you need to make a deposit to the civilian retirement system. For FERS employees, the deposit equals 3 percent of the basic military pay you received (not including allowances and differentials) for all periods of service between 1957 and 1998. It’s 3.25 percent for 1999 and 3.4 percent for 2000.
To make the deposit, start by completing form RI 20-97, Estimated Earnings During Military Service, and mail it to the finance center for your branch of service along with a copy of your DD Form 214, Report of Transfer or Discharge. When they write back, take that letter and copy of your DD Form 214 and Standard Form 3108, Application to Make Service Credit Payment, to your local payroll office. They’ll compute the amount you owe and arrange a schedule of payments.
While you will get credit for that time, it won’t reduce the number of years you need to retire as a firefighter. You need 20 actual years as a firefighter to do that. Those are the ones that will be computed using the enhanced formula. All other years will be computed using the standard formula.
FYI: You can download copies of RI 20-97 and SF 3108 from www.opm.gov, click on Forms.