How To Calculate The Value Of A Guard & Reserve Retirement

Active duty and Reserve retirement pay are calculated differently. This guide shows you how to calculate Guard and Reserve retirement pay based on your anticipated pay grade.
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Table of Contents
  1. How To Calculate A Reserve Retirement
  2. A Quick Overview of How Active Duty and Reserve Retirement is Calculated
  3. More Details on Guard & Reserve Retirement Points
    1. Earning Annual Participation Points
    2. Earning Points For Service
    3. The Four Hour Rule
    4. Two-Hour Rule
    5. Doing the Math: Calculating Reserve Points
  4. What Is A Good Year?
  5. Retire Awaiting Pay, or Resign?
  6. Final Pay, High Three, or Blended Retirement System?
    1. The Service Percent Multiplier
    2. Pay Scale
    3. The Final Pay Pension
    4. The High Three Pension
  7. Starting Retired Pay Before Age 60
  8. What is the Average Military Pension After 20 years?
  9. Want More Answers?

Note: Calculating retirement pay for the Guard and Reserves is slightly different from determining active duty retirement pay. This guide will show you how you can calculate your retirement pay. Note: This article uses data from the 2016 pay scale. However, the concepts are the same regardless of your pay grade or current pay scales. Simply plug in your current pay to these formulas to reach your anticipated Reserve retirement pay.

How To Calculate A Reserve Retirement

I recently answered a couple of questions on calculating the amount of a Reserve retirement for both Final Pay and High Three pay systems.

If you’re eligible for a Guard – Reserve retirement, then let me repeat the questions & answers so that you can confirm your math. 

A Quick Overview of How Active Duty and Reserve Retirement is Calculated

Some of the processes are the same for calculating active duty and reserve retirement amounts. However, there are some notable differences.

In both instances, a retiree can use the Final Pay Plan or the High-36 Month Average Plan. Active duty retirement can also be calculated using the REDUX Plan.

  • Final Pay is used for service members who first entered the military before September 8, 1980.
  • The High 36 Plan is used for service members who first entered the military between September 8, 1980 and July 31, 1986.
  • The REDUX Plan is available only to active duty members who entered service on or after August 1, 1986.

The biggest difference between active duty retirement and reserve retirement is when you can file. Active duty service members can file when their military career ends and they have accumulated 20 years of service. Technically, this means is someone enlists at age 18, they could start drawing retirement as early as age 38. By contrast, a reservist can only file for retirement when they turn 60, with a few exceptions, such as qualifying for early Guard/reserve retirement.

The other big difference is that active duty retirement is based on years of service while reservist retirement is based on an accumulation of points which are then converted to years of service.

In all cases, the Retired Pay Formula is determined by multiplying your retired pay base by a service percentage:

Retired Pay Base x Service Percent Multiplier = Gross Retired Pay

Gross retired pay is rounded down to the nearest dollar.

Next, each year of active duty service is worth 2.5% toward your service percent multiplier (2.0% for those participating in the Blended Retirement System).

So the longer you stay on active duty, the higher your retirement pay. For example, a retiree with 20 years of service would receive 50% of their base pay (20 years x 2.5%). A retiree would receive 75% of their gross pay after 30 years of service (30 years x 2.5%). Retirement maxes out at 75% of gross retired pay.

A retired reserve member converts points to active service equivalents by dividing those points by 360. For example, 7200 retirement points divided by 360 = 20 years of active duty service (2.5% x 20 years = 50%).

Until recently, the Final Pay Plan and High-36 Month Average Plan were the two primary non-disability retirement plans in effect for qualified reservists. However, reserve members also became eligible for the Blended Retirement System effective Jan. 1, 2018. The Blended Retirement System does not change how retirement points are calculated for members of the Reserves, with the exception of using a 2.0% multiplier.

For disability retirements, you would receive 2.5% for each year of service, or a disability percentage assigned by the service at the time you retire. In either case, the multiplier is limited to 75% by law. This article explains how disability compensation impacts your retirement pay.

More Details on Guard & Reserve Retirement Points

The following section goes into greater detail on earning retirement points in the Guard and Reserves. This is a good general overview. For a more in-depth article, check out this Guard and Reserve Points Guide. It goes into more detail and includes a podcast discussing the ins and outs of earning points in the Guard and Reserves.

When you’re in the Reserves or Guard, your time toward retirement is credited on two factors:

  • the number of points you build up
  • the number of “good years” you’ve completed

Each service is a little different in its point calculations. Points accumulate from both active duty and the Reserve/Guard system. 

Earning Annual Participation Points

15 retirement points are awarded to Guard and Reserve members for each year of service. This includes times spent as a drilling participant or while serving in the Inactive Ready Reserve (IRR).

A drilling participant is a member of a Reserve component who regularly serves a minimum of one weekend per month and approximately 14 days a year during annual training (AT). While their IRR counterparts, serve in inactive status after completion of active duty or electing to transfer into the component.

Thanks to Reservist and CFP Jeff Clark for researching the history of participation points. It’s discussed on page 164 of the 11th Quadrennial Review of Military Compensation. It’s the inset box which includes the text “Unfortunately, no documentation was available to explain the purpose or rationale for the 15 membership points. However…”

Earning Points For Service

You accumulate points for drill weekends, active duty periods, and under some special circumstances:

  • completion of online or correspondence courses
  • serving on funeral honors detail
  • providing support to recruiting personnel

Each day of active duty counts as one point. Each drill counts as one point (a typical weekend has four drills), as do the days of active duty in the Reserve/Guard for training or mobilizations.

You’re also limited by the number of points you can get in a category — you can’t do 52 drill weekends in one year and get points for every one.

Of course, you can certainly be mobilized during a leap year and receive 366 points of active duty.

Here’s a minimum breakdown of points earned during a normal year:

  • Annual Participation – 15
  • Monthly Drills – 48 (12 months x 4 drills)
  • Annual Training – 15
  • Total points +/- 78

This article covers ways to earn more retirement points in the Guard and Reserves beyond the traditional “one weekend a month, two weeks a year“.

Note: It’s possible to get points for other purposes, but they’re limited. (For example, it was previously possible for officers commissioned from NROTC to receive points for the days they were on active duty for midshipman summer training, but they’ll need to supply the documentation. This niche benefit has since been revoked).

The Four Hour Rule

During Inactive Duty Training (IDT), one point will be awarded for each 4-hour period of IDT performed.

A maximum of two points per calendar day applies to IDT Duty. Duty must be 8 hours in duration to receive two points per day.

Meetings (Seminars, Symposia, Professional Development). Per DoD Instruction 1215.07, members will only be allowed one point per day. Each training period must be a minimum of 4 hours in length.

Two-Hour Rule

Per DoDI Instruction 1215.07, the Funeral Honors requires a minimum of two hours of duty. Members receive one point for each day and the duty must be a minimum of 2 hours, including travel.

Doing the Math: Calculating Reserve Points

Reserve members can log a qualifying year for each year they earn at least 50 retirement points.

Inactive point credits are earned for inactive duty training, reserve membership, equivalent instruction, and correspondence courses.

The following point credits apply:

  • Up to 60 inactive points for retirement years that ended before Sep. 23, 1996
  • Up to 75 inactive points for retirement years ending on or after Sep. 23, 1996 and before Oct. 30, 2000.
  • Up to 90 points in the retirement year that includes Oct. 30, 2000 and in any subsequent year of service.

Points from these sources may be added to points earned from active duty and active duty for training for a maximum total of 365 or 366 points per retirement year.

Points are credited as follows:

  • One point for each day of active service (active duty or active duty for training).
  • 15 points for each year of membership in a Reserve Component.
  • One point for each unit training assembly.
  • One point for each day in which a member is in a funeral honors duty status.
  • Satisfactory completion of accredited correspondence courses at one point for each three credit hours earned.

Reserve members with 20 or more years to begin drawing retirement benefits before age 60 if they deploy for war or a national emergency. For every 90 consecutive days spent mobilized, members of the reserves will see their start date for annuities reduced by three months. However, because this was based on a law passed in 2008, it only applies for deployment time served after Jan. 28, 2008.

What Is A Good Year?

A “good year” ensures that you show up each year for a certain minimum amount of work. A good year is defined as one in which you earned a minimum of 50 points.

This can be accomplished if you show up for drills on at least 10 of the 12 months (or complete enough other assignments), then you’ve met the intent of a good year.

To be credited with a good year, you must earn a minimum of 50 points within 12 months (your retention year) and maintain your mobilization readiness (like completing the medical checklists).

This status is tracked in your service’s Reserve/Guard databases, and you may be issued occasional updates. Every year you can earn a certain number of points and get a “good year.” However, you’ll still have to verify that your service correctly credits you with that accomplishment.

You’re considered eligible for retirement when you’ve completed 20 “good years” of service. (But of course, you can usually choose to continue to serve.) If you have a combination of active duty and Reserve/Guard duty, then your active-duty service time counts toward the 20 good years.

There are also special circumstances (mainly medical) when you may be eligible to retire before reaching 20 good years. However, for purposes of this post, we’re going to assume that your retirement eligibility is based on the main requirement of 20 good years.

When you reach 20 good years, your service will eventually formally notify you that you’re eligible for retirement. (You may still have to finish other obligations like an enlistment, a minimum time in rank, or a set of orders.) When you complete those requirements (or have them waivered, or agree to retire at a lower rank), then you can apply for retirement.

The key to your retirement is that “notice of eligibility,” more commonly called “the 20-year letter.”

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Retire Awaiting Pay, or Resign?

There are two ways to retire, and they require you to consider a certain amount of risk. The first option is to “retire awaiting pay”. Over 99.99% of Reserve/Guard retirees choose this option. When you retire awaiting pay you’re not required to perform any duties or maintain any readiness in the “gray area” between the time you retire and the start of your retired pay, but the risk of this option is that you could still be recalled to duty for a full mobilization.

A full mobilization requires the President and Congress to declare a war that’s bad enough to require the entire armed forces, and it’s more severe than the Presidential mobilization that was declared after 9/11.

Most Reserve/Guard retirees are willing to take this risk because the Department of Defense pays for it. If you retire awaiting pay then your seniority within your rank continues to accumulate, and when you reach your pension start date (generally age 60) then your retirement pay will be drawn at the active-duty pay table in effect that year. In other words, DoD covers you on both seniority and inflation.

You may also want to read the: Reserve Non-Regular Retirement Information Guide

If you’re not willing to accept the risk of a full mobilization, then the only way to completely avoid it is to resign. You’ll still receive your pension at your start date (generally age 60) but it’ll be at the seniority you had in that rank when you resigned– and in the pay scale in effect when you resigned.

This may not be much of a difference if you resign at age 59, but if you resign at age 37 then you’ll be facing over two decades of inflation erosion before your pension starts.

For the purposes of this post, we’re going to assume that you “retire awaiting pay”.

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Final Pay, High Three, or Blended Retirement System?

The next question is whether you’re retiring under the pay base system of “Final Pay, “High Three”, or the Blended Retirement System (BRS). Both of them depend on the “Date of Initial Entry into Military Service” or “Date of Initial Entry into Uniformed Service”.

For most servicemembers, it’s considered the day that you first raised your hand, took the oath, and received an ID card. If your DIEMS/DIEUS date is before 8 September 1980 then you’re Final Pay. Otherwise, you’re “High Three”. If you joined the military with a DIEMS/DIEUS date after 31 December 2017, you’re in the BRS.

One loophole to this involves commissioned officers. If your commissioning source was a service academy, then your DIEMS date is the date you started at the service academy. However, when the services consolidated their pay systems in the 1990s, some members of the service academy classes of 1981-1984 were not properly credited with the correct DIEMS/DIEUS date. If you’re one of the few in this situation then make sure that your date is before 6 September 1980.

In addition, if you started at the service academy or signed an ROTC scholarship agreement before 31 December 2017, then when you commission you can opt into the Blended Retirement System.

Once you determine which retired pay base system you’re under, you’re ready to calculate your service percent multiplier.

The Service Percent Multiplier

If you had retired under the active-duty system with Final Pay or High Three, your multiplier would have been 2.5% per year of service. For 20 years of service, this is the “50% of base pay” that you’ve seen so much in the media.

Members who retire under the Blended Retirement System will use a 2.0% multiplier, which equates to 40% of your base pay at 20 years.

The Reserve/Guard retirement system calculates the multiplier from your total points.

Divide your grand total career point count by 360 (because your pay is based on 30-day months) and multiply by 2.5% (or 2.0%) to come up with your service multiplier.

For example, 2134 points / 360 * 2.5% = 14.82%. That’s your service percent multiplier, just as an active-duty retirement at 20 years would be 50%.

Pay Scale

Now you need your pay scale. If you “retired awaiting pay”, then your pay scale is on the pay table at the maximum longevity for that rank during the year that you turn age 60. (A few Reserve/Guard veterans may be eligible to begin receiving their pension earlier than age 60. We’ll get to that near the end of this post).

The problem with this calculation is that Reserve/Guard members who “retired awaiting pay” have to wait until they turn age 60 to know exactly what amounts are on that pay table. (If you’re only 38 years old when you retire, then you’d have to wait nearly 22 years to find out.)

The only suggestion I have for this situation is to assume that your pension will keep up with the current pay tables.

In specific terms, you’re assuming that military pay maintains pace with the Employment Cost Index. For a spreadsheet or a calculator, you could assume that military pay grows with the rate of inflation. This is not a very accurate assumption but it’s the best available for calculating future dollars.

A better assumption would be to convert your retirement income and expenses to today’s dollars and use today’s pay table. Take a look at the second page of the 2016 pay table.

If you retired as an O-6, there are pay longevity raises at 20 years of service, 22 years, 24 years, 26 years, and 30 years. It tops out at 30.

If you retired as an O-6 awaiting pay then you’d choose the maximum pay of that rank. In this case, an O-6>30 or $11,094.90/month.

If you retired as an O-5 then it’d be $8,876.40. At E-7 it’d be $5,061.30.

The Final Pay Pension

Whatever max pay you find for that rank, multiply it by the service percent multiplier and round it down to the nearest dollar.

That’s your monthly pension.

For an E-7 with 2134 points starting their pension in 2016 it’d be $5061.30 * .1482 = $750/month.

The High Three Pension

That’s a messier calculation.

Here’s what the Association of the U.S. Navy website says about High Three Reserve retirement in one of their articles (Note: the article is behind a membership login):

This system applies to anyone with a DIEMS of 8 September 1980 to present. Retired pay is calculated based on a figure derived from the average of the last 36 months of basic pay for the approved retired grade (highest grade satisfactorily held), and from the length of service (longevity) prior to reaching age 60. In other words, it is the basic pay in effect when you were ages 58, 59, and 60. The percentage of that figure (36-month average) you will receive is calculated by dividing your total points by 360 and multiplying that figure (equal to years and months) by 2.5 percent.

So you still start with your total points, divide by 360, and multiply by 2.5% to get the service percent multiplier.

Note that the multiplier is 2.0% for the Blended Retirement System.

But then the pay calculation is painful. You have to have 36 months of pay charts (the years you turn ages 60, age 59, age 58, and age 57). For each one, you’ll take the max pay at that rank (max longevity) and the number of months of that year. Then you’ll add them all together and divide by 36.

Here is an example:

Let’s say you turn age 60 in June 2012. You’d use six months (January-June) of pay for that rank at the max longevity in the 2012 pay table. For a High Three E-7, that’s $4815.90/month * 6.

Then you’d use 12 months of max pay for that rank in the 2011 pay table: $4740.00 * 12.

You’d add another 12 months of max pay for that rank in the 2010 pay table: $4674.60 * 12.

Finally, you’d add another six months of max pay for that rank in the 2009 pay table: $4521.00 * 6.

Now that you have the final 36 months of pay, you add all those numbers up and divide to get the final average monthly high-three pay:

($4815.90 * 6 + $4740.00 * 12 + $4674.60 * 12 + $4521.00 * 6) / 36 = $4694.35.

Note that it’s 97.5% of the Final Pay amount– only a 2.5% reduction.

That base pay number is multiplied by the service multiple to get the monthly pension amount.

$4694.35 * .1482 = $695/month.

Seems like a lot of work to shave 2.5% off your pension, but “high three” is commonly used in today’s defined-benefit pension systems to avoid the employee syndrome of “pension spiking”, a final year of work with exceptionally high pay. Congress and DoD just took advantage of a common civilian practice that doesn’t happen to be common to the military.

AUSN’s website doesn’t even have a calculator for the High Three Reserve retirement. They have a “Contact us” form that you fill out with the pertinent data, and then AUSN’s staff calculates the pension amount by hand.

By the way, if you join AUSN you’ll have access to all their website tools for Reserve planning, including the latest on when you’ll hear from your service and the pay center. You’ll be able to use their calculators and their guides on the Survivor Benefits Plan and their articles on retiree taxes. For a fee, AUSN will even review your record to determine how much you’ll be getting and what steps to take. I haven’t researched the question, but the other services should have similar Reserve/Guard advocacy organizations with similar support.

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Starting Retired Pay Before Age 60

Some Reserve/Guard members may actually be eligible for a retirement earlier than age 60. The current legislation (passed in early 2008 and updated in 2015) reduces the age 60 retirement requirement by three months for every 90 consecutive days of mobilization during a fiscal year for war or national emergency.

In other words, a Reservist volunteering to deploy to the desert for a fiscal year would be eligible to start their Reserve pension at age 59.

A member of the National Guard who deploys with their unit for 24 months of the next five years (at least 90 days in the fiscal years) would be able to draw their pension at age 58. But this law only applies for deployment time served after Jan. 28, 2008.

Several amendments have been proposed to retroactively extend this benefit to September 11, 2001, but none of these modifications have yet been approved by Congress. There hasn’t been much support to this point, so don’t expect this will be made retroactive any time soon (if at all).

What is the Average Military Pension After 20 years?

This is a lot like asking how much a car costs. As an example, for retirement purposes, 20 years is the minimum qualifying level, but many service members serve additional years. The Department of Defense uses a multi-step formula to compute retirement benefits pay, so there is no single accurate answer when it comes what the average reserve retirement pay is.

The only way to address this question is to consider your individual circumstances. You need to consider these factors as a starting point:

  • How many years did you serve both active duty and as a reserve member?
  • Which years did you serve?
  • What was your rank at retirement?
  • Are there questions related to how a Social Security benefit and a federal retirement benefit interact with each other?
  • What were your earnings that have an impact on how your retirement pay is calculated?
  • Which formula applies to you?
  • Does military disability enter into the picture?
  • How about Extraordinary Heroism Pay?

Want More Answers?

If you have questions about either active duty or reserve member retirement plan benefits, contact the appropriate Defense Finance and Accounting Service (DFAS) office:

  • Air Force, Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Space Force active duty or Reserve, call 1-888-332-7411.
  • Retiree, survivor, or beneficiary, call 1-800-321-1080.

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  1. Matt K says

    Hi Doug – first and foremost, THANK YOU! I’ve read almost every word on this page and it is the single best source for this topic I’ve found to date. I appreciate all of the time you take to respond to each question.
    I believe my situation is unique, as I do not see it addressed here.

    This is about the double-dip (collecting both a military pension and FERS pension)!
    I am a guardsman on track to be eligible for a 20 year active duty retirement – not all points are created equal, but we’ll just say 7200 points. I am also a GS employee, completely separate from my duty as a guardsman – so, not a technician. Next year I’m eligible to receive a 20 year active duty pension. Can I buy back all that time at my GS job while still receiving immediate military pension benefits?

    I ask this because I’ll be retired out of the reserve/guard (10 U.S. Code Chapter 1223) but the pension is active duty, in nature, because I’m immediately receiving a check. Since I retired as a reservist, is it still a reserve retirement? Or as soon as we request our check early (20 yr AD retirement / 7200 points), does our retirement status switch to “active duty?”

    Thank you so much!

    • Doug Nordman says

      You’re welcome, Matt! I’m paying it forward, and I’m glad it’s helping.

      If you’re earning an active-duty military pension, then that will starts as soon as you retire from your final set of orders. The Dept of Defense will do that regardless of your civil-service career.

      If you’re earning that active-duty pension from Chapter 71 of Title 10 (instead of a Reserve pension from Chapter 1223) then it’s considered a regular pension and not a Reserve (non-regular) pension. Even if you achieved this pension through declaring sanctuary, it’s still an active-duty pension.

      However the federal laws (passed in the 1960s) about dual compensation will limit your ability to buy your military service credit deposit with your FERS pension. OPM enforces the dual-compensation laws.
      The only waivers in that situation are for a military disability pension, or for a Reserve pension, or if you give up your active-duty pension. However you can still buy a portion of your military service credit deposit to adjust your Service Computation Date, your Reduction In Force date, and your annual leave accrual rate multiple:
      In very general terms, it only makes sense to give up your active-duty pension if you retired at a relatively junior enlisted rank and reached a very senior civil-service rank.

      • Matt K says

        Thanks Doug!
        2 more curiosities:
        Since I’ve done over 10 years of active duty as a reservist (mix of RPA, MPA, and AGR status), that reduces my retirement age to 50, right? (AGR counts toward reducing retirement age, doesn’t it?)

        Lets say I’ve officially reduced my retirement age from 60 to 50. If I start collecting a pension at 50, would that be considered a reserve retirement and therefore I could buy all that time back in a civil service position?

        Thank you again so much for your time and patience!

      • Doug Nordman says

        Matt, a Reserve early retirement is completely separate from an active-duty pension, and a Reserve early retirement depends on the nature of your active-duty orders. AGR orders do not necessarily qualify. You’d have to be mobilized to a combat zone after 28 January 2008 for at least 90 days in a fiscal year. In 2013 the law was amended to add mobilizations for natural disasters, again for at least 90 days. You can read all the details at this post:

        Again, if you serve for 20 years of active duty and retire (at any age) on an active-duty pension, then it’s not part of the Reserve retirement system and it has nothing to do with Reserve early retirement benefits.

  2. JOHN PARCELL says

    Hello- I spent 11 years in USMC being discharged after Gulf War number one. I reentered PA Army National Guard in2001, retired in 2013. I have approximately 5800 points total. and I filed my retirement application in early 2021, a problem arose and asked for assistance from PA ARMY GUARD admin personnel. It was resubmitted, by PAANG , in 11 -2021, and HRC says that they got it to process in 12-201 and thats the date it will be processed from at this time, even though my early retirement date was 10-2021 (I spent several tours since 9-11 01 in Bosnia and Iraq) . They stated in an email reply that my application will be process per my DOB or Early Age drop date) but no firm date can be given for processing. . Can you help me understand this system? TY

    • Doug Nordman says

      John, you’ll want to check all of your combat deployment dates since 28 January 2008 against the early-retirement requirements listed in this post:

      Depending on the dates you deployed, their duration, and their timing around the fiscal year, you may be eligible to start your pension three months earlier for every 90 days in the combat zone. Earlier versions of the law (which applied to you but were amended in FY 15 after you retired awaiting pay) required all 90-day periods to be served in the same fiscal year.

      HRC and all of the other services have to manually review and calculate the mobilization orders, locations, and dates in order to validate the early-retirement eligibility for each 90-day period. (There’s no automated system to assist in this.) In addition, all of the DoD federal civil service staffs have been backlogged in processing these requests due to the pandemic remote-work requirements, a wave of civil-service retirements, and the slow hiring/training of new employees.

      I can’t predict when HRC will approve your retirement application and send it over to DFAS, but DFAS will tell you (in their letter) that they’ll start your pension deposits within 30-45 days after they receive the ANG approval. It’s possible that you may see a status update in your MyPay account, although that depends on the timing of DFAS running the payroll/pension process around the 20th of the month. Your first deposit (at the end of the month) will be paid retroactive to the early-retirement date that you’re eligible to start your pension. Subsequent deposits will be the regular amount of your pension.

      When your retirement application is approved, at your 60th birthday you can update your Tricare enrollment in DEERS. (Although you’re receiving an early pension, Tricare still starts at age 60.) You might need several weeks of lead time to get an appointment at a RAPIDS office, but your Tricare benefits will be retroactive to your 60th birthday.

  3. Maria Teresa Limbo says

    I was in the Army Reserves and I retired active duty under Title 10, 12686 Sanctuary. I accrued a total of 7797 points which 20 years active duty and 1032 inactive duty points combined. I have performed 20 years active duty and I still have 1032 inactive duty points. Do you know what happens to the inactive duty points when you retires active duty? Do you loose it? Do you know what regulation states that you forfeit your inactive duty points when you retire active duty? Please let me know. I called the Army HRC and I was told by the customer service that I forfeit it but could not show me the regulation.

    • Doug Nordman says

      Maria, it’s a shame that HRC couldn’t make the effort to provide a regulation. I’m not familiar with their claim that you forfeit any of your points.

      My understanding of the process comes from the Financial Management Regulation (DoD 7000.14-R) Volume 7B Chapter 3:
      Your 1032 additional points are divided into 360 and added to your 20 years for a total of 22.87 years of service.

      I’d recommend checking this with your command’s financial personnel (if they’re familiar with sanctuary), or HRC’s sanctuary office, or a JAG at your base legal service office. If you haven’t already talked to HRC’s sanctuary office, you can find them at:
      [email protected] or by phone at 502-613-5962.

      As a side question, I’m not sure of your math for 1032 points of other than active duty from your 7797 point count. Presumably you’re working from HRC’s audit of your sanctuary request.

  4. Duane Eldridge says

    Why can’t I find any mention of using the max pay for your paygrade when you turn 60 in the calculation for your retired pay when I am looking on an official Navy website such as MYNAVYHR? I always see that they have you enter the pay for the years of service you had in your pay grade at retirement. I am a retired CWO3 gray area reservist turning 60 this June. I fall under the Final Pay category of retirees.

    • John says

      I’m not sure, but if you are a gray area reservist it is the total time from your PEBD until you start drawing retired pay. All that time in between counts for longevity. For most people, this maxes them out. I guess in some situations it may not. Maybe if you didn’t start your career til very late and/or had broken service.

    • Doug Nordman says

      Congratulations on your pending pension, Duane!

      As John says, the federal law for retired awaiting pay is “… as though the member had been on active duty the entire time” during gray area. For most ranks and ages it’s the maximum longevity pay in that rank. However those who’ve joined the Reserves in their 30s (or had significant broken service) might not reach the maximum pay for their rank by age 60.

      I’m not familiar with the website calculator you mention, but it probably does the math for your years of service and your age to forecast your pension at age 60. For a more relevant number you could calculate your pension in today’s dollars with today’s pay tables (using the longevity you’d have at age 60) and compare that directly to your current expenses. By using today’s dollars, you don’t have to account for inflation.

  5. Richard Gray says

    Hi Doug,

    Great article and I found it helpful, but I have some questions that I am having trouble finding answers to. I retired 1/1/2020 from the Navy Reserve as an 06 with 20 credible years. I fall under the High 3 for retirement purposes. I turn 60 in October of 2021. If I follow all the formulas as I understand them, it appears that my retirement pay is more than what I was making per month as an active Reservist. I find that hard to believe.

    I retired with 2421 points. When divided by 360, that gave me a value of 6.725 and that was multiplied by 2.5. My percentage multiplier came out to 16.87 or .1687. In terms of rough estimates I looked at the pay tables for 2017-2019. 2017 I was an 06 at 18 years and 2018-2019 I was 06 at 20 years. In adding all the numbers and dividing by 36, I came up with 10,149. I then took that number and multiplied it by .1687. That gave me a value of 1712.14.

    I find it hard to believe that my retirement pay would be $1712.14 a month. My last drill pay was $1408 in Dec of 2019. What am I missing here? I was expecting my retirement pay to be in the range of 600 a month. I do not believe for a second that it would be the full amount and more than I made as an active Reservist. Thanks so much for any help.

    • John says

      Doug, it’s certainly possible. I was an E-5 when drilling and probably only got like $400 for a drill weekend. But now retired, (I was bumped up to E-6 upon retirement), my gross retired pay is about $1200. Of course I had over 4000 points (10+ years I was AD).

    • Keith McCullar says


      Your calculations aren’t correct. You improperly calculated your High 3. That number isn’t based on O6 pay at the end of your career. It’s based on O6 pay for the 36 months prior to the date you begin drawing retirement pay. Typically your 60th birthday but there are exceptions. Plus you are entirely at 06 over 20 because that’s what you were when your career ended. So you sold yourself short. Your retirement pay will be more than you calculated.

      Look at it this way: your points are about one-third what an active duty retiree would have after 20 years. Their pay would be half of what they were making (not including allowances) or 15 days worth. So you will be getting paid about five days worth which is more than you got paid for a four-days-of-pay drill weekend.

      Congratulations on your retirement. Go forth and do great things.

      Keith McCullar
      CPT (Ret.)

    • Doug Nordman says

      Richard, as John & Keith point out above, it’s certainly possible.

      Let me call your attention to a couple of critical details in the post.

      First, the pension is calculated using the pay tables in effect when you start it. In your case (at age 60), it’s the High Three average of the 2021, 2020, 2019, and 2018 pay tables.

      Second, it’s at the longevity as if you’d been on active duty the entire time up until you start your pension. This means that your years of service continue to accrue.

      The result is that while you’re awaiting pay (gray area) your pension is boosted by annual pay raises (tied to the Employer Cost Index) and longevity pay raises (years of service in the pay tables). In general, your eventual pension more than keeps up with inflation during the gray-area years.

      The tradeoff for DoD’s pension generosity is that “retired awaiting pay” Reservists are subject to involuntary recall for a total force mobilization, which last happened during WWII.

      If you had a December 2019 drill weekend of $1408.44 then you were indeed an O-6 over 20 years.
      Since you were an O-6>20 in 2018-19 then I’ll assume that in January 2020 you became an O-6>22. You can correct the numbers below for your actual date that you went O-6>22.

      In October 2021 your High Three average becomes:
      2020 and nine months of 2021 as an O-6>22,
      2019 as an O-6>20, and
      2018 for three months as an O-6>20.

      Working backwards from the 2021 pay tables to 2018, your High Three pay average is:
      [(9 x $11,512.80) + (12 x $11,177.40) + (12 x $10,563.30) + (3 x $10,295.70)] / 36 = $10,983.08
      Your High Three pension would be:
      $10,983.08 x (2421 / 360) x .025 = $1846/month.

      By the way, BUPERS N9 is backlogged due to civil-service retirements and pandemic labor shortages. You should consider applying for your October 2021 pension now. See the section “Applying for Retirement with Pay” at:

      • John says

        Yes. The unfortunate and unfair aspect of all this is after you start getting your pension, all that work and effort and service & time you did, to earn and calculate your Service Percent Multiplier means NOTHING anymore. From then on your increases are tied to COLA’s, no longer to your EARNED percentage of your paygrade’s & time’s actual Active Duty Pay. That should be changed.

  6. Jones Donald G (Don) says

    I found a form DD Form 2586 Verification of Military Experience and Training NGR and AR but does not include active duty in AF. First service December 1966 and 19 years. Yep I’m 73 ! Is there any chance of getting anything ? If so where do I go to find out? Thank you for all your hard work.

  7. Dean Swann says

    Doug, your article was super helpful. I am so thankful for your help, I went on Amazon and bought your book!

    • Doug Nordman says

      Congratulations on your impending pension, Dave!

      You’re under the Final Pay pension system (entered service before 8 September 1980), so you can try this calculator:
      and choose the Reserve Component options.

      The factors in the Final Pay calculator are:
      Monthly pension = [points / 360] x 2.5% x base pay.
      Your base pay will be from the 2022 pay tables, which haven’t been published yet. (It’s reasonable to project a 1.5% pay raise.) Your pay will also be at the longevity for your rank as though you’d been on active duty the entire time that you were retired awaiting pay, which in your case is the >40 column:

      You can read through the retirement application instructions here:
      “Applying for Retirement with Pay
      1. Notification is forwarded in advance to advise you how to submit an application for retired pay at age 60. If you have not received notification four months prior to your 60th birthday, please contact PERS-912 by calling 1-833-330-6622.”
      However BUPERS has been shorthanded on processing pension requests, and you may want to apply as early as June (nine months in advance).

      Your Tricare options are essentially Tricare Prime or Tricare Standard, unless you’re in a rural area of the U.S. or living overseas. You can compare the various programs (and their co-pays and prescription expenses) here:
      We’ve been happy with Tricare Prime (especially raising an accident-prone teen) but Tricare Standard can work well if you’re not seeing a lot of doctors (and making a lot of copays).

      • Doug Nordman says

        Don, that form lists your military training and experience. It doesn’t verify that you have 20 good years of Reserve or Guard service and has no impact on military pensions or veteran’s benefits.

        I think you’re asking whether you qualify for a Reserve pension. You can learn more about that by contacting your final service (the Army Reserve?) at the Human Resources Command ( to request a copy of your Notice Of Eligibility letter.

        You can also discuss whether your point-count records with them include your previous active duty.

        If there’s an error in your records then you could try to update the HRC database with your active-duty service, and see whether that meets the requirements for a NOE.

        If you’re asking about veteran’s benefits or a VA disability claim, that’s handled by a Veteran Service Officer. You can find them through local chapters of the American Legion, the DAV, the VFW, or even MOAA. You can find them in your area through the VA’s website:
        And you can also contact your state’s office of Veteran Affairs.

  8. John says

    All seems right on. I stopped drilling in Oct 1998 (had a little over 20 years, about 10 active and 10 reserves). I went to the Ready Reserve (gray area). Filed for retired pay in July 2019, 2 months before my 60th birthday. Got first check in Nov 2019 and another catch-up pay in Jan 2020. But what I just found out about, and really irks me, and we need to get congress to change is how your pay is “reduced” in years following retirement. My Service Percent Multiplier came to 31.88% and initially I got that percentage of an E-6 with over 42 years. But now, instead of still getting that same percentage of an E-6’s pay for 2021, I only get a lousy minuscule COLA put on that. So the value of my retirement has just been diminished. This is made even worse by the fact I chose Tricare Select and was fine for 2020. But now for 2021 I have to pay $25 a month to cover my wife & I. So actually, my net retired pay has gone down $10 a month. Up $15 for the COLA, but down $25 for the “enrollment fee”. If I were still getting 31.88% of an E-6 with over 42, the increase would have offset the new fee. How can we get this changed for all retirees?

  9. Megumi Voight says

    Hi Doug!

    Holy cow, thank you for all of the time you’ve taken to write this article and respond to all of us regarding our individual cases. Another one for you ;). I’ve been trying to calculate what my retirement pay will be as I do some financial planning for the future.

    – Commissioned in May 2012 (at age 21)
    – Active duty for 5.5 years (until November 2017)
    – No break in service before joining the USAFR as a TR
    – I plan to stay in a TR/IMA status in the USAFR for 20 years (until 2032)
    – Playing it safe for financial planning, I estimate having the minimum number of points to qualify for a good year for the 14.5 years in the TR/IMA role (so I think that’s ~50 points/year?)
    – Selected to stay enrolled in High-3 rather than BRS.

    My main questions given the situation above are:
    – If I retired as an O4, what would my monthly retirement be? As an O5?
    – Because I hit my 20 years of service at Age 41, but I won’t be eligible to receive benefits until 60, what happens since I won’t have paystubs from Ages 58, 59, 60?

    I hope that all made sense haha!
    Thank you!

  10. Margaret Dirsa-Dubois says

    How can I talk with a real person who can help me? I live in Florida. I joined active army in 1978 and spent a total of 12 years of active duty and another 12 years of Army National Guard with a total of more than 25 years! And now I get a deposit in my account that seems Very Low! I have nothing in writing in response explaining how this amount was made and I don’t have anyone to ask. Who can I talk to? Yeah, I sent an email to DFAS and got an email saying they have my email — but no actual answer. I don’t live near any fort or base. Please point me in the right direction.

  11. Joseph says

    Hello, short of calling the AFPC, I’m trying to figure out if I will have to repay my Voluntary Separation Pay (I was on AD for 10 years and will be completing the second 10 years as a reservist) to be eligible for the pension. I’ve heard you have to repay it, but can’t find the source document, and am also wondering if it’s the pretax or the post tax VSP amount. Thanks in advance!!


  12. Cori Wilkerson says

    I am in the COARNG now and just hit my 20 years service (10 years was on Active Duty). I have my points statement and trying to get my unit to figure out dates eligible for the qualified service to reduce from age 60yo. They are only counting one 6-month Title 10 orders from the age of 60, so 59.5 years old to retire. If I was on active duty for 2 deployments after the 29JAN08 date that was approved—— Does my AD deployments count as qualified service to subtract from the age 60 retirement date (this is 26 months worth)? Or just the times I was called to AD from being in the Reserve/Guard (only 15 other months)?

  13. Todd Mingin says


    Thank you for doing this for all of these years. I do wish I would have found you sooner but it’s a blessing all your hard work exists at all. When I first enlisted in the active duty AF, it was for at least 20. Things changed over that initial six years and now I’m at my 20 year mark in two weeks. I was planning on staying in longer but things have become much crazier for me. I’m replying with a question concerning the 10 year rule, retirement, and retention of my commission.

    I’m a 40yo Air Guardsman, 6 active, 14 guard, and I was commissioned at my 17th year to O-3 for my medical education as a physician into a program under the medical service corps. To move into the full medical corps as a doc, a re-recruitment process must take place. It’s taken over three years and it may need to be re-accomplished again due to lapse in shelf-life of the paperwork. Ultimately this process has been pretty frustrating leading me to consider retirement vs. IRR vs. who knows what else it out there. If it is no longer fun, then it might be time for a change is what I was told a long time ago and have seen it repeated in your comments.

    Concerning retirement, if I am unable to retain my commissioned rank my pension drops significantly upon reverting back to E-6. Where can I find out about the 10 year rule and if or how it applies to me? Does reverting to an inactive ready reserve status continue to accrue this time if this does apply to me? How difficult is it to revert back to drilling status from IRR?

  14. Sonita Wong says

    Hello, I was in the army reserve for eight years, and my unit disbanded years ago…I do not have my army reserve points statement in my records… How do I make or find the people to create and calculate a points statement record???There is no personal from my old unit to contact…Thank You…

  15. Tom says

    Great article Sir. My question: Is PEBD used during calculation of my retirement pay ? I had a break in service between active duty and Reserve and PEBD date is incorrect. However, everyone has told me that it is very difficult to change it requiring enormous load of paperwork and it is not worth the effort. Should I try to correct it or should I leave it alone if PEBD will not be used to calculate my retirement ? Thank you.

  16. Gary L Taylor says

    I had always “heard” that you needed to hold a rank for 6 months to retire at that rank. I requested an extension of my MRD for two years and they gave me one, forcing my retirement at 61 and holding my 06 rank for 1.5 years. I had assumed since I was forced out by MRD (not my choice or voluntarily retire) my pay would be at the 06 rate, but instead they blended it to 1/2 05 and 1/2 06. It seems if forced out involuntarily due to MRD they should base your pay on the new rank since it wasn’t the soldier’s choice.

  17. Francis says

    Doug, if I hit 20 good years at age 43, can I still be affiliated with the Reserves(pay or non-pay)? If so, this would be an excellent option to continue with Tricare Reserve Select for at least a few more years. Thanks.

  18. Zach says

    Great article and I really enjoyed reading the comments and questions of others. I have 8.5 years of active service and have now served as a reservist for 3 years. Regarding the early reserve retirement date (subtracting 90 days at a time from age 60) I was hoping to get some clarification. I know you have to be in a reserve status called to active duty for the reduction to occur. Considering I was an ROTC cadet who selected active duty, does that count as being called to active duty and apply for the reduced retirement age?

    • Doug Nordman says

      Mike, those are great questions, and I’m pretty sure that federal law (Title 10 U.S. Code section 1370) takes precedence over AR 135-180. However it looks like the Retirement Services section misread Table 4-2 on page 10 of AR 135-180. You can confirm that with a JAG or with a civilian lawyer who has military experience.

      The relevant part of federal law is 1370(d)(3)(A):
      “(A) In order to be credited with satisfactory service in an officer grade above major or lieutenant commander, