Military time buyback


Q. I was told I can buy back my military time of 25 years, do 5 years in civil service, and then collect a 30-year FERS retirement. Because my military retirement is a disability retirement, I do not have to waive my military retirement and I’ll receive two retirement payments; I just need buy back my time before I retire. Is this true?

A. Yes, you can make a deposit to get credit for your years of active duty service before you retire. However, you would also have to waive your military retired pay unless it was awarded on account of a service-connected disability either incurred in combat with an enemy of the United States or caused by an instrumentality of war and incurred in the line of duty during a period of war.


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


  1. For those considering this option, that fall outside of the caveats Reg listed, you need to carefully evaluate the pro/con of this situation. Civilian retirement is based on your high-3 average salary, with the calculation of 1.1% of your high-3 average salary for each year of service (at age 62 or older at separation with 20 or more years of service). So, if you were not in a higher paying civilian career field your actual take home retirement pay could be less than 2 separate checks for separate military and civilian retirements.

    Example: if you retired in 2019 as an E7 after 25 years AD, the annual military retired pay is about $30,412 based on current military pay scale. So, to have a retirement pay more than that (after 5 years civil service), you would need a federal civilian salary of approximately $92,500. ($92,500 x 0.33 = $30,525 in annual retirement based on 30 years total creditable service for calculation (25 mil +5 civ, in this instance) ).

    This calculation is based on 1.1% x 30 years = 33% = 0.33. Also, this is not including any potential COLA increases during that 5 years, which could mean your civilian salary would need to be even higher.

    If you retired at a lower rank, then the salary would not have to be as much. Conversely, if you retired at a higher rank the salary would need to be more, to have a greater retirement by combining your periods of service for calculation.

    Reg, obviously please correct me if I’m wrong on this rough calculation.

    The information regarding FERS is available at the official Office of Personnel Management website ( https: // www. opm. gov/ retirement-services/fers-information/computation/ ) (remove spaces to go to the OPM FERS info)

  2. Also to add to the above, if you are rated at less than 50% through the VA, and your military retired pay is offset (if thats the correct word) by the disability pay, buying back your time may be worth it. If you are buying back your time, do it within the first three years of federal service.
    I retired a E7 with 20 years, I am 40% disabled, so my retired pay is 60%. I am currently GS-14, buying back my time ($9K) was well worth it.

  3. My Ex-spouse is receiving 50% of my retirement pay, the other 50% is my retirement and my VA disability, when I waive my retirement I only waive my 50% portion?

    • There is no provision in law that would allow you to waive anything less than the full amount of your annuity. And OPM wouldn’t let you do that because it would deprive your ex-spouse of a benefit she is entitled to.

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