National Guard and Reserve Early Retirement Age

Update – 2015 National Defense Authorization Act. The 2015 NDAA changed the rules on early retirement for Guard & Reserves. Please see below for update.

Members of the National Guard, Air National Guard and military Reserves who have met the 20 year service requirement are generally eligible for receiving retirement benefits at age 60. However, the 2008 National Defense Authorization Act authorized early retirement benefits for members of the Reserve Corps who met certain criteria. This only applies to starting retirement pay early. TRICARE benefits eligibility still begins at age 60.

Under the 2008 National Defense Authorization Act, members of the Reserve Component who served at least 90 days during a fiscal year on a deployment in support of overseas operations such as the Iraq or Afghanistan campaigns are authorized to retire three months early for each 90 day period they served in any given fiscal year. This only applies to members of the Guard or Reserves who participated in a qualifying active-duty mobilization after Jan. 28, 2008, which is the date the Act was signed into law. Service on or before this date does not count toward early retirement.

In January 2013, Congress expanded the criteria for early retirement by authorizing additional eligibility requirements. The new rules allow members of the Guard or Reserves to count activations for national emergencies including natural disasters such as earthquakes, hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, etc. Members of the Reserve Components may also be eligible to retire early if they were in a Warrior Transition unit and were injured while mobilized for responses as mentioned above.

The 2015 National Defense Authorization Act further expanded benefits. The 2015 NDAA removed the requirement for the 90 days of active duty service to be performed within the same fiscal year – activations could cross into consecutive years. However, this only applies to activations beginning FY15 and later. Further details below.

Early Retirement from the Guard and Reserves

How to qualify for retirement from the Guard & Reserves. A member must serve a full 20 year service obligation before being eligible to retire from the National Guard or Reserves. Members can retire as soon as they have 20 good years of service, but they are considered gray area retirees until they reach age 60. In general, they will be eligible to access base activities such as the gym, MWR, commissary and base exchange privileges. They would only be eligible to begin receiving other retirement benefits at age 60, including pay and medical benefits.

How early retirement works. To be eligible for early retirement, a member of the Reserve Corps must still complete the 20 year service requirement. How early they can retire depends on the number of active duty days they served on a mobilization after Jan. 28, 2008.

Early retirement reduces eligibility age for receipt of Reserve retired pay by three months for each aggregate of 90 days of qualifying active duty performed within a fiscal year. For example, if you served 90-179 days in a fiscal year, you could only retire 3 months early. If you served 180 or more days in a fiscal year you could be eligible to retire 6 months early.

Important Note for deployments that started prior to FY 2015: the entire 90 days must also be served during the fiscal year. If you served 90 consecutive days, but part of your mobilization was before the fiscal year end and part was during the new fiscal year, then the 90 day mobilization wouldn’t count toward early retirement. This makes the timing of the deployment very important when determining early retirement eligibility.

The good news is that your mobilization doesn’t need to be continuous. Your service would meet the early retirement requirements if you served 30 days at the beginning of the fiscal year and 60 days at the end of the fiscal year, so long as all 90 days were served within the same fiscal year. Many Guard and Reserve members are often mobilized for short time frames, including 15 or 30 day rotations. You can add all of these together to meet the 90 day requirement, so long as they all fall within the same fiscal year. If you find yourself in a similar situation, then be sure to keep good track of your mobilization dates so you know whether or not your mobilizations will help you qualify for early retirement.

90 Early Retirement Periods are Cumulative. Servicemembers can qualify for more than one 90 day early retirement period in a Fiscal Year. For example, someone who served 90+ days in FY 2009, 180+ days in FY 2010, and 90+ days in FY 2011, and 90+ days in FY 2012 would be eligible to retire at age 58 and 9 months (five three month periods, or 1 year 3 months early). The only rule for the cumulative early retirement benefit is that members cannot retire before age 50.

Update 2015 National Defense Authorization Act

The 2015 National Defense Authorization Act makes it easier for Reserve Corps members to qualify for early retirement when called to active duty. Prior to FY 2015, members had to serve 90 days on active duty during a fiscal year in order to be eligible to retire early. Service time that crossed a fiscal year didn’t count toward early retirement unless they had 90 or more days during a fiscal year, making the timing of the deployment very important when determining early retirement eligibility.

The new law allows that time to cross into the consecutive fiscal years. However, this only applies to deployments that started after 30 September, 2014 (or deployments that began in FY 2015).

This law is not retroactive to 28 January, 2008, which is the date of the original early retirement rule. So to recap:

  • Early retirement qualifying service (28 January 2008 – 30 September 2014): Must serve 90 days on active duty within a fiscal year.
  • Early retirement qualifying service (01 October 2014 – present): Must serve 90 days on active duty; service time can cross into consecutive fiscal years.

You can read more about this update in the following resources:

Qualifying and Non-Qualifying Service for Early Retirement

Qualifying Service: Most active duty time counts for early retirement, including deployments in support of overseas operations, mobilizations for natural emergencies which are authorized by the governor and paid for by federal funds, and other active duty service including training and attending military schools. However, not all service counts toward early retirement.

Non-Qualifying Service: You must have been a member of the Guard or Reserves when you were activated for the qualifying service. Members who originally joined the service as active duty then later transitioned to the Guard or Reserves are not able to count their previous active duty service toward early retirement. Other ineligible Guard or Reserve duty includes actions such as performing weekend drills, 2 weeks annual training, those in full-time AGR or TAR status, muster duty, those who were activated for courts-martial or disciplinary reasons, and those who were listed as not participating at a satisfactory level.

Meeting Eligibility Requirements is Only Part of the Battle

It’s up to the member to be aware of these changes, and file for early retirement. In these instances, you will need to have proof of your activation, including the reason and the duration of time you were activated. This is where your mobilization orders and DD Form 214 are essential. As you know, your DD Form 214 is issued when you are released from active duty service. This is a different form than your DD Form 256, which is the Honorable Discharge paperwork you receive when you separate from the Guard or Reserves.

Keep good records of your service. Your mobilization orders should state the reason for your mobilization or activation, as will your DD Form 214. In order to qualify for the early retirement under the new rules, you will need to have either Title 10 or Title 32 orders with the following annotation: 12301(a), 12301(d), 12301(h), 12302, 12304, 12305 or 12306.

Because much of this is up to you filing the required paperwork on time, you need to keep excellent records. If you notice discrepancies in your paperwork, contact your unit immediately to have your records corrected. If you have since left your unit and are no longer serving, you may need to contact the National Archives. We have an article on requesting military records.

Early Retirement is For Pay; Other Benefits Come at Age 60

While your deployments can start the clock earlier for your retirement pay and benefits such as access to the commissary or base exchange, early retirees will have to wait until age 60 to be eligible for TRICARE benefits.

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Date published: June 18, 2013. Last updated: August 22, 2015.

Article by

Ryan Guina is the founder and editor of this site. He is a writer, small business owner, and entrepreneur. He served over 6 years on active duty in the USAF and is currently serving in the IL Air National Guard. He also writes about money management, small business, and career topics at Cash Money Life. You can also see his profile on Google.


  1. Burt Cooper says

    Question: As of what month & year does the recall/mobiliation expanded eligibility start? That is, is there a month/year that any recall prior to that date is not eligible for the new early retirement date calculation?

    • says

      Hello Burt, The second paragraph states: “This only applies to members of the Guard or Reserves who participated in a qualifying active-duty mobilization after Jan. 28, 2008, which is the date the Act was signed into law. Service on or before this date does not count toward early retirement.” I hope this is the info you are looking for.

  2. Pete says

    I thought that Bush signed into law a bill similar to what you are talking about. As I recall the bill stated that on a 1 for 1 basis every month of active duty time for a Guardsman or Reservist retroactive to 9/11 subtracted 1 month from 60 at which we could start to draw our retirement. What happened to this? I was looking forward to pulling my retirement pay at about age 56 1/2 based on nearly 3 1/2 years of orders leading up to my retirement in Jan 2008.

    • says

      Pete, I’ve been looking into this, but I can’t find a good answer for you. The only information I have found is in regard to the benefit listed in this article. My recommendation is to visit the personnel office of the closest base and ask them to help you determine your retirement date based on your service records. They should be able to help you determine the exact date you will receive your retirement pay and other benefits. Best of luck, and thanks for your service.

  3. Gomlek says

    Ryan, the 2004 National Defense Authorization Act allows Guard and Reserve retirees, regardless of age, BX and Commissary privileges. Other “Gray Area” benefits include…

    Access to military installations
    Class VI access (beverages)
    Limited space available travel
    Post/Base recreation facilities
    Temporary Lodging (space available)
    Post/Base Theater

    • says

      Thanks, Gomlek. I will reflect this in the article. To my knowledge, Guard and Reserve retirees must wait until age 60 to begin receiving TRICARE benefits, though they can continue paying for TRICARE Retired Reserve if they are willing to pay out of pocket.

  4. Rob says

    Ryan, I’ve read the article in its entirety but I’m still confused on one part, so I hope you can excuse my question. I’m 30 years old currently serving as Active Duty Army and have so since I first enlisted (about ten years now). If I chose to ETS from Active Duty but also simultaneously transfer into the Reserves or National Guard, my times spent on AD will not count towards the retirement? Meaning, I will still have to wait until age 60 like everyone else to receive my full benefits (pay and all)?

    • says

      Rob, Your active duty time would count toward points for your retirement pay, but it would not affect your retirement date. So yes, under current law you would have to wait until age 60 to receive your retirement pay and most other benefits, such as TRICARE. The early retirement as discussed in this article only applies to activations for Guard members and Reservists. It does not apply to those who were already serving on active duty during that time.

      I wouldn’t let this discourage you, however. The Guard and Reserves are both a great way to make your time in the military count toward a retirement. There are many other benefits too, both while you serve in the Reserve Component, and after you retire from it. It’s a great way to continue serving and earning benefits, while also being able to live a more traditional civilian life. I encourage you to look into it.

  5. Jason says

    Hi Ryan,

    The part about only being able to reduce retirement age by 90 days per year is incorrect. For each cumulative 90 day period, you get 90 days reduction in retirement age. There is no restriction on the number of 90 day periods per year. If you serve one year on a qualifying order, you do indeed get 360 days of early retirement. If the rule was as you state, you would have to serve 40 years to get the maximum early retirement age of 50.

    “Eligibility reduced below age 60 by 3 months for EACH cumulative
    total of 90 eligible days of active duty service per fiscal year”

  6. Jay says

    I was just going to point out the same thing regarding the number of 90 day periods possible per year. This article is clearly inconsistent with the articles posted when the law was enacted. Unless something changed, and if it did, then that should be highlighted too. Clarification is needed here.

  7. David Brown,Jr. says

    Dear Ryan,retire from Army reserve 2004 with 22years,serve in Iraq 2003-2004,is there any early retirement time off for being in a war zone,toward retirement before age 60. Thankyou David

  8. kip says

    Here is a portion of the original report from 2008, The Department of Defense has issued new guidelines for early receipt of retired pay for members of the reserve components. Instead of having to wait until age 60 to receive Reserve retired pay, eligible members may receive retired pay prior to age 60 but not before age 50.
    Under interim changes to Department of Defense Instruction 1215.07, Service Credit for Reserve Retirement, issued under a law passed by Congress effective Jan. 28, 2008, reserve component members are able to reduce the age at which they are eligible to receive retirement pay by three months for each cumulative period of 90 days served on active duty in any fiscal year.
    Under the new law, members eligible to receive retired pay earlier than age 60 must still wait until age 60 to receive health-care benefits.
    Involuntary mobilization and voluntary active duty in support of a contingency qualify, but there is no requirement to be involuntarily mobilized, to support a contingency or to serve on active duty outside the continental United States to receive credit under the law. Most active-duty time qualifies, including training, operational support duties and school tours. It does not matter whether active-duty time is paid for under military or reserve personnel appropriation accounts, provided such active duty is performed under the authority of 10 U.S. Code § 12301 (d).
    Also included is full-time National Guard duty served under a call to active service by a governor and authorized by the president or the secretary of defense under 32 U.S.C. § 502(f) for purposes of responding to either a national emergency declared by the president or a national emergency supported by federal funds.

    It clearly states that 502 (f) title 32 orders count towards the early retirement. myself and hundreds of other S.C national guard solders did a 502 (f) tour from 2009 – until 2012 the whole time we were on this tour we were told by our state that it counted. There are a lot of people that are already drawing there money early because of this. Now we are being told that it doesn’t count and the ones already drawing it may have to pay the money back. I don’t understand how when it clearly states it counts and we were told it counted for all this time now they are changing there minds.

  9. Mike says

    Confusing!! I’ll just wait to see how much time I get awarded! However I was wondering if the pay will stay the same as if I didn’t use the “Early Drop”? Thanks

    • says

      This is a great question, Mike. Your retirement will not be reduced, however, it might be larger if you wait. Why would that be? Because Guard and Reserve retirement pay is based on the pay scale when you begin drawing retirement benefits.

      So if you begin drawing retirement pay at age 55 (the earliest possible age under the early retirement laws, depending of course, on how early one can retire), your pay scale would be somewhat lower than if you were to begin drawing retirement at age 60, simply due to the annual cost of living increases. And depending on your rank and when you begin drawing retirement benefits, there could be other pay increases based on years of service, since the years of service clock doesn’t stop while you are retired and still waiting to begin drawing your retirement pay.

      So to answer your question – the rules are the same – your retirement pay will be based on the pay scale in place at the time you begin drawing retirement pay. There are no other adjustments to increase or decrease the amount of pay you will receive.

      And you should certainly begin drawing your retirement as soon as you are eligible to do so, since the annual COLA increases wouldn’t be enough to make up the difference of not drawing retirement pay for a few months or years. So put in your papers as soon as you are eligible, and enjoy your pension. You earned it!

  10. Dave RD says

    Sir, where do we submit or to whom do we submit the DD214’s to so as to have our retirement age adjusted?

    Retired USAR in 2012 – dates of service under Title 10 Orders:

    Earlier Mobilizations in 2003 – 2005 out of eligibility

    11/13/2006 to 01/31/2008
    12/08/2008 to 12/07/2009
    03/07/2010 to 01/25/2012

    • says

      Dave, Thank you for contacting me. I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but it looks like only two of your deployments would qualify, as they only count 90 day increments in a fiscal year, after January 28, 2008. So your 2008 deployment would have needed to last until late April or into May before it would qualify.

      As for submitting your dates, you would need to contact your parent branch of service’s personnel unit (HRC, BUPERS, AFPC, etc). You can download some forms to fill out and submit the required information.

      Best of luck, and thanks for your service!

  11. Heath Sullivan says

    Ryan, I’m trying to locate definitive guidance regarding the 90-day periods crossing FYs. I have searched the 2015 NDAA and not located it. Can you point me in the right direction? Do you know if it has been published in a DODI or where in the NDAA it references this particular item?

    Appreciate the help!

  12. Rob S. says


    Really great information! I had thought I only qualified for about 1 year early, however, based on the information you have provided, I actually qualify for 3.25 years early. That’s pretty awesome and not an insubstantial amount of money. I’ve still got 15 years or so to wait, but that is great news.

    My thanks for not only researching and writing the article, but also for continuing to answer the comments for two years beyond. Great work!

    MSG (P), USAR

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