Length of service


Q. I have 10 years with the Department of Veterans Affairs, and I paid my military deposit (14 years, nine months and 18 days), so my total time is 24 years and nine months. I’m leaving to return to school full time. If I come back after three to five years, I’ve been told I would be starting over, i.e., all that time is gone because of the break in service. Is that true?

A. 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.


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.


  1. Be sure to keep ALL documentation regarding your time in service, payment for military time and SF 50, as the government has lost one or two of these and not given back sick leave etc to those who return to Federal Service.

  2. I have been an Army “Temp” civilian employee for about 8 years, between 2004 to 2011. I was told we were not eligible for CSRS because we were Temp employees. When I in processed through CPO, as a Carer Conditional employee, they stated we could buy back our Temp Time. If so, How? What Form? And time frame I must initiate the buy back?

    • No one first hired after December 31, 1983, is eligible to be covered by CSRS, only FERS. And FERS employees can’t make a deposit for non-contributory service performed after January 1, 1989. Whoever told you you could, was mistaken.

  3. I cannot afford to pay $6,000.00 Deposits from my previous service as a military Base worker. What are the options in paying this?

    • @Omydel, If you are talking about a deposit for Civilian Service time, I assume you have already completed SF-3108, Application to Make Service Credit Payment (FERS) or the SF-2803 for CSRS, and received a statement from OPM. If not, you need to do that first.

      You can pay it either by payroll allotment to OPM or online at https://pay.gov. I like pay.gov because you can pay whatever you want, whenever you want, and either use a bank account or credit card to make your payments. It provides an electronic record of your payment, You go to pay.gov, create an account, and you find the form “OPM Service Credit Payment.” You fill it out online and make your payment online. 2 weeks later, you get a statement in the mail from OPM showing your payment made and new balance. Here’s a link to the form: https://pay.gov/public/form/start/22555128

      If you are saying you want to buy back service time while you were enlisted in the Military, that is a different process. You can pay the money back through payroll deduction or write a single check for the whole thing. See the DFAS site for information. https://www.dfas.mil/civilianemployees/militaryservice/militaryservicedeposits.html

  4. Hello. I am about to take a break in military service for a couple of years to pursue personal goals. I plan to return to military service and hope to reach retirement following this break.

    Regarding the original post, will My military retirement benefits “pick up where it left off” after I re-enter military service? **At this time, I have 5 years active duty, 7 years drilling reserve duty (total of 12+ yrs satisfactory service), and I am an academy graduate. I want to return to reserve duty status after a break in service and retire with at least 20 yrs of qualifying service.

    Thank you for any insight.

    • Because this is a site for federal civilian employees, retirees and survivors. We aren’t able to answer questions about military matters.

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