Military buyback


Q. I am retired Army with 22 years and nine months being paid my monthly retirement check. I retired in May 2011. I started as a GS FERS employee in February 2013. I am in a target GS 12 position, which basically means that I will be a GS 12 in February 2017. I did the DFAS Payback estimator for military time and it stated that I would owe about $18,000. My monthly retirement check right now is about $2,200 a month. I know that I will have to waive that once I retire from civilian service in order to combine the civil service time and the military time. How much more in retirement would I get as a GS FERS employee, and is it worth the $18,000? I have heard that retirees don’t buy back their time because it is not worth it. I heard that this program is designed for the person who did any number of years but did not retire. Is that true? Do you know of retirees that buy back their time?
A. Yes, military retirees do make a deposit to get credit for their active-duty service. It’s a good choice when the additional years of service they get accelerates the date on which they can retire from their civilian job and the additional annuity they’ll receive based on that combination of actual and deposit service makes it worth the investment. You could get a quick estimate of its value to you to retire from your civilian job at your MRA (which ranges from 55 to 57 depending on your year of birth). Then, using the standard annuity formula, see what your annuity would be using two different scenarios. In the first, your annuity is based solely on your civilian service. In the second, it’s based on your combined service. Here’s the formula: .01 x your high-3 x your years and full months of service, including unused sick leave.


About Author

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


  1. REG – I am a retired soldier (E7) with 20+ years of service, retired in 2001 and still married. I have bought back all of my military time because it was financially beneficial (GS15) and will forgive my retirement pay when I decide to retire as a FERS employee. My question is will the military waive the SBP? Can I pay it off? Do I just need to say that I no longer require? There are no court orders whatsoever concerning any of my pay or benefits.

    • Because I’m only qualified to answer questions about civilian benefits, I don’t know what affect your waiver of military retired benefits would have on the SBP. You’ll have to check with your branch of service.

  2. Edward Cathright on

    Hello, I retired from the US Army on 30 SEP 16 as a colonel with a full 34 years and 25 days of active duty service. My retirement pay began on 1 OCT 16 and is $9,293 monthly. My ex wife get’s 1/3 of that because of a court ordered divorce settlement. I am now employed under FERS with an annual salary of $225,010 and this job started on 24 JUL 2016. I would like to work 12 more years (total of 13 years) and project I will have a high three of $240,000 at the time of retirement. How much would my federal retirement be if I buy back my military retirement? How much would the deposit be? How much would the interest be? Would my ex wife be eligible to receive money from my federal retirement if I buy back the military retirement? Overall is this worth the buy back?

    • To get credit for tour active duty retired pay in your civilian annuity, you’d have to waive that pay. However, because you have a court order requiring you to provide a portion of that pay to your former spouse, you can’t do that. Therefore,the rest of your questions are moot.

  3. So I am NOT retired. I was medically separated then took FED position. I divorced in 2015 with the court order to relinquish 50% of retirement based on the date of separation MAR 2014. I have not bought back my military time. Would it benefit me more or my ex to buy the time back now and retire from the FED in 9 years at 25 in?

    • We aren’t qualified to answer questions about the affect of court ordered settlements on retirement benefits. You’ll have to consult an attorney to find out if the language of that order applies only to benefits earned up to the day you divorced or to the ones you’d be entitled to when you retire.

  4. If you are a reservist who qualified for a reserve retirement (but which won’t kick in for a few years) and bought back all your military time in FERS, but then returned to military service and obtained a regular active duty 20 YOS retirement, would there be a way to waive the active duty retirement at age 60 in preference for the reserve retirement in order to qualify for both the reserve retirement and the FERS retirement? The way the law appears written one cannot qualify for the reserve retirement if you qualify for the 20 YOS active duty retirement. But it would be more advantageous when the reserve retirement would have kicked in to have both the FERS retirement (for which the years were already bought before qualifying for the active duty retirement) and the Reserve Retirement. And if the military years were already bought before qualifying for the active duty retirement to avoid interest payments, it would seem to be a bit unfair for FERS to keep the money for years only to come to find out at the end that the bought years were useless.

  5. I did 16 years 1 month in the Military Service, I wanted to know if I buy back my time how many years should I complete before I be able to retire?

  6. 20 year retired military that receives a monthly retirement, also VA service connected veteran at 30%. Currently a FERS employee that paid $14k to buyback my military retirement. This December I will retire from FERS with 35 year(15 actual and 20 year military). When I retire I will no longer get a military retirement but will get a FERS retirement, my question what happens to the 30% VA disability that is currently taken out of my military retirement and deposited separately? Since I am not 50% I am not entitled to concurrent receipt? Call the VA and DFAS and neither one could give me an answer. For those that are asking why I would do this, because I opted not to get SSB when I retired from the military, but now I want SSB through FERS, so combining buying back my military and combining my military retirement and FERS retirement my spouse will recieve a nice monthly check when I pass.

    • Unfortunately, we can’t answer your question. We are only able to answer questions about civilian benefits.

  7. I retired after 20 years of active duty, and have been receiving the standard military retirement pension. Because I divorced, my ex-spouse has been entitled by-law to half of that pay, which DFAS has automatically been deducting from my pension and paying to her. After military retirement, I took up a federal job. I’m now 56 years old, my agency’s minimum retirement age. If I buy back my military time in order to get credit towards federal retirement, does this have any affect on the by-law payment of the military retirement that my ex-spouse has been receiving?

    • If you want to get credit for your active duty service, you would have to make a deposit for that time AND waive your military retired pay. That would cancel your wife’s payments and be a violation of the terms of the divorce agreement. Whether it would be possible to have her payments taken out of your salary instead is something the court would have to determine.

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