Ask The Experts: Retirement

By Reg Jones

Active-duty military service and leave accrual

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Q. Does active-duty time for basic training, AIT and PLDC (now WLC or some such thing) count for leave accrual in a GS job with the USDA when it was done as a member of the National Guard? Is it generally done under title 32 or title 10? I assume my one-year deployment to Iraq also counts for leave accrual and for buyback purposes. I have no idea where the orders are for the three periods in question (yes, I could request copies), but they appear to be included in box 12d (total prior active service) of the dd214 from the deployment.

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Military service and leave accrual

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Q. I retired from the Army with less than 20 years (18). How does this affect my civilian leave accrual (4, 6 and 8 hours) level times/stages?

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Service academy attendance and leave accrual credit

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Q. I’m confused about receiving service academy credit toward leave accrual for retired military members. The personnel servicing agency has denied request for credit based on Title 5 and 38. Title 5 of US Code 6303 states, “An employee who is a retired member of a uniformed service as defined by section 3501 of this title is entitled to credit for active military service only if — (A) his retirement was based on disability — (i) resulting from injury or disease received in line of duty as a direct result of armed conflict; or (ii) caused by an instrumentality of war and incurred in line of duty during a period of war as defined by sections 101 and 1101 of title 38.” The US Air Force Academy time cannot be considered for people who retired from active duty.

It makes sense that the military time should not be double-counted toward government retirements except in exceptional situations. However, the service academy time is not creditable toward military retirement and should not be held to the standard set under Title 5 section 6303. Is the personnel servicing agency correct that the time is not creditable for leave accrual even though the service academy time is creditable toward retirement in FERS?

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Military buyback and leave accrual

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Q. A buddy and I both retired from military service recently and now work as civilians for the federal government (in different departments). We both “bought back” our academy time (just under four years) and they will now count toward our civilian careers. However, my department also counted these years for leave accrual, such that I have been earning six hours per pay period.

My friend’s department did not count these years for leave accrual, so he is only earning four hours per pay period.

It seems to me that his department only referred to 1-6 of this reference: http://www.opm.gov/feddata/gppa/gppa06.pdf (which I noticed you used in this Q&A: http://blogs.federaltimes.com/federal-retirement/2012/01/30/creditable-military-service-and-leave-accrual/)

However, looking at 1-4, there is another reference to consider: The law states: “In determining years of service, an employee is entitled to credit for all service of a type that would be creditable under section 8332” … And while paragraph J-1 of that reference would seem to indicate “No” for our situation, paragraph J-2 reads as follows: (2) The provisions of paragraph (1) of this subsection relating to credit for military service shall not apply to: (A) any period of military service of an employee or Member with respect to which the employee or Member has made a deposit with interest, if any, under section 8334(j) of this title;”

Do you believe his department is correct, or mine? If mine, then how can he go about correcting this, having already tried a couple of times?

A. According to the Office of Personnel Management:

“Section 1115 of the [National Defense Authorization Act] for FY 2008 is the applicable provision of law that explicitly makes academy service time creditable for retirement — and therefore for annual leave accrual purposes.

“Section 1115 of the NDAA amended title 5 United States Code so that it explicitly made academy service time creditable toward retirement for both CSRS and FERS employees. Service is creditable retrospectively, as well as prospectively. Here is the Section 1115 text-

“SEC. 1115. RETIREMENT SERVICE CREDIT FOR SERVICE AS CADET OR MIDSHIPMAN AT A MILITARY SERVICE ACADEMY.

