Q. I have a total of 18 years of active duty and reserve time, and I will be retiring in two years once I complete my 20 years of service. I am currently a civil employee. Do I buy back my military time toward FERS civilian service or do I hold up and completely retire from the military and then buy back the civil service time?

A. The choice is yours. However, the longer you wait, the more it will cost you. That’s because interest is added to the original amount each year.


About Author

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


  1. Only trouble is, if that the original poster retires from the military, he or she wouldn’t be eligible to buy back that military time, unless they waive the military retirement. Yes, the longer they wait to buy it back, the more it will cost, but the whole thing is a moot point anyway, if they’re retired military. And it doesn’t matter if you buy it back BEFORE you actually retire from the military. Either way, you can’t collect on a military retirement AND then turn around and buy back that same military time to use it towards your civilian retirement.

  2. Michael J riley on

    If that 20 years is combined active and reserve time it will be a reserve retirement not payable until age 60. I thought you said in prior posts you could draw a reserve retirement and buy back the actual active years toward your civil service annuity and collect both?

    • You can collect your active duty time (as points) when added to reserve time for a reserve retirement pay at age 60.
      You can also add the same active duty time (as years and months) for civilian retirement as long as you buy the time back prior to retiring. However, you must have completed all payments to buy it back prior to retiring.
      This is and isn’t double dipping. It is because you can use the same time. It isn’t because you must spend money out of your pocket for it to count. Basically, this program is a benefit for serving.

        • A few other caveats:
          You can only buy back AD days, not IDT i.e. ‘reserve time’ time.
          You can buy back ALL AD days prior to your FERS start date.
          Post FERS start date – you can only buy back AD days while you were in LWOP-US – documented via SF-50. WARNING: if you don’t buy back AD time while on LWOP-US from FERS, this time will NOT count towards your civilian retirement.
          I was able to complete my buyback in January, but the process took 2+ years to get it all correct – do not delay!

  3. I bought back 8 1/2 years of AD time and paid it in full $4400. I work as a full time technician in the Guard. I am thinking about taking an AGR position (Active). Will I be able to get the $4400refunded back to me. Can the buyback be reversed ?

  4. Hello, I am currently in FERS with 10 years at the Dept Of Veterans Affairs, I was able to buy back 8 years of active duty time and I collect 50% CRDP disability pay simultaneously with my Air Force Reserve Retirement and I will turn 63 yrs old this year. My question is as follows: the HR Dept here at the VA is reluctant to allow me to buy back Active Duty Time on orders for annual training, which seems ironic since I had to provide a copy of the orders to pay roll in order to be absent from my job. The person handling military buy back claims we only accept DD-214 not active duty time on orders where a DD-214 was not issued. According to OPM this does not seem correct. In closing I believe I need a AF 1613 Statement of Service showing all Federal Active Service. Any advice if I get push back from HR at the VA to buy back the additional time. Respectfully, Daniel J Costello

    • Federal employees who go on annual active duty for training are paid as if they were still at work. Since no additional credit can be given for that time, no deposit is necessary.

  5. That statement is not entirely correct. A person must choose to use paid military leave, annual leave or other form of paid leave in order to receive credit for any military service without a deposit, and it cannot be assumed that they will use paid leave for annual training or inactive duty. If a person is placed into Absent-US for a period of annual training or inactive duty that period of service will be removed from pension calculations and that time will even be removed from the length of time necessary to become eligible for retirement if a service deposit is not paid.

    The USERRA documentation requirements are listed in 20 CFR 1002.123 (which are DoL regulations). Through 38 USC 4312 (a) & (f) and 38 USC 4331(b), federal employers are required to accept whatever documents are listed in DoL regulations to show the application/return is timely, the service is honorable, and that it does not exceed the 5-year cumulative limit unless that service qualifies for an exemption under 38 USC 4312(c). That list of acceptable documents is not exhaustive, so the employer can still accept proof that is not listed there, but they cannot refuse those listed documents as proof of the service for requirements listed above. Additionally, employers have no right to require documentation at all unless the service exceeds 30 days, and even if the service does exceed 30 days the employer cannot withhold a benefit guaranteed under USERRA unless the period of service exceeds 90 days, then they can only withhold the pension benefits until documentation is provided (see 38 USC 4312(f)(3)-(4)). Pensions are guaranteed under USERRA by 38 USC 4318… but to get coverage of that benefit under 38 USC 4318, you must be prepared to complete the deposit within 3 times the length of service, not to exceed 5 years. If VA refuses to accept those documents and allow you to make an immediate deposit, I recommend you file a claim with MSPB, but be very meticulous and document your requests. I am a human resources officer and I would love to see someone file a successful claim and actually get these provisions corrected. Likewise, DOL requires that a service deposit does not have to be paid in full and a person can get credit comparitive to the amount of the deposit that is paid (see 20 CFR 1002.262(d)) and the DoL pamphlets make it clear that the pension is required to be prorated based in what has been paid. Once again, through 38 USC 4331(b), federal employees are required to provide consistent or greater rights to federal employees, not less or more restrictive.

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