Ask The Experts: Retirement

By Reg Jones

Leave accrual credit for active-duty service

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Q. I have a retired active reserve associate with 10 years of active-duty service. Would he get leave accrual credit for his 10 years of active duty, or, since he retired, does he receive only leave accrual credit for campaigns?

A. He can find the answer by going to www.opm.gov/StaffingPortal/vetguiide.asp and scrolling to Service Credit for Leave Accrual and Retirement.

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Active-duty time and retirement

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Q. Hello, I’m a civil servant with a retirement service computation date of Aug. 28, 1986. This includes approximately 15 years of civil service time under FERS and two active-duty stints for the remainder. I have two DD-214s to account for the military time. My question concerns the noninclusion of other active-duty time I completed while a reservist. I completed approximately four more years of active duty between 1989 and 1997 that was not documented via a DD-214 — active duty for training, for example.

I understand that inactive training periods don’t count toward the computation, but does the ADT time count? Can I purchase this time back as well?

A. You’ll have to ask your agency personnel office to get verification from your branch of service for any periods of active-duty service you performed as a reservist. Note: To get retirement credit for any active duty service, you’ll need to make a deposit to the retirement fund.

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VA application and service computation date

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Q. I’m applying for a VA position as a GS civilian (Catholic priest).

I’ve been in military service continuously since Feb. 6, 1994, and still serve in the Air Force Reserve. I have a DD-214 that documents 12 years, eight months and four days of active military service.

In my VA application, I’m being asked to report my service computation date.

For the purposes of my VA application, is my SCD the same as my Total Active Federal Service Date in the military? My TAFSD is 12 years, eight months and four days ago, Jan. 13, 2000 — but that date changes every day, since I’m not serving on active duty.

I also have a Total Federal Service Date in the military, which will remain at Feb. 6, 1994, as long as I continue to serve in the Reserve.

I’ve never held a federal civilian position. Given my circumstances, what date should I report as the SCD on my VA application?

A. All they want to know is your period of active-duty service. No credit is given for reserve time.

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Buying back multiple active-duty periods

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Q: I have three periods of military service for which I am required to pay a deposit under “Catch 62.” The first period, 1969 to 1972, I paid for when it came due in 1986. This bought me a period of about 2.6 years. I was mobilized for Operation Desert Shield/Desert Storm in 1990 to 1991, and for duty in Bosnia in 1997, for eight and seven months, respectively.

I plan to work off the additional time by delaying my retirement for 15 months or more. When I discussed this plan with our human resources office, I was told that I may not be able to keep the original 2.6 years I’ve already redeemed if I do not completely pay off all three periods of active duty. Is this true?

A: No, it isn’t true. When you have more that one period of active-duty service, you can select which one or ones for which you want to make a deposit. The time for which you already made a deposit is “in the bank” and can’t be affected by what you do about the other two periods.

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Credit for active duty service

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Q: I am sure that you have answered this question before — it seems so basic to me — but I could not find a comparable Q&A on your site. Here goes: I have 11 years, 2 months, 20 days of active Air Force service, no Guard or reserve (retired from Guard but I believe it’s irrelevant; no active time other than for training). I have been tentatively hired by DECA as a GS 4 (awaiting clearance paperwork). I don’t know anything about federal retirement plans, as I am not in one yet. How will the “buyback” of my time work? Is there someplace I can go to online, a manual or guideline, to educate myself on this?

A: You can make a deposit for your period of active duty service and get credit for that time in determining your length of civilian service and in your civilian annuity computation. If you complete the deposit within two years after you come on board, you won’t be charged any interest. You’ll need to complete a copy of form RI-20-97, Estimated Earnings During Military Service, and mail it to your military finance center with a copy of your DD Form 214, Report of Transfer or Discharge. When they get back to you, take that letter, a copy of your DD-214 and Standard Form 3108, Application to Make Deposit or Redeposit, to your local payroll office and request an estimate of the deposit required. They can arrange a payment schedule or you can deposit the amount in a lump sum. You can get copies of the RI and Standard Forms from your personnel office or download them at www.opm.gov, click on Find Form(s).

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Reserve retirement

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Q: I have just been offered a GS job that I plan to start in a couple of months. However, I have a unique situation. I have the opportunity to retire in September and start receiving my retirement pay immediately because I will have obtained more than 20 years of total combined active-duty time during my 29+ years of active duty and reserve service. So, basically I can begin receiving my retirement immediately beginning in October 2011 even though I have not reached the 60 years of age that is normally required for reservist retirement because of the “sanctuary” provision given to military members who have reached at least a total of 18 years while still on active service. Sanctuary laws mean that if you are on active duty (I am on active duty recall orders but I am still a reservist) when you hit 18 years or more of total active service, the military is required by law to not involuntarily discharge you until you reach 20 years of total active service, which then entitles you to immediately receive your retirement payments). I have a total of 29+ years, with 20 of them being on active duty or on active duty recall, but I am still a reservist. I am not classified as an active duty person even though I will be receiving my retirement immediately like an active duty person would. Is the key here that I get my service to retire me as a reservist, i.e., that my retirement forms say I am retiring as a reservist but that I will be getting it immediately, rather than them saying I am getting an active duty retirement? If I do get them to officially retire me as a reservist but with the benefit of getting my retirement immediately upon discharge, will I still be able to buy the 20 years of active duty time toward my FERS retirement because it is classified as a Reserve retirement??