(a) CIVIL SERVICE RETIREMENT SYSTEM.-Section 8331(13) of title 5, United States Code, is amended by striking “but” and inserting “and includes service as a cadet at the United States Military Academy, the United States Air Force Academy, or the United States Coast Guard Academy, or as a midshipman at the United States Naval Academy, but

(b) FEDERAL EMPLOYEES RETIREMENT SYSTEM.-Section 8401(31) of such title is amended by striking “but” and inserting “and includes service as a cadet at the United States Military Academy, the United States Air Force Academy, or the United States Coast Guard Academy, or as a midshipman at the United States Naval Academy, but

(c) APPLICABILITY. The amendments made by this section shall apply to

(1) any annuity, eligibility for which is based upon a separation occurring before, on, or after the date of enactment of this Act; and

(2) any period of service as a cadet at the United States Military Academy, the United States Air Force Academy, or the United States Coast Guard Academy, or as a midshipman at the United States Naval Academy, occurring before, on, or after the date of enactment of this Act.

“In terms of credit for annual leave accrual purposes, it’s important to understand how the statute governing service credit for annual leave accrual purposes is written. 5 U.S.C. 6303 (a) provides that service which would be creditable for CSRS retirement purposes is creditable for determining an employee’s years of service for leave accrual purposes.

Once one understands the 5 U.S.C. 6303(a) text, it becomes clear that, since academy service time is creditable for retirement purposes, it is creditable for purposes of determining an employee’s annual leave service credit date.

“Here is the title 5, chapter 63 reference —

“5 U.S.C. 6303 (a)-

“…In determining years of service, an employee is entitled to credit for all service of a type that would be creditable under section 8332, regardless of whether or not the employee is covered by subchapter III of chapter 83, and for all service which is creditable by virtue of subsection (e). However, an employee who is a retired member of a uniformed service as defined by section 3501 of this title is entitled to credit for active military service only if–

(A) his retirement was based on disability–

(i) resulting from injury or disease received in line of duty as a direct result of armed conflict; or

(ii) caused by an instrumentality of war and incurred in line of duty during a period of war as  defined by sections 101 and 1101 of title 38;

(B) that service was performed in the armed forces during a war, or in a campaign or expedition for which a campaign badge has been authorized; or

(C) on November 30, 1964, he was employed in a position to which this subchapter applies and thereafter he continued to be so employed without a break in service of more than 30 days…”

“Therefore, academy service time is creditable for annual leave accrual purposes. For military retirees who have had academy service time, the restrictions of 5 U.S.C. 6303(a)(A)-(C) would of course apply.”

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Military buyback and leave accrual

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Q. I am a retired Air Force officer with 25 years of active-duty military service. After retiring in August 2011, I started working as a government civilian (DT-05) for the Navy. I have been receiving four hours of annual leave per pay period. I have been told that you can get credit for either your overseas duty time (I was stationed overseas for 14 years — seven in Italy, four in South Korea and three in Germany), or your overseas deployment time (I was deployed overseas for 12 months — nine in Iraq, one in Israel, one in Bulgaria and one in Turkey) to allow you to earn six hours per pay period. Is this true, and if so, what part(s) and what documentation do I need to submit to have my leave adjusted?

A. None of the things you heard are true. However, leave accrual credit is given to retired members of the military under limited circumstances. To see what they are, go to www.opm.gov/StaffingPortal/vetguide.asp and scroll down to Service Credit for Leave Rate Accrual and Retirement.

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Military buyback and leave accrual

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Q. I’m retired from the Navy with 21 years of service (December 1984 to December 2005). I just started a job with the Veterans Affairs Department in a civilian GS position. I’m listed in Leave Group 1. Because I am retired, I have to start from the beginning in Leave Group 1. Other service members who did not retire start off in Leave Group 2. It feels like I’m getting penalized for being retired. They say some of the campaigns I served in may count. Is this true? If so, how does it work?

A. You’ll find what you’re looking for in the Office of Personnel Management’s VetGuide. Go to www.opm.gov/StaffingPortal/vetguide.asp and scroll down to Service Credit for Leave Rate Accrual and Retirement.

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Service computation date and military academy time

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Q. I am an Army retiree (July 2011) with 21 years and am serving as an Army civilian in Germany.

I recently bought back my military academy time in FERS. According to CPAC, they are not authorized to adjust my service computation date for leave accrual because of my retired military status. I do not believe this to be correct, since my service academy time did not count toward my military retirement.

