Can I Earn A Military Pension And A Civil-Service Pension

You can earn a military pension and a civil-service pension. But there are specific requirements to meet.
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Table of Contents
  1. Does Military Service Count Towards Civil Service Retirement?
  2. Can I Collect Military Retirement and Civil Service Pay?
  3. Let’s Take a Closer Look
  4. Guard or Reserve Retirement with a Civil Service Pension
  5. The Benefits of Serving in the Civil Service After the Military
  6. The Disadvantages of The Civil Service

Many military veterans are drawn to government service in their post-military careers. There is often a desire to continue serving our nation, a sense of continuity for many, and a continuation of respectable pay and benefits. And, you may also be able to apply your military service toward a government pension. Let’s take a deeper look at how you can use your military service to supercharge your civil service career.

A reader asks:

I served 14 years of active duty and six years in the National Guard. I received my 20-year letter. I began working for the postal service and “bought back” my 14 years of active duty towards my postal service retirement. For example I have 12 years actual with the postal service but 26 years on the books due to the buy back option.

My question is, how does this affect my retirement through the National Guard when I reach age 60? Will I receive retirement pay for only my six years served in National Guard, or for the full 20 years of military service?

I guess what I am asking if it was “beneficial” for me to buy back my military time. Do I lose the six years of National Guard time if I buy back my 14 years of active duty time? I suppose I am a little confused as to what happens to the six years for National Guard time since the time spent in the Guard after the buy back would be less than 20 years.

Does Military Service Count Towards Civil Service Retirement?

The short answer is YES if you want it to.

Federal employees who are veterans can receive retirement credit for military service once they make a deposit into a civilian service annuity covering their military service. This blended retirement system is known as a military buy-back rule and varies based on the year the veteran became employed by the federal Government.

There are some important things to know about how a military pension and civil service pension work together

Most military retirees are barred from receiving credit toward a civilian annuity unless they waive their military retired pay. You can’t receive credit for any active service in your Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS) civil service retirement system computation if you are receiving military retired pay, unless you were awarded the retired pay:

  • Due to 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, or
  • Under the provisions of Chapter 1223, Title 10, U.S.C. (pertaining to retirement from a reserve component of the Armed Forces).

Detailed information regarding creditable military service for retirement purposes is in the Federal Employees Retirement System Transfer Handbook on the Office of Personnel Management’s website.

Can I Collect Military Retirement and Civil Service Pay?

Yes, you can collect military retirement benefits and work in the civil service as well. The complications arise when determining how you want to handle your civil service retirement.

Military retirement pay does not completely replace military income, which is why some military members look at a civil service career. Retiring in a federal service job can enhance retirement pay, but there are factors that require the employee to consider some important alterations to their retirement plans. You can’t draw both military and federal retirement for the same span of time. This is known as double-dipping.

You have two options:

  • Forfeit military retirement pay and buy into the federal retirement plan.
  • The other option is not to buy in, and to start fresh with federal service with no credit for time served in the military. This means you start from year zero as a federal employee and begin building creditable civilian service toward federal retirement while maintaining your military pension.

Let’s Take a Closer Look

This is a great question on a very confusing issue. (If there’s anything more complicated than retiring from the military, it’s retiring from federal civil service.) Federal law entitles military veterans who become federal civil service employees to receive credit for their military service by “buying back” their active duty time. The money they pay to the Federal Employees Retirement System pension fund for each year of their active-duty time gives them an additional year of credit toward their FERS pension.

For veterans entering federal civil service after active duty, the military service credit deposit is a fantastic way to boost the civil service pension. When our reader left active duty after 14 years, they were not eligible for a military pension. The only way to receive some sort of retirement benefit for those years of active duty is to transfer to the Reserves or National Guard… or start a bridge career with the federal civil service.

In this case, the reader paid a meaningful sum of money (out of their own savings) to be credited with an additional 14 years of time for their civil-service pension. In most cases, that investment is a great move! They’re eligible for a larger pension (because they paid for it) and they receive additional credit toward two more civil-service seniority benefits.

Note: this reader made a smart choice. If you’re a military veteran in the federal civil service, it’s almost always a good idea to buy your military service credit deposit. Read the comprehensive guide to the military service credit deposit, and scrape up the money to boost your retirement. You can’t get this return from the stock market or in real estate. If you’re already retired from active duty and you’re in the federal civil service, you can still get a couple of free deals on your federal Service Computation Date.

Guard or Reserve Retirement with a Civil Service Pension

Now the reader has a good deal on federal civil-service retirement. But what happens when they continue to drill with the National Guard and then qualify for that pension as well?

The issue behind the reader’s National Guard retirement question is the type of military service:

  1. less than 20 years of active duty without qualifying for an active-duty pension, or
  2. 20 years (or more) of active duty resulting in an active-duty pension, or
  3. a combination of active duty and more years in the Reserve or National Guard, resulting in a Reserve/Guard pension at age 60.

1. In the first case, the veteran could buy back that time toward a federal civil service pension with the military service credit deposit.

2. In the second case, federal laws against “double dipping” would require the military retiree to waive their military retirement pay if they buy the civil service’s military service credit deposit. This is a bad financial move. Military retirees could still request two other civil-service benefits which are based on their active-duty service, and those benefits are worth applying for.

3. Federal law makes an exception! The federal civil service employee can still make a military service credit deposit for their years of active duty, and they can also receive a Reserve/Guard pension. They’ve earned that Reserve/Guard pension on their own and they haven’t bought it as a credit, even though they took the credit for their active-duty service.

I realize that this looks too good to be true. (A great deal from both the military and the federal civil service?!?A Reserve/Guard retirement is handled under Chapter 1223 of federal law (10 U.S.C. 12731). The details of the civil-service exception are in Chapter 22 of the CSRS/FERS Handbook. Here’s the quote from Chapter 22 section 22A4.1-1 of the CSRS/FERS Handbook.

The specific rule from the “Receipt of Military Retired Pay” section is in the third bullet point:

In determining eligibility for CSRS retirement or in estimating the amount of annuity for an employee (special rules for survivors of employees who die in service are covered in Chapter 70), who receives military retired or retainer pay, do not give credit for any military service at the date of separation for civilian retirement unless one of the following is true.

2. The employee is receiving military retired pay that was awarded:
On account of a service-connected disability incurred in combat with an enemy of the United States; or

On account of a service-connected disability caused by an instrumentality of war and incurred in the line of duty during a period of war; or
Under the provisions of 10 U.S.C. 12731-12739 (Chapter 1223) which grants retired pay to members of reserve components of the armed forces on the basis of age and service (active and reserve).

For those who’ve noted that the section refers to the old CSRS pension system, not the current FERS pension, it’s covered under section 22B1.1-1.C “Applicable CSRS Provisions”:

The following sections and parts of subchapter 22A apply to FERS employees:
Part 22A4: Receipt of Military Retired Pay .

The Benefits of Serving in the Civil Service After the Military

The most obvious benefit is that you can augment your retirement with civil service pay after a full military career.

Compensation packages are excellent and most include regular basic pay raises, a pension plan, health benefits, long term health insurance, dental and eye insurance, life insurance, alternative work schedules, and options to work at home. Some agencies even help pay for student loans and offer other incentives.

There are only five executive core qualifications (ECQs) when you apply for a position, and they are exactly the same for every position:

  • Leading People
  • Leading Change
  • Business Acumen
  • Results
  • Building Coalitions

The Office of personnel management (OPM) has specific guidance on how to write ECQs, including format and length

There are two types of job announcements: Merit Promotion and Delegated Examining Unit (DEU).

  • Merit Promotion announcements recruit from existing or former civil servants.
  • DEU announcements are used to recruit from the general public. Military personnel and veterans can apply for Merit Promotion announcements under a law called VEOA – the Veterans Employment Opportunity Act.

For many DEU applications, Veterans’ Preference (VP) – gives you an advantage because of your veteran status. Veterans with a service-related disability rating from the VA are eligible for additional preferences.

If the job announcement says “relocation expenses will be paid,” or similar language, then the agency will pay for some or all of your move.

The Disadvantages of The Civil Service

You’ll have lots of competition when you apply for a job. The process isn’t quick or easy.

A Federal resume is not the same as a typical corporate resume. It’s a lot more comprehensive and requires additional information.

If you’re hired, civil service salaries are set, although there is some room for negotiation. Expect the offer to be at the minimum amount (Step 1) of the appropriate grade.

While there are no restrictions on applying for civil service positions in other federal agencies, if you are a retired member of the armed forces, you cannot be appointed to a civilian position in DoD within 180 days after retirement, with a few select exceptions.

You should also know that you will probably be dismissed from civil service if your application is falsified. Also, on your first day, you will take an oath of office. It’s similar to the oath you took while on active duty.

One other thing, all federal jobs require a National Agency Check and some positions require clearances or trust investigations.

Bottom line: if you serve in the Reserve or National Guard and also work in the federal civil service, then you can take your military service credit deposit and still receive your full Reserve/Guard pension. You’ve earned both of them!

Military Guide to Financial Independence

This book provides servicemembers, veterans, and their families with a critical roadmap for becoming financially independent. Topics include:

  • Military pension
  • TSP
  • Tricare Health System
  • & More

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About Doug Nordman

Doug Noordman is a United States Navy submarine force veteran with 20 years of service. Noordman retired in 2002 and wrote "The Military Guide to Financial Independence and Retirement" to share the stories of over 50 other financially independent servicemembers, veterans, and families. Noordman donates 100% of the revenue from his book sales to military-friendly charities.

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  1. David kiser says

    can you tell me how i can get my military retirement to count as federal retirement. I had to retire because of a injury. I did do 20 yrs but they made me retire cuz i couldnt do anything anymore

  2. chris says

    I just want to verify. I did 4 years AD and now in the national guard. I want to buy back my military time for my government job. Now if I buy back that 4 years, that 4 years will still be used towards my national guard retirement? So hypothetically if i never went on another deployment, I would have 16 years of how many points I made from drill and the 4 years of active duty, even though i did the buy back?

  3. Justin Heil says

    I will be drawing a Reserve retirement based on a mix of active duty and Reserve time. I bought back my active duty time towards FERS and will be applying for deferred retirement soon using Form R1 92-19. How do I fill out sections 4, 4a, 4b, and 4c? The questions are:

    4. Are you receiving or have you ever applied for military retired or retainer pay (including disability retired pay)?
    Yes, complete items 4a-4c.
    No, go to section D.

    4a. Was your military retired or retainer pay awarded for disability incurred in combat or caused by an instrumentality of war and incurred in the line of duty during a period of war?
    Yes, if available, attach a copy of notice of award.

    4b. Was your military retired or retainer pay awarded for Reserve service under Chapter 1223, Title 10, U.S. Code?
    Yes, if available, please attach a copy of notice of award.

    4c. Are you waiving your military retired pay in order to receive credit for FERS?
    Yes, see instruction for information about how to request a waiver.
    Yes, a copy of my waiver is attached.

    I assume that I would answer

    4. Yes
    4a. No
    4b. Yes

    I don’t know the proper answer for 4c, since I don’t want to waive my military reserve retired pay, and do want to receive credit for FERS.

    Thank You! Justin

    • Dip says

      1. I am interested in the answer to this very question!!
      2. Doug…thanks very much for you help to this community.

      • Justin Heil says

        Thanks Doug!

        I have already applied for a Reserve Pension, and will apply for a deferred FERS pension. Both would start paying when I hit age 60 this summer.

        Therefore, would I check as follows, and include my Reserve Retirement Authorization letter:

        4. Yes
        4a. No
        4b. Yes
        4c. No

        or could I just check No for 4. and move on?

        Thanks again!


      • Doug Nordman says

        If you’ve already applied for your Reserve pension then, as you’ve written, you could answer “Yes” to questions 4 and 4b and “No” to 4a & 4c.

        I’m not sure what HR or OPM mean by “notice of award”, but you could include copies of your Notice Of Eligibility, your latest DD-2656, and whatever correspondence you’ve received back from your Reserve HQ.

    • Doug Nordman says

      Justin, you might be overthinking the answers, but I can help parse the vocabulary.

      If you’ve retired from the Reserves or Guard and you are not yet receiving that pension, then you’re technically “retired awaiting pay.” When you’re 9-12 months away from the start date of your pension (age 60 for most) then you apply (all over again on DD Form 2656) for your Reserve pension.

      I think Q4 is asking whether you’re currently receiving your pension, not whether you’re retired awaiting pay. You’d answer “No” for your situation, skip 4a-4c, and move on to section D.

      Even if you were receiving a pension, Q4a is checking for a military disability pension while Q4b is checking for a Reserve pension. Both of those can be concurrently received with a FERS pension, as waived in federal law and referenced in the post.

      Q4c is asking whether you’re waiving an active-duty pension in order to buy all of your military service credit deposit for a FERS pension. This is generally only a good idea if you retired from active duty at a very junior military rank and achieved a very high civil-service grade. In nearly two decades of writing about the military service credit deposit, I’ve only seen one active-duty retiree waive their pension.

  4. Tim Ekola says

    I’m not sure if you know the answer, but I thought I’d run this question by you…

    I have worked for the VA for 3 years. Before that I worked for DoD (Army Civilian) for 5 years and 3 months.

    I did not “sell” my active-duty time back to the VA, as I retired from the Navy Reserve and will be collecting my reserve retirement at age 60 (just a few more years away). My understanding is that – one cannot draw both “active duty” retirement and FERS (doubling dipping), but that one can draw both reserve retirement and FERS.

    Can you confirm?

    Also, if I can “double dip” what do I need to do to “sell” back my active duty years?

    Thanks in Advance.

    Best Regards,


    • Doug Nordman says

      Tim, this post cites the links to the federal law and regulations that allow you to buy your military service credit deposit from OPM for your FERS pension. They’re in the last few paragraphs of the post.

      You’d have to waive an active-duty pension if you had one, but you’ve earned a Navy Reserve pension. Those quotes from federal law and the FERS Handbook are the references which let you receive both your Reserve pension and your FERS pension.

      Contact your HR office at the VA to start the process of buying your military service credit deposit. The GubMints post “Comprehensive Military Service Credit Deposit Guide” shows you how. It’s in the Related Articles section of the bottom of the post.

  5. Raymond says

    Mr. Nordman,,

    This is great information.

    However I do have a question about whether I can buy back a certain portion / time frame of military service without impacting my Reserve Retirement.

    I am a Title 38 Civil service employee with 23 yrs of service which I started in 1998. I served Regular Army Enlisted from June 86-June 89, then subsequently served as an Active Duty Army Officer from Mar 1994 to Mar 1997.

    DFAS calculated this service period as 6 yrs 11 days.

    I voluntarily transferred from the IRR to Ready Reserve in Sep 2003 and subsequently retired 10 FEB 21 from USAR.

    I was mobilized to active duty for 18 months in support of Enduring Freedom OCT 2004 to MAY 2006. I was placed on leave without pay during that period at the VA where I am employed.

    My understanding is that this time counts as if I were there?

    The question is can I buy this period back without it negatively impacting either retirement?

    DFAS calculated that period as 1 yrs 5 mos 28 day.

    My goal is to retire from civil service in FEB 2023 at age 56 yrs + 4 mos and 30 yrs service.



    • Doug Nordman says

      Good question, Icarus, and you’re welcome to ask more anytime!

      I agree that it might make sense for Martin to buy a large military service credit deposit, even with all of the interest charges for not doing it sooner. The issue is building the spreadsheet to compare his options, including all those years of COLAs on the military pension.

      I know of a few active-duty retirees with E-5 or E-6 pensions who have gone on to tremendous success in the civil service at the GS-15 or even SES levels. In their case it also makes financial sense to waive their active-duty pension (not convert it to a Reserve one but waive the entire pension) and buy their full military service credit deposit.

      Personally, while I know a lot about military pensions and spreadsheets, I’m much more ignorant on the details of the FERS pension system. I’m also not interested in learning more about FERS, but I’m certainly happy to share what others have learned about the military service credit deposit.

  6. Martin Wright says

    I have a situation that I believe is very unique. I have done a lot of research and cannot find a good answer. I retired from active duty in 1997 with 21 ½ years of service. After 9-11, I went back into the USAF Reserves and served for additional 14 years. I began working as a federal civilian in 2007 and I am getting close to retirement. I turned 60 in 2017 and at that time I had my retirement recalculated to include all of my USAFR time and had my active duty military retirement terminated and converted to a Reserve retirement. I have orders in hand showing “Service per Title 10 USC Section 12732” of 34+ years and “Service per Title 10 USC Section 12733 26.91”. I have researched and it appears I can count all of my time towards my civil service retirement because my orders have Section 12732 and 12733 listed. I know we are not supposed to double dip so how does this play out? Can I use any or all of my military time towards my retirement? How do I get OPM to give me an answer?

    • Doug Nordman says

      Martin, you can buy back your military time since you’re not receiving an active-duty pension. However you’ll pay quite a bit more to FERS because you’re past the two-year mark in the civil service where the credit deposit has a higher price.

      You can start the process now and decide if it’s worth the cost. Civil-service veteran (and fellow submariner) Eddie Wills has more advice on that at Gubmints:

      Once you get your price quote from OPM, you should do the math on whether the higher pension is worth the cost. Because you’ll already have an inflation-adjusted annuity, you might decide that the money you’d spend on your military service credit deposit is better invested in other assets with a higher expected return. Eddie’s post mentions that assessment in his step #3, which you can confirm with a fee-only financial advisor.

      • Icarus says

        Doug you said it well, “If there’s anything more complicated than retiring from the military, it’s retiring from federal civil service.” I think there’s something more complicated than retiring from federal civil service, and it’s the interaction between converted military retirements and FERS annuities.

        Like Martin, I too have been doing a lot of research and cannot find a good answer. Doug, I would sincerely appreciate your thoughts and comments on the following observations, please.

        I have learned a lot though from the CSRS and FERS Handbook. However, I don’t think it’s been updated since 1998. It states, “Under the provisions of 10 U.S.C. 12731-12739 (Chapter 1223) which grants retired pay to members of reserve components of the armed forces on the basis of age and service (active and reserve).” Yet, Chapter 1223 now also includes Section 12741, which is the law which permits Martin to convert his active duty retirement into a reserve component retirement. Section 12741 became effective in 2001 as an incentive for active duty retirees to continue serving in the Reserve Component.

        Of course, Reserve retired pay awarded under Chapter 1223 of Title 10 is one of the exceptions to the general FERS creditable service rules of not permitting credit for periods of military service which is used to award military retired pay. Specifically, 10 U.S.C. 12736 states, “No period of service included wholly or partly in determining a person’s right to, or the amount of, retired pay under this chapter {that is, Chapter 1223} may be excluded in determining his eligibility for any annuity, pension, or old-age benefit, under any other law, on account of civilian employment by the United States or otherwise, or in determining the amount payable under that law, if that service is otherwise properly credited under it.” This Section 12736 was passed into law in August 1956.

        I also learned the only limitation to making a military service credit deposit is that it must be completed while still actively employed as a government servant. Per the CSRS and FERS Handbook, “… a separated employee may not make a military service deposit.”(section 23A1.1-4) Nothing prevents an active employee eligible for or receiving active duty retired pay from making such a deposit.
        The actual deadline for waiving active-duty retirement pay doesn’t occur until an individual applies for a FERS annuity. The Handbook also states, “Employees who receive military retired pay and choose not to waive it will receive a refund of all money paid toward a military deposit at retirement.”(section 23A1.1-5)

        Because of this, I would recommend everyone to make a service credit deposit (if feasible) as early as possible before the interest charges start to apply. You would save on the interest charges, remain flexible for the future, and eventually get the money back if you do not decide to waive your military retired pay. (Of course, you might also lose some investment gains on that money though.)

        But Martin doesn’t need to waive his retired pay now; because he converted his active component retired pay to reserve component retired pay per Section 12741, and because he’s legal to “double-dip” due to Section 12736.
        I would think in this way, if Martin makes a deposit with interest charges for 21.5 years of federal military service, he could stand to more than double his FERS annuity. He would increase his computation from just 14 years of creditable civilian service to 35.5 years.

        (I will have another question later, please.)

      • Doug Nordman says

        Good point, Jason, and I’ll point out that it’s more complicated than it seems. The active-duty mobilizations have to be for at least 90 days. They also have to be under specific conditions in combat, national emergencies, or natural disasters.

        The legislation has been amended several times since it was enacted in 28 January 2008, so servicemembers & vets will need to check the details here:
        and make sure that their active-duty orders were written for the correct portions of the federal law.

        One final caveat: the law in the 2008 NDAA only covers an early retirement. (That’s three months earlier for every 90 days in a fiscal year, or in some periods, across fiscal years.) Tricare still only starts at age 60. Reserve/Guard retirees with an early pension will still have to find healthcare from other sources like the VA, an employer, or the Affordable Care Act exchanges.

  7. Tim says

    Good Afternoon,

    I am a FERS employee and plan to buy back 5 years and some change of active duty time. I also happen to still be in the National Guard. I read above that when I finish my 20 with the Guard, I am still entitled to my retirement pension once I hit 60. My question, that I didn’t see answered above is, what happens to those points? National Guard and reserve retirement is calculated based on points accrued as shown on the RPAM. For my active duty years, those were 365 points. Those points would increase the value of my military pension if left there untouched. If I buy those years back, do those points drop to zero thus reducing the value of my military pension?

    I guess if I dont buy them back, I would have 5 active duty years and 15 Guard years worth of points, allowing me to retire with 20 “good” years. What I believe happens when you buy back is that those points drop to zero but still count as “good years”. I built a spreadsheet to determine what is more beneficial (buying back vs not buying back) and based on total lifetime earnings, it definitely makes sense no matter what to buy the time back. I just dont want to get stuck doing an additional 5 years in the guard if I decide to buy my time back. Does anyone have any insight?


    • Doug Nordman says

      No worries, Tim, the points are good toward both your National Guard pension and your FERS pension.

      It sounds like your getting double credit for the same points, and the reason is because you’re paying for the extra credit. You’re not moving points from one pension system to the other, like moving money from your TSP to your IRA or from checking to savings. Instead you’re being given the chance to spend more money on buying additional credit toward your FERS pension.

      You’ve already earned the points for your National Guard pension. To boost your FERS pension (through an earlier Service Computation Date), you’re spending more of money to deposit it into the FERS pension system as a credit for your active-duty military service.

      The result is that you’ll have 20 good years with the National Guard, consisting of five active-duty years of points and 15 Guard years of points. That results in your Notice Of Eligibility letter for a Guard pension. On the civil-service side, OPM will tell you how much money they want you to pay into the FERS pension system to receive the credit for your active duty.

      Better yet, if you serve additional active-duty time in the Guard (for example, a mobilization for deployment) then you’ll have more points toward your Guard pension. Then after the deployment you can also use your DD-214 from that set of active-duty orders to buy even more of your FERS military service credit deposit.

  8. Raymond Morace says

    Someone I know has 15 years of military service and his wife is divorcing him. He’s planning on leaving the military and has lined up a couple Federal Civil Service job options. When he gets hired, he intends to buy back his 15 years of military time to apply the years as credit to his civil service.

    QUESTION: When he retires, is his wife entitled to a portion of his Federal Civil Service retirement, even though they were never married while he worked as a civilian for the Government?

    • Doug Nordman says

      Raymond, I can’t help with that question. I’m not familiar with any divorce law affecting a civil service pension.

      The Uniformed Services Former Spouses Protection Act only says that a military pension can be considered as an asset by state divorce courts and divided as part of that state’s laws for divorces. It doesn’t apply to the federal civil service, but a lawyer might be able to help you research whether there’s a similar law for FERS pensions.

  9. Diego says

    I retired under FERS Law Enforcement at age 50 and getting my full pension. Can my pay be penalized for serving on Active Duty for Operational Support A-DOS while on NG duty? Title 10 12301?

    • Doug Nordman says

      I’m not an expert on FERS pension law, Diego, but you’re fine as long as your Guard active duty does not result in an active-duty military pension. While you’re on active duty, you could consult with a JAG to confirm that you’re within FERS regulations for a Reserve pension. The legal references are in the above post.

      I’d definitely talk with a JAG if you think that you’re going to be on A-DOS for enough time to qualify for sanctuary and an active-duty pension.

  10. Shawn says

    I entered FERS full-time in 2011 and bought back 13 years military service credit. In 2021 I retired from the Nation Guard with a title 10 USC1405 pension having completed a cumulative time of 20 years active service military.

    I have since returned to my FERS position after military activation and now collect a military pension. I believe this 1405 retirement status is considered double dipping so I can no longer receive the 13 years credit I purchased 10 years ago? If so How do I get the service credit funds back that I paid for the 13 years?

    Thanks Shawn

    • Doug Nordman says

      Shawn, I’m not sure how OPM handles that.

      You should be entitled to a refund of the money you spent for the military service credit deposit if you’re no longer using it for your civil-service record, but I’m not familiar with the process.

  11. David Nicoll says

    I completed four years active duty Army. I was then hired into federal civil service (FERS) as a Military Technician. I bought back my four years active duty and paid the deposit in full. I joined the USAR at that same time. After 11 years in TPU status, I went on AGR status, and was on leave without pay (LWOP) for five years. At that point I had to resign from FERS in order to stay in the AGR program, and in doing so, I opted for a deferred federal retirement that I could start drawing at age 62, since I had 19 years employment under FERS. I retired from the Army Reserve at age 60 and began drawing my military retirement. I am now 61 so I started looking into the process to file for FERS retirement. I’m trying to determine if I can draw both my USAR retirement and FERS without any penalty. Looking over the application form for deferred retirement (Form RI 92-19), Section C, Item 4c, it asks “Are you waiving your military retired pay in order to receive credit for FERS?” I did not think I had to waive my USAR retired pay in order to draw FERS retirement. Please let me know how to proceed.
    Thank you…

    • Doug Nordman says

      David, you’re right that you’re eligible (by law) to collect both your Reserve pension and your FERS pension. That’s in federal law and in the OPM instructions referenced in the blog post.

      It sounds like you were in the AGR program for a while, but not long enough to qualify for an active-duty pension. When you say you retired from the Army Reserve at age 60 and began drawing your military retirement, I’m assuming that you’re referring to a Reserve pension (and not an active-duty pension).

      It looks like the RI 92-19 question might be asking whether you’re waiving an active-duty military pension, and the answer is “No.”

      Due to the Dual Compensation Act (a law passed in 1964), you’re not eligible to collect both an active-duty pension and a FERS pension. But you’re still eligible to collect a military Reserve pension and a FERS pension, and you don’t have to waive anything.

      • David Nicoll says


        Your assessment above is correct. I’m also contemplating getting rehired back into FERS in order to buyback my 8 years and 4 months of AGR time (Sep 2011-Jan 2020) before I retire. I need to compare the buyback cost versus the increase in my federal retirement pay. I guess the first question is do they consider AGR time the same as active duty? I’m also trying to estimate the buyback cost, but not sure if DFAS uses only base pay earned during that period of AGR service, or do they factor in BAH and BAS? I used the Military Buyback calculator in MyFEDBenefits, but the estimated earnings seem a bit low. I went on AGR status as an O-4, and retired at that same grade. Just wondering how to get a somewhat accurate estimate of my buyback cost?

        Thanks again for all your help,

  12. Rocky says

    Sir, would you please provide some retirement guidance? I worked as a federal employee for 8 years and then served 14 years AD in the Army and then joined the USAR. And then I got another job as a federal employee. I bought back all my military service into my federal retirement. Based on many calls to active duty I have accumulated USAR points that I estimate are equivalent to 22 years of active duty. I have paid back all my federal retirements funds that were not withheld during my deployments. I have applied for retirement from federal service and I am still in the USAR. Am I still eligible for both retirements payments?

    • Doug Nordman says

      Sure, Rocky, you’ve earned your Reserve pension (by serving on all of those active-duty orders) and you’ve paid your military service credit deposit for your FERS pension.

      Even though you’ve accumulated the equivalent of 22 years of active duty, you’re still going to receive a Reserve pension.

      When you reach the eligibility ages for each pension then you’re entitled to start receiving them, and federal law also allows you to receive both at the same time.

  13. Jay Rubel says

    I retired with 24 years of military service. 9 years 10 months was active duty. I went into the Air National Guard for 14 more. I currently work for DOD and have been in civil service now for about 12 years and plan to retire at 62 which will give me 20 years in civil service. I will receive my pension from the Guard when I reach 60. I have not purchased any of my service time toward my civil service position nor have I put any money into thrift savings. I am working on that and want to be caught up with the minimum the government will match. I just couldn’t afford it then but can start contributing now. What advice can you provide me to maximize my retirement? Should I buy back my military time? Will that hurt me in the long run? Can or should I keep them separate? Can I collect both without penalty? Also I have paid into social security to collect that as well. How will that be affected? Any help you can provide is appreciated.

    • Doug Nordman says

      As that post says, Jay, you’re entitled to collect both a Reserve pension and a civil-service pension. There’s a specific exemption in federal law allowing Reserve retirees to collect both. There are no penalties.

      As you’ve written, you’re also eligible to collect Social Security. It’s not affected by your military or civil-service pensions, and you can collect that based on your lifetime earnings history. I’d recommend using the calculator “Open Social Security” to figure out the best start date for your age, marital status, and two pensions.
      You might decide to start as early as age 62 but you’ll get a higher monthly payment if you can wait longer– and your surviving spouse would also get a higher survivor benefit.

      Since you’ve worked in the civil service for 12 years, you may already have a TSP account that’s been receiving 1% agency contributions. I’d recommend immediately (as in, “today”) figuring out how to log in to your TSP account and boosting your TSP contributions to at least 5% of your pay. That will give you the civil service’s full agency and matching contributions. (The matching contributions are “free money.”) I’d also recommend moving your TSP assets out of the G fund into some combination of the C, S, I, or Lifecycle funds. If you’re planning to retire in eight years then you might sleep comfortably at night with the L2030 or L2035 fund, or (since you’ll be receiving two pensions) you might want to invest more aggressively with the C, S, and I funds.

      Since you’re in your 50s, you’re eligible for catch-up contributions to both the TSP and to your IRA. I’d read this link and the pamphlets linked in the side panel:
      I’d also recommend browsing the TSP’s YouTube channel:

      Finally, it might be worth buying your military service credit deposit. After 12 years, though, it’ll be much more expensive and might not be worth the money you’d have to pay for it. First, read the GubMints post linked above:
      and then do the reverse-annuity calculation recommended in that post. If that calculation gives you confusing results then I’d recommend consulting a fee-only advice-only financial planner to go over the numbers with you. I can refer you to a couple who are military veterans.

      You have a lot of homework to do, and it’ll take at least two weeks for the TSP to update your login/password. Once you’ve started contributing as much to the TSP as you can afford, then let me know if you have more questions.

  14. Scott says

    I am having a hard time believing that I can use my active duty service toward my reserve retirement AND as time credited toward my FERS civilian employment. Here is my situation: I served for a number of years in the Navy reserves right out of high school (8 years) – basic training, “A” School and straight to reserves. A number of years later I joined the Army where I served for just under 8 years on active duty (then went into the reserves). Upon completion of my years of active duty with the Army I accepted a civilian job with the government (FERS) and went into the Army reserves. Upon employment with the government I had a calculation done for the military time I’d served and paid the deposit for that. I am still in the reserves (planning to retire from the reserves in a few years) and will get my pension for that (I received my 20 yr letter from the reserves in 2013 – plan to retire in 2027). I will also have 20 years with my civilian employer in 2027 (my “SCDR” with my civilian employer is in 2007), – The computation date in my file does not include my military time (though my computation date for leave “SCDL” is in 1997 – which seems about right if my military time in the Army and Navy are combined). — I am happy to be able to receive two retirements (one from the military reserves and the other for my civilian service). What I am not clear on is whether or not my service for my civilian retirement (“SCDR”) needs to be recalculated to include the military time I “bought back.” This could mean that I would retire from the Army reserves in 2027 AND from my civilian job (but not with just 20 years of creditable service but with 30 years of creditable service)? — It’s good enough to be eligible for two pensions – but to be able to use my military time (prior to getting my civilian job) and credit it towards my civilian retirement does not seem right. – I appreciate whatever help you can provide. – Thank you.

    • Doug Nordman says

      Good question, Ben!

      Your plan would depend on several moving parts. First, after 20 years of active duty & AGR, you’d be eligible for an active-duty pension. If you left the AGR billet and became a drilling Reservist again then you’d need to clear that with your service. By federal law you’d also waive either the pension or the drill pay, and that might not be in your best financial interests.

      In addition, if you’re not actually retired from active duty, then you might not be eligible for Tricare as a retiree. You’d have to figure that out with Tricare for Prime, Select, or Tricare Reserve Select.

      When you’re in the civil service then you could buy your military service credit deposit with your active-duty time, but again you’d have to give up the active-duty pension. This only makes financial sense if you have a smaller active-duty pension (E-5/6 rank) and a very high civil-service job (GS-14/15). I’m not sure that could all come together within five years.

      Otherwise it might make more sense to retire from AGR whenever you’re ready to receive that pension (and Tricare). You could still obtain some civil-service credit for parts of your active-duty time without having to give up your active-duty pension. This Gubmints post has the details on a military service credit deposit for your OPM Service Computation Date:

  15. Ben says


    I completed 8 years of AD service and directly transferred into the Reserves as an AGR. My question is this – can I complete 20 years of total active service, 8 AD + 12 AGR, then become a traditional reservist and GS employee? After 5 years of GS service, can I then buy back my total military time for an immediate GS retirement valued at 25 years?

    If successful, would I still be eligible for an immediate 20 year AGR retirement from the reserves (essentially both retirements, immediately)? Or would I have to wait until 60 to receive a traditional reserve retirement?

    Complicated question, I know. Thanks for the insight!

  16. Mark S says

    Follow up question: Will buying back active duty time performed while in the reserves (ie. Mobilization, ADSW) affect/reduce your military reserve pension? I’m FERS and have bought back my original initial active duty time of 5 years and am now retired from the reserves with considerable additional mobilization and ADSW periods but still employed as a GS.

  17. Mark S says

    I just recently retired from the reserves last month and am employed as a GS in the FERS system. I did submit to buyback my initial active duty and am still paying thru payroll deductions. My question is, can I buyback any of the active duty time I did as a reservist although I’m now retired from the military? Also, can I still perform a Military Service Credit for my service academy time?

  18. Greg says

    My Question is.. I retired from Active Duty in 1996 after 17 years under TERA. I know TERA has a few ins and outs (I did not enter Federal Service soon enough (I started in 2001). I’ve heard that TERA retirements are treated similar to Reserve Retirements (since I did not do 20 years) and I may not have to waive my retirement pay. Rough calculations are that I would waive a small check and more than double my Federal Retirement. Will I have to waive my military retirement?

  19. Derek Smith says

    This is wonderful news as I am approaching federal retirement and have been concerned about this. I am about to turn 56 and will be eligible for my reserve retirement is 4 years. What a blessing to be able to count on disability, a federal pensions AND my National Guard pension as well. Retirement may not be so bad.

  20. Allen says

    I am currently retired from the Marine Corps with 21 years of active duty. I am working a federal law enforcement job with the Bureau of Prisons.

    What is the earliest I can get a Federal law enforcement retirement? Is it 10 years? Because the maxim retirement age is 57 and the Min Retirement age is 50.

  21. Alan says

    I separated from military as a LTC at 13 years. I am now in the process of joining the Air National Guard and use my 13 years of AD service for a Air National Guard pension. I presently work as a physician contractor in a military hospital and am paid very well but I have an opportunity to for a G.S. position where I will be paid 1/2 as much, but will have more job security. I am in my early 50s. What would be your recommendation in regards to converting into Civil Service with my 13 years versus my Air National Guard retirement? Thanks.


  22. Janet Simpson says

    My husband completed 18 years of military service and then got out. Is it possible for him to get a Civil Service job to complete his retirement? Is there any age limit?

    • Josh says

      Thank you so much for the clarification. I spoke with 3 different customer service representative at DFAS and they said that I need to contact my unit finance for more information. I researched several different sources and found out that it seem like you got the correct information.
      Your information is very valuable to the veterans.

      Again, thank you.

  23. calseung73 says


    I tried to buy my 13 years of active duty time though “Buy Back” program so it counts towards my civil service retirement. However, I was told from my HR that I may not be able to use my active duty time for my reserved military retirement after I use for my civilian service retirement. I hear two different information. Therefore, I contacted DFAS for clarification as well.
    Could you please clarify?

    Thank you.


  24. Patterson James says

    I retired 20 years Active Duty and my VA disability is 90%, Combat Related Service Connected was applied making my retirement tax free. Does this allow me to draw a Civil Service Retirement ?

    • Doug Nordman says

      I hear that, Justin, although you made the right choices at the time. Receiving an AGR position (and being able to keep it all the way to an active-duty retirement) was never a guarantee when you left active duty, and keeping it is also not guaranteed.

      After you qualify for your AGR active-duty pension, then I’d talk with the Human Resources staff at your civil-service position about the possibility of receiving a refund on your military service credit deposit. (Maybe you’ll reach FI on your military pension and no longer care about earning a civil-service pension.) I also know one military vet who retired from active duty as an E-6 and followed it up with a very successful civil-service career. In his senior civil-service situation it made more financial sense to waive the military pension when he started his civil-service pension.

  25. Shaun Mcmullen says

    I am in a little different place. I served on Active Duty for 10.5 years. I got a federal job and worked for another 10 years as civil service. I bought back my active duty time while at civil service and now I have went back on Active duty. So how will my retirement workout if I retire from active military and then go back to the civil service and retire again. Can I receive two federal retirements?

    • Doug Nordman says

      Sean, that’s a very good question and the answer is outside my circle of competence. You need to consult with a JAG (or a civilian lawyer) who understands OPM regulations. You could also e-mail Eddie at ( to see if he’s heard the question before.

      Of course you can receive two federal pensions. You’ve earned both of them. The question is whether you can continue to receive the benefit of the military service credit deposit in your federal pension without having to waive a portion of your military pension.

      I see three possibilities:
      1. OPM regulations give you the credit for the first 10.5 years (because you were entitled to it at the time) and you elect not to take the credit for the latter 9.5 years (because you’d have to waive your military pension). You’d still apply for your additional FERS credit for annual leave:
      You’d retire to both pensions. It might be perfectly legal under OPM regs, although it’s certainly rare. The question is whether OPM actually has any regs to address this situation.

      2. OPM regulations determine that you’re no longer eligible to benefit from your military service credit deposit for the first 10.5 years and they return your money. You’d still apply for whatever FERS credit you can get for annual leave (the same post linked in #1).
      You’d retire to both pensions, although your FERS pension is smaller because you were no longer able to use the military service credit deposit.

      3. OPM regulations determine that you’re now going to have to waive a portion of your military pension in order to keep the military service credit deposit from the first 10.5 years. You’d have to negotiate a solution, because I think that an active-duty pension now is worth more than buying a larger FERS pension later.
      You’d retire to both pensions, although your military pension is smaller because you had to waive a portion of it.

      You might possibly find some way to apply for a waiver to enable #1.

      Again, please consult Eddie and a lawyer who understands OPM FERS regulations with military service.

      • Justin says

        I am in the same boat, I just recently got an AGR position but I am still a fed who has bought back his AD time 14 years(still a fed covered under USERRA). When I hit a 20 year Active retirement will it screw me over that I bought back my service when I started as a fed.

    • Nate P says

      Shaun, curious if you ever got resolution to this as I’m in a very similar situation and was curious what you found out.

  26. Mark S. says

    Great article!!! I do have another question though. I’m also Federal Service and currently on ADSW as a naval reservist. I already set up a military deposit for my previous AD and am going to make an adjustment to continue crediting my current ADSW. Question I have though is how does the current Blended Retirement System figure in to all this?

    • Doug Nordman says

      Thanks, Mark, and your question has a simple answer! It’s all the same.

      The only changes to your military pension are the different multiplier (2.0% per year for BRS instead of High Three’s 2.5%) and your DoD BRS matching contributions to your TSP.

      You still earn the same number of days of active duty for your ADSW, and your military service credit deposit amount is still based on those days. None of those OPM civil-service procedures were changed by the DoD BRS.

  27. Chris says

    Am I confused? You seem to imply that you cannot receive a military and a civil service pension? Now, I know for a fact that you can receive a military pension and a civil service paycheck because I have many friends currently doing so. I always assumed that they would receive both pensions as well. Is that not true? Keep in mind that these are active duty retirees had to start from scratch in the civil service after they retired from active duty.

    • Doug Nordman says

      I’m not implying that at all, Chris. The post is about the sizes of those pensions and how a military pension is affected by taking the FERS military service credit deposit.

      The military service credit deposit is a bad deal for active-duty military retirees (although they should still take the adjustment to their federal Service Computation Date). I don’t know any active-duty military retirees who have applied for the military service credit deposit because it would halt their active-duty pension while they were in the federal civil service. Instead, active-duty military retirees should choose to continue to receive their active-duty pension and should not buy into the military service credit deposit. The result is that their FERS pension is based only upon their years of federal civil service. Review bullet #2 in the post.

      The FERS military service credit deposit is a great deal for Reserve and National Guard retirees. The reason that FERS retirees should still buy their Reserve/Guard military service credit deposit is because there’s a specific exemption in the FERS regulations allowing them to do so while still receiving their full Reserve/Guard pension. As a result they still receive their Reserve/Guard pension (beginning at age 60 or perhaps a little earlier) and they receive a larger FERS pension. Review bullet #3 above.

  28. peter gregory says

    Military or civil service, historically the most attractive features of both systems has been the automatic COLA or yearly inflation adjustments. But what if “inflation” or COLA is an economic condition of the past. 2017 will mark the 2nd year in row, 4 out of the last 7, where no COLA will be provided to either SS or the traditional military retirement system. One can argue the govt, and Fed is still using outdated or ineffective CPI measures, that still stress finished goods and commodities over services. Case in point is 2 types of services retirees continue to consume more and more, heath care and housing/rent where year over year “inflation” still advances at 5-7% year over year.

    Many feel that like Japan of the last 30 years, the developed West may be in a prolonged period of dis-inflation, or deflation. Where almost a decade of zero interest rate policy, negative bond yields, falling productivity spell an extended period of stagnation. And if it is true there is a mismatch or at least mis-measurement of true inflation, then the value of the traditional military, civil service pension erodes year after year, and over 4 to 5 decades of a military retirement, the actual value or income security year over year is greatly diminished. And if that is the case the only real alternative in retirement security is to save more, lots more. Which brings another issue, how does one make money in a negative interest rate, yield environment, where the individual retiree or saver goes further out on the risk curve. Those economic periods usually end very badly. Interesting times indeed.

  29. Doug Nordman says

    Patterson James, you might be referring to these clauses in the FERS Handbook:
    “On account of a service-connected disability incurred in combat with an enemy of the United States; or

    On account of a service-connected disability caused by an instrumentality of war and incurred in the line of duty during a period of war…”

    This is a good time to consult with your OPM rep and talk to a JAG. These sections of the Handbook may be referring to a disability retirement (Chapter 61 of Title 10 U.S. Code) which is different from an active-duty retirement and also different from receiving compensation for a VA disability rating.

    In other words I’m not sure about the civil service interpretation of the word “disability” in the FERS handbook, and I strongly recommend checking with a lawyer.

  30. Doug Nordman says

    Good question, Calseung73! The post lays out the rules for receiving a civil-service pension and a military Reserve pension.

    You already know that you can also use your active-duty time to buy your civil-service military service credit deposit. You can learn more about that system (and analyze its value to you) with Eddie Wills’ post from the “Related articles” links:

    It sounds like your HR might not have a handle on how your military active-duty time counts toward a Reserve retirement. Your Reserve point-count records should show that you’ve received one point for each of your days of active duty, along with 13 good years of Reserve retirement credit. You’ll continue to earn Reserve retirement points (and good years) until you reach 20 good years, at which point you’ll receive a Notice Of Eligibility for a Reserve pension. The 13 years of active duty count toward that pension, and you only need to earn seven more good years for the NOE.

    In other words, your active duty can be counted toward both your civil-service retirement and your Reserve retirement.

  31. Doug Nordman says

    Janet, this post is intended for members of the military’s Reserve and National Guard who are also federal civil-service employees. They can earn a pension in both the military and the federal civil service.

    If your spouse simply left the military and has no intention of joining the Reserve or National Guard (or returning to active duty with another service), then he can’t qualify for a military pension. However if he joins the federal civil service (and possibly some state civil services) then he could use his military time to buy his military service credit deposit from the civil-service retirement system.

    Once he’s joined the federal civil service then he can learn more about the military service credit deposit from former civil-service employee (and submarine veteran) Eddie Wills:

  32. Doug Nordman says

    It’s not an easy question to answer, Alan, but you can do the analysis.

    As you know from this post, you can earn both your ANG pension and your civil service pension. (That’s permitted by the exception in federal law.) In addition, you can still buy your military service credit deposit in the federal civil service.

    You can analyze the financial benefit of buying your military service credit deposit from Eddie Wills’ link at
    That’s part of the collection of “Related articles” links at the end of this post.

  33. Doug Nordman says

    Sorry, Allen, you’ve asked a good question but I’m not knowledgeable enough to have the answer. This post is intended for readers who are working toward both a military pension from the Reserve or National Guard as well as from civil service, and I’m focused on the military side of the question.

    There are very few situations where you’d want to waive your active-duty pension just to qualify for a federal civil service pension. They’d mainly involve already having an active-duty pension at the paygrade of E-6 or below and buying your military service credit deposit in a civil-service pension of GS-14 or higher.

    However there’s one benefit of the military service credit deposit which all military retirees should review:

  34. Linda Carter says

    My husband retired from the military after 20 years. He receives a military retirement. He then spent 16 years working in civil service. He is now 62. Can he also receive civil service retirement for the 16 years.

  35. Jordan says

    Allen, there are two provisions for federal law enforcement retirement eligibility according to OPM:

    – You can retire at ANY age if you have worked in a federal law enforcement position for 25+ years.


    – You can retire after working in a federal law enforcement position for 20+ years AND you are 50+ years old at the time you apply for retirement.

    *Interesting example: If you are 51 years old, but have only worked for 15 years in a federal law enforcement position, you CANNOT retire. You must work 5 more years until you hit 20 years of service before you are eligible for retirement.

    You are correct that you must retire or transfer out of a law enforcement position at 57.

  36. Doug Nordman says

    No worries, Mark, you can buy your additional military service credit deposit without affecting your Reserve pension. That’s the benefit of the federal law waiver allowing you to collect both pensions.

    The reason you’re able to do this is because you’re paying for the credit.

  37. Doug Nordman says

    I’m sorry to read about your skepticism, Scott, yet you can review the source references that I’ve linked in that post.

    The logic of the federal government is that it may attract (and retain) better employees, you’ve earned it, and you’re paying for it. It’s the financial equivalent of “Thank you for your service.”

    As for your service computation dates: that’s outside my circle of competence. I know a bit about the military side of the military service credit deposit, but I’m not at all familiar with OPM’s rules or policies.

    It seems that your date calculations do need to be verified, and hopefully there’s someone at your department’s Human Resources team who can guide you through the source references. There’s also Eddie Wills’ post on the subject. He’s the submarine vet with several years of federal civil-service experience who I mentioned in that post, and here’s more of his work:
    along with his 99-cent booklet:
    and finally, the option to contact him directly with your question:

  38. Doug Nordman says

    Thanks, Raymond, I’m glad it’s helping.

    Your active duty from October 2004-06 gave you a DD-214 that you can provide to your HR to buy more of your military service credit deposit. You’re doing it years after the fact, though, so it might have additional interest added to the basic purchase.

    The VA chose to put you on unpaid leave for that period, but you probably continued to earn that credit toward your civil service retirement. That’s their policy. Meanwhile you also earned credit toward your Reserve pension, and you’re paying for your military service credit deposit.

    It’s all good, and none of these benefits reduce the other benefits.

  39. Jason Burns says

    I’ve been AD / T-5 / Technician T-32 for the last 31 years with the military and Air National Guard. After reading a few of the posts/questions, I wanted to mention another benefit to the “Guard”. You can request a reduced minimum retirement age (reduced MRA) on the military side. If you performed AD deployment service on orders, you can compile all of those orders and submit them to your processing center online. Instead of collecting my mil paycheck at 60, it’s now 57 1/2.

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