A: Whether you are receiving reserve retired pay or only eligible to receive reserve pay makes no difference. Once you are hired, you can still make a deposit for all your active duty service to the civilian retirement system and get credit for it in determining your length of service and in your annuity computation. FYI, not withstanding the major leg up you have toward retirement from your civilian position, you’d have to be covered by FERS for five years to be eligible to do that.

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Military buyback and benefit computation

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Q: I am 58 years old, and I started work for the government in 1981. I have 30 years of service as a Defense Department civilian employee and four years as an active-duty service member. I am under the Civil Service Retirement System and plan to retire at age 62 with 38 years of total service. I have not bought back any of my active-duty time. What impact will that have on my retirement annuity and what impact will that have if I decide to take another job after I retire?

A: Because you were first hired before Oct. 1, 1982, you have a choice as to whether to buy back your military time: If you don’t make the deposit, you’ll get credit for the time in determining your years of service and your annuity computation; however, if you are eligible for a Social Security benefit after you retire, those years will be subtracted and your annuity recomputed downward.

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Active duty buyback

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Q: I would like to buyback my years of active duty time to increase my FERS retirement. I am a part-time VA employee. VA has provided me an estimate of my annuity based on my years of VA service, adjusted for the part-time nature of my service. How are my years of active duty calculated in the part-time scenario? Does the VA apply a full-time status for the years of buyback and adjust the percentage of part-time service? Or are the additional years just added as if they were also part time? I have not found any discussions that address the part-time factor.

A: You will be given a day’s credit for each day of active-duty service from the day you entered on duty in the armed forces until the day you separated. Once you have completed the deposit, that period of service will be treated as if you were a full-time employee.

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Military buyback 101

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Q: Can an active-duty service member roll his retirement into government service and add those years together with existing military service years? This was possible 20 years ago or so, but I was wondering whether it still is an option. I’m a 27-year veteran about to retire, and I’d rather go straight into government service and forego my retirement check from the military, if that is possible.

A: Nothing has changed. You can make a deposit to the civilian retirement system for any years of active-duty service and, if you are eligible for military retired pay, waive that pay when you retire. If you do that, you will get credit for all your years of active duty in determining your years of civilian service and in your civilian annuity computation. Note: To be eligible to retire from your civilian job, you’d need to have five years of actual employment under the civilian retirement system.

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Military buyback and reserve service

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Q: I retired from the Navy after 20 years of service. I was on active duty for eight years and then on reserve active duty for 12. I am 47 and receiving retirement pay. Since I retired as a reserve (my DD 214 shows component/branch as “U.S. Navy-USNR”), can I buy back my time and put it toward my Federal Employees Retirement System retirement? 

A: You may make a deposit for any period(s) of active-duty service. If you do, that time will be used in determining your length or service and in your annuity calculation. Making a deposit for that time won’t affect your reserve retired pay.

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Military leave for a term-hire job

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Q: My nephew has a term-hire job, and he just found out he will be deploying to Iraq soon. It looks like he will be leaving three weeks before the end of his contract. Will he be able to work those three weeks when he gets back? Also, it sounds like they were going to extend the contract, so would that mean he would also get that extension when he comes back? And, does a term hire get any paid military leave?

A: When he goes on active duty, during those three weeks he will be on military leave, called LWOP-US. At the end of those three weeks, he will no longer be a federal civilian employee. When he returns from active duty, if the project or workload needs that were the basis for his being hired in the first place still exist, his agency could, at its discretion, offer him a new term appointment.

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Undoing a military buyback

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Q: I was a federal employee for the better part of 1991-1997, during which time I made a deposit for a percentage of my base pay received during active-duty Army service that totaled $8,098.17. I then separated from civilian service and returned to active duty, where I remained until retirement in 2007. I am now a civilian employee again. I no longer intend to use my years of military service toward a civilian retirement. Is there any way I can have that deposit refunded, either now or when I retire as a civilian employee?

A: You could only receive a refund now if you separated from the government without being eligible to retire and were entitled to a refund of all your retirement contributions. On the other hand, if you choose not to waive your military retirement pay when you retire from your civilian job, you will receive a full refund of that deposit.

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Active-duty service and federal employment

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Q: I am considering a civil service position and need help sorting out how my prior active-duty service may affect pay and retirement. I have 17 years of active-duty time; I took a lump-sum payout when I left. Is my time creditable toward seniority, pay and retirement if I take a civil service position?

A: If you are hired into a civilian job in the federal government, you would need to make a deposit for your period of active-duty service to get credit for that time. While it would count in establishing your years of service, your annual leave accrual rate and, eventually, in your annuity calculation, it would only have an effect on your pay if the knowledge, skills and abilities you gained while in the service resulted in your being qualified for a higher-level position.

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