Ask The Experts: Retirement

By Reg Jones

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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Creditable academy time

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Q. My Civilian Personnel Activity Center office is questioning whether my service academy time is creditable toward my service computation date based on the fact that my type of separation (dismissal) and character of service (not applicable). My discharge is not honorable or dishonorable, but I didn’t think it mattered for service academy time because I wasn’t commissioned yet. Any documentation to show my CPAC office would be much appreciated.

A. Section 1115 of the National Defense Authorization Act of 2008 explicitly made academy time creditable for retirement purposes and should be included when setting that service computation date.  Although not specifically included in the Act, according to OPM, the fact that academy time is creditable for retirement purposes also makes it creditable for leave accrual purposes.

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Service academy time and accrued leave (updated)

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Q: I began working in the federal government in August 2008. I am currently buying back 13 years of military service: nine years in the Marine Corps and four years at the Naval Academy. I understand once I complete the military service buy-back I will have 13 years added to my creditable service date for retirement purposes.

My leave service computation date currently reflects the nine years of Marine Corps service plus my 1.5 years as civilian employee. As a result, I am earning six hours of leave per pay period. I questioned my human resources department as to why my leave SCD does not reflect all of my creditable military service I am buying back. My HR department stated that service academy time is creditable for retirement purposes but is not creditable for leave purposes.

This may be correct. However, it does not seem very logical. To date, no one from my HR department can produce the reference that confirms this policy. Can you tell me if my HR department is correct, and can you let me know where I could find this reference?

A: Your HR office was mistaken. According to OPM, Section 1115 of the National Defense Authorization Act of 2008 made academy time creditable for retirement purposes and, by extension, leave accrual purposes. That service is creditable both prospectively and restrospectively.

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Counting service academy time

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Q: Is the time spent at a service academy creditable for civilian retirement if the employee did not graduate? There has always been an assumption that if the individual did not graduate from the academy that the time was not creditable for civilian retirement purposes. Nowhere can a reference be located with a mention of graduating.

I’ve exhausted just about every reference possible and the closest thing that I can find is Section 1115 of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2008, which authorizes federal employees to receive retirement “credit for service as a cadet or midshipman at a military service academy.”

I understand that the Office of Personnel Management has always interpreted “military service” as including service as a cadet or midshipman at the Air Force Academy, Coast Guard Academy, Naval Academy and U.S. Military Academy, but Section 1115 provides statue to this long-held practice.

A: Yes, time spent at one of the military academies is creditable, even if you didn’t graduate. The only exception to that rule is for foreign nationals who are receiving training under the auspices of an agreement with a foreign government.

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