What must I do to have OPM credit the 35 months of service academy time toward my service computation date?

A. CPAC is correct. The service computation date for officers is the date they graduate from a military service academy.

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Leave accrual credit

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Q. I have a civilian job offer for a GS-12 position with the Department of the Navy. This would be my first government job. They offered me a Step 3 salary plus “seven years of credit for determining leave accrual.” I understand this credit for leave accrual would put me at 20 days of paid time off per year, but does it add to any retirement benefits in FERS for “credit” of years of service?

A. No.

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Retirement date

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Q. I work at Social Security. I was going to retire on Dec. 28, the end of the pay year. But I recently found out the leave year ends Jan. 12, 2013. I will retire with more than 30 days of accumulated annual leave. If I retire Jan. 3, 2013, I understand my pension will be reduced about 1/10, but I can be paid for four days of work, which is much higher than the reduction I will take in my pension. This only makes sense if I can get paid for all of my accumulated annual leave (about 45 days) with a retirement date of Jan. 3, 2013, which is in the next calendar and pay year. Can you give me some insight into this issue?

A. If you retire no later than Jan. 12, 2013, you’ll receive a lump-sum payment for all of your accrued and unused annual leave.

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Rehire and annuity

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Q. I retired under CSRS on a Voluntary Early Retirement Authority at age 46 with 26 years of service. I’m considering going back to work with the agency from which I retired. I’m still under age 55 (53 years old). What benefit would returning to full-time work be for me? Can I retire again any time after 55? Will my additional years apply to my retirement the second time around? What happens to penalties previously taken on early retirement?

A. If you return to work for the government, your annuity will terminate and you’ll be treated as if you had never retired. Although you’ll start with a zero balance of annual and sick leave, your annual leave accrual rate would be the same as if you hadn’t retired. You wouldn’t be eligible to retire again until you meet the age and service requirements, in your case age 55 with 30 years of service.

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Leave accrual

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Q. I will have 15 years of federal service on Dec. 7, and have been looking forward to accruing eight hours of leave per pay period. Because my service computation date falls in the middle of a pay period, I am expecting to have to wait to start accruing my eight hours during the next full pay period starting Dec. 16. Because my SCD is so late in the calendar year, I am starting to feel like I won’t really benefit from my accrual “upgrade” until two full pay periods later. Here’s my logic:

If I remained (hypothetically) at six hours per pay period for the rest of the calendar year, I’d get six hours for pay period 26 and then 10 for pay period 27 for a total of 16 hours. In contrast, after my accrual change to eight hours per pay period, I’ll get eight hours for both pay periods 26 and 27 for a total of 16 hours. It seems that it wouldn’t be until the first pay period of next year that I’d actually start to benefit. Do I understand this correctly?

A. By law, the waiting periods for advancing to steps 2, 3, and 4 is 53 calendar weeks, to steps, 5, 6, and 7, 104 calendar weeks, and to steps 8, 9, and 10 156 calendar weeks. Check with your payroll office to find out when the change in your leave accrual rate will be effective.

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Leave accrual

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Q. I am a Defense Department civilian employee under FERS. My date of birth is March 15, 1954. My EOD was Oct. 1, 2007, which gives me five years of service. I have accrued 111.75 hours of annual leave, 80 hours of sick leave and 8.5 credit hours as of the pay period ending Oct. 6. I do not meet eligibility requirements for an early retirement under FERS, so If I resign within the next few weeks, what is the process I need to go through, and what can I expect as far as payout? Will I lose any of my leave? What are my options, if any? I also have 32 years of service in the private sector.

A. When you separate from the government, your agency will give you a lump-sum payment for any unused annual leave and credit hours. As a rule, it will be included in your final biweekly paycheck. To receive a refund of your retirement contributions, you’ll need to fill out a copy of Standard Form 3106, Application for Refund of Retirement Deductions, and send it to the Office of Personnel Management. That form is available from your personnel office or at www.opm.gov, click on Find Form(s).

