Gray Area Retiree Benefits Before Reaching Full Retirement Age

"Gray area retirees" aren't eligible for their full retired benefits, such as retirement pay and medical care until reaching age 60. But they still have access to a number of valuable perks and benefits.
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Gray Area Retirement Benefits
Table of Contents
  1. What is a Gray Area Retiree?
  2. Eligibility Requirements
    1. Gray Area Retiree ID Cards
  3. Gray Area Retirement Benefits
    1. Military Installation Facilities and Activities
    2. Dental Care
    3. Discounted and Space-A Travel
    4. Family Services and Survivor Assistance
    5. MyPay for Gray Area Retirees
  4. Gray Area Benefits vs. Full Retirement Benefits
  5. Limitations for Gray Area Retirement Benefits
    1. Tricare for Gray Area Retirees
    2. Gray Area Retiree Pay
    3. Space-A Travel Restrictions

Although being in the “gray area” doesn’t generally seem desirable for retired Guardsmen or Reservists, there are various benefits associated with being “in-between” service and full retirement. If you or a family member has served at least 20 years and is transitioning out of the National Guard or Reserve, this article is for you.

Read on to learn about important gray area retirement benefits that you and your dependents may be eligible for.

What is a Gray Area Retiree?

A “gray area” retiree is a retired Guardsman or Reservist who has completed at least 20 years in service but is not quite old enough, usually under 60 years of age, to collect their full retirement pay and benefits.

The gray area includes active Reserve Component (RC) members, Individual Ready Reserve (IRR) members, and Retired Reserve service members who have served over 20 years but are not yet eligible for retirement pay. Since they fall into a somewhat awkward benefits camp, they are referred to as being in the “gray area” and have access to a slightly restricted list of benefits compared to full retirees.

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Eligibility Requirements

To be considered a gray area retiree, a service member must:

  1. Complete at least 20 years in the National Guard or Reserves, including any applicable active duty service time
  2. Stop drilling/retire from military service
  3. Enter retirement before reaching the eligible age to receive retirement pay, usually 60 years old

Gray Area Retiree ID Cards

When out-processing, service members must obtain a new military identification card reflecting the new gray area status and update their information in DEERS. It’s important to note that service members must get another military identification card once they reach full retirement age.

Gray Area Retirement Benefits

Veterans residing in the gray area are not yet eligible to collect their pension and avail of Tricare healthcare, but they do have access to certain benefits, such as:

Military Installation Facilities and Activities

Gray area retirees retain access to on-base post exchanges, commissaries and shops, service stations, fitness centers, and other on-base facilities such as theaters, Officer or NCO clubs, bowling alleys, libraries, flower and optical shops, barbershops, laundry facilities, MWR programs, and ITT offices.

Additionally, gray area retirees and their dependents have access to on-post lodging on a “first come-first served” basis.

Dental Care

Gray area retirees are eligible for the premium-based Federal Employees Dental and Vision Insurance Program (FEDVIP). FEDVIP is the U.S. government-sponsored dental insurance program that replaced the Tricare Retiree Dental Program in December 2018.

Discounted and Space-A Travel

Lodging at Armed Forces Recreation Centers is available to all military ID holders, including gray area retirees. This is a tremendous benefit for those hoping to visit Disney World with their family, escape to the mountains of Bavaria, or relax on the beaches of Oahu.

Additionally, space available (“space-A”) travel is open to gray area retirees, but only within the continental United States. Also, spouses and dependents of gray area retirees do not qualify for this benefit, so service members should prepare to fly solo until they hit their full retirement age.

Finally, gray area retirees can still take advantage of CWTSatoTravel services.

Family Services and Survivor Assistance

Gray area retirees are eligible for some on-base legal services but are entitled to all family service benefits awarded to full retirees. This extends to casualty and survivor assistance resources for families.

MyPay for Gray Area Retirees

National Guard and Reserves retirees not receiving retirement pay can access a DFAS myPay account specifically for gray area retirement. The “future retiree” myPay account allows gray area retirees to keep their information up-to-date and provides a news source for important updates from DFAS and their branch of service.

Those seeking to avail of their full retirement benefits must apply before reaching their approved retirement age to collect retirement pay. Using the contact information available in the future retiree myPay account, DFAS will send email notifications to keep retirees informed during the retirement pay application process, including updates when the application is received, enters processing, and when it is completed.


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Gray Area Benefits vs. Full Retirement Benefits

The following table can help you better understand which benefits are available to you immediately upon retiring from the Guard or Reserves and which you will have to wait to receive (generally until age 60).

BenefitGray Area Retirement (Under age 60)Full Retirement (Above age 60)
Retirement PayNo, unless eligible for early retirement benefits.?
ID CardsMust obtain a new Gray Area ID card for self and dependents and enroll in DEERS.Must obtain a new ID card for self and dependents at age 60 and verify DEERS enrollment is still valid.
Military Installation Access*??
Exchanges, BX, NEX, PX, Shopettes, Gas Stations*??
Commissary*??
Military Medical Facilities (Space Available Only)X?
Health InsuranceEligible for Tricare Retired Reserve (TRR) until age 60.Age 60: Tricare Prime, Tricare Standard, or US Family Health Plan Age 65: Tricare for Life (requires Medicare Part B). Dependent children may be eligible for Tricare Young Adult.
Dental & Vision Care??
Base Lodging (Space Available Only)??
Base Amenities ?????
Space-A TravelRetiree only; dependents are not eligible. Limited to CONUS locations.Full Space-A benefits for retiree and dependents to CONUS and OCONUS locations. Retiree must accompany spouse and dependent children.
Base Family Services??
Base Legal Office AssistanceX?
Survivor/Casualty Assistance??

*SOFA laws may impact access OCONUS.

Limitations for Gray Area Retirement Benefits

Tricare for Gray Area Retirees

A critical exclusion for gray area retirees is healthcare. Members of the Guard and Reserves who are not also federal employees are eligible for subsidized healthcare through Tricare Reserve Select. Access to Tricare Reserve Select ends when the member retires, at which point they can apply for Tricare Retired Reserve until they reach age 60, which is the full retirement age for healthcare benefits.

Tricare Retired Reserve is virtually the same as Tricare Reserve Select. However, there is no premium subsidy from the government. Retirees will have to pay the full price, which can be expensive. Many retired Reserve members choose to obtain healthcare coverage through a civilian employer or a spouse’s employer, if available.

Here is more information about healthcare options for retired Reservists.

Once retired Guard and Reserve members reach the full retirement age of 60, they will be eligible for Tricare Prime or Tricare Select. They will also be eligible to apply for Tricare Young Adult for eligible dependents. At age 65, they will become eligible for Tricare for Life.

Gray Area Retiree Pay

Finally, to receive “full” retirement pay, servicemembers typically have to wait until they turn 60 years old. However, early retirement benefits for Reserve Component members who meet specific eligibility criteria were authorized within the 2008 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) and further amended in 2015.

This legislation makes it easier for those Reservists or Guardsmen who were activated in support of overseas operations after January 2008 to begin receiving retirement pay three months early for each 90-day period they served in any given fiscal year.

Therefore, if a gray area retiree was activated to support a 9-month overseas deployment after January 2008, they could receive early retirement benefits as much as 9 months before their original eligibility date.

Regardless of eligible reductions, the earliest gray area retirees may begin receiving retirement pay is age 50.

Space-A Travel Restrictions

Space-A travel for Gray Area retirees can only fly within the Continental United States (CONUS) and directly between the CONUS and Alaska, Hawaii, Puerto Rico, the US Virgin Islands, Guam, and American Samoa.

However, Space-A travel for spouses and dependents of retired servicemembers is only available once the servicemember reaches “full” retirement age.

So, Space-A travel is an option if you are traveling solo, but it may not be an option if you wish to bring family members. So it may be worth it to delay that big trip to Europe until the entire family is eligible for Space-A travel.


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