While you won’t receive anything for your unused sick leave, if you ever returned to work for the federal government, those hours would be recredited to you. Because you were covered by FERS, you were earning Social Security credits for the entire time period of your employment. When you are eligible for a Social Security benefit, those credits will look no different from the ones you earned in the private sector.

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Leave accrual

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Q. I’m considering retiring on July 3, 2013. My current and projected sick leave balance is as follows:

Currently as of pay period 14 = 2,320.45

End of this calendar year projection = 2,372.45

Projected amount as of June 29, 2013 = 2,428.45 (last pay period before retirement)

If you apply the Office of Personnel Management’s sick leave conversion to the 2,428.45 sick leave hours at the time of my probable retirement (July 3, 2013), the conversion table states that I’ll be one hour or .55 hours shy of having one year and two months of sick leave applied to my retirement.

In 2013, pay period 14 will end on June 29, 2013 and I would like to retire the following week. Will I be able to accumulate two hours for the one week, or is leave only accrued for an entire pay period basis?

A. No. You must complete a pay period to get credit for any annual and sick leave earned during that pay period. However, don’t despair. Unless you will be retiring with an exact number of years and full months of service, you’ll have some leftover days that will be converted to sick leave hours and added to your actual sick leave hours, thereby increasing the probability that you’ll be credited with an additional month in the computation of your annuity.

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Leave accrual

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Q. I am on six weeks of sick leave. Will I continue to accrue sick leave and annual leave during these six weeks?

A. Yes.

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Military time and creditable service

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Q. I am working for the Veterans Affairs Department hospital. I served six years of service with the active-duty Navy, in which I was awarded the Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal and was honorably discharged with an RE1 enlistment code after the Navy. I served 14 years Active Guard Reserve with the Army National Guard. I do not wish to sell my time back, but I want to know why my active-duty time with the Navy does not count toward my time for leave or vacation when there are fellow workers who have less time (3-4 years) that do.

A. It should count. According to the Office of Personnel Management, “For nonretired members [of the armed forces], full credit for uniformed service (including active duty and active duty for training) performed under honorable conditions is given for annual leave accrual purposes.”

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Prior military service and leave accrual

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Q. I have been recently hired as a federal employee. Does my prior military service (five years) count toward the rate at which I accrue sick and annual leave?

A. According to the Office of Personnel Management, “An agency may provide credit toward an employee’s annual leave accrual rate for non-Federal service or active-duty uniformed service that otherwise would not be creditable if the individual has prior work experience directly related to the duties of the position to which he or she is being appointed and the prior experience is necessary to achieve an important agency mission or performance goal. This is a discretionary authority, not an employee entitlement.” On the other hand, sick leave is accrued at a fixed rate, four hours per pay period.

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Service academy time and annual leave accrual

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Q. I’ve been getting mixed messages about whether service at the armed forces military academies is creditable for annual leave accrual purposes. I’ve read Q&As on your site that say it is, but my human resources people say that it isn’t. Who’s right?

A. According to the Office of Personnel Management:

“Section 1115 of the NDAA for FY 2008 is the applicable provision of law that explicitly makes academy service time creditable for retirement — and therefore for annual leave accrual purposes.

“Section 1115 of the NDAA amended title 5 United States Code so that it explicitly made academy service time creditable toward retirement for both CSRS and FERS employees. Service is creditable retrospectively, as well as prospectively. Here is the Section 1115 text-

“SEC. 1115. RETIREMENT SERVICE CREDIT FOR SERVICE AS CADET OR MIDSHIPMAN AT A MILITARY SERVICE ACADEMY.
(a) CIVIL SERVICE RETIREMENT SYSTEM.-Section 8331(13) of title 5, United States Code, is amended by striking “but” and inserting “and includes service as a cadet at the United States Military Academy, the United States Air Force Academy, or the United States Coast Guard Academy, or as a midshipman at the United States Naval Academy, but
(b) FEDERAL EMPLOYEES RETIREMENT SYSTEM.-Section 8401(31) of such title is amended by striking “but” and inserting “and includes service as a cadet at the United States Military Academy, the United States Air Force Academy, or the United States Coast Guard Academy, or as a midshipman at the United States Naval Academy, but
(c) APPLICABILITY. The amendments made by this section shall apply to
(1) any annuity, eligibility for which is based upon a separation occurring before, on, or after the date of enactment of this Act; and
(2) any period of service as a cadet at the United States Military Academy, the United States Air Force Academy, or the United States Coast Guard Academy, or as a midshipman at the United States Naval Academy, occurring before, on, or after the date of enactment of this Act.

“In terms of credit for annual leave accrual purposes, it’s important to understand how the statute governing service credit for annual leave accrual purposes is written. 5 U.S.C. 6303 (a) provides that service which would be creditable for CSRS retirement purposes is creditable for determining an employee’s years of service for leave accrual purposes. Once one understands the 5 U.S.C. 6303(a) text, it becomes clear that, since academy service time is creditable for retirement purposes, it is creditable for purposes of determining an employee’s annual leave service credit date.

“Here is the title 5, chapter 63 reference —

“5 U.S.C. 6303 (a)-

“…In determining years of service, an employee is entitled to credit for all service of a type that would be creditable under section 8332, regardless of whether or not the employee is covered by subchapter III of chapter 83, and for all service which is creditable by virtue of subsection (e). However, an employee who is a retired member of a uniformed service as defined by section 3501 of this title is entitled to credit for active military service only if–
(A) his retirement was based on disability–
(i) resulting from injury or disease received in line of duty as a direct result of armed conflict; or
(ii) caused by an instrumentality of war and incurred in line of duty during a period of war as
defined by sections 101 and 1101 of title 38;
(B) that service was performed in the armed forces during a war, or in a campaign or expedition for which a campaign badge has been authorized; or
(C) on November 30, 1964, he was employed in a position to which this subchapter applies and thereafter he continued to be so employed without a break in service of more than 30 days…”

“Therefore, academy service time is creditable for annual leave accrual purposes. For military retirees who have had academy service time, the restrictions of 5 U.S.C. 6303(a)(A)-(C) would of course apply.”

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Service computation date and break in service

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Q. I worked as a GS clinical nurse from Sept. 12, 1999, to Sept. 24, 2005 — a total of six years. On May 10, 2010, I returned to federal service as a GS clinical nurse. My service computation date was determined to be Feb. 8, 2008. How was this date arrived at? I previously worked from February 1991 to January 1996 as a GS worker and foolishly took my retirement monies out. I know I have lost that time. But that should not cause me to lose three years of service time, should it?

A. Unless you re-deposit the refund you took when you left government, with interest, you’ll get no retirement credit for it in determining your length of service and in your annuity computation. On the other hand, your agency appears to have given you some credit for leave accrual purposes. However, why they haven’t given you credit for all of it is something you’ll have to ask them.

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Service computation date

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Q. I am a full-time term federal employee. I had a service computation date of Feb. 5, 2005. It was recently changed to June 4, 2002, due to military service. Will this new SCD help when computing my FERS retirement plan as far as years? I have only contributed to FERS since 2005, when I became a scheduled full-time term employee.

A. It will only affect your annual leave accrual rate. It won’t have any effect on your retirement eligibility or in your annuity computation unless you make a deposit for that period of active-duty service.

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Leave accrual for combat vet

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Q. I was told that if I had served in Vietnam in a combat situation and could prove it, I would qualify for additional leave accrual (over eight hours per pay period). If I submitted a copy of my decorations I had been awarded, that would be the proof needed. Turn that into the personnel folks here at Tinker [Air Force Base, Okla.] and they would fill out the paperwork and process the application. I am a Vietnam vet and was hired as a civil servant one year ago. Can anyone tell me if there is any truth to this? I am currently working on the buyback program to get credit for my service time but just heard about this other option.

A. To the best of my knowledge, no additional leave accrual credit is given for combat service in the armed forces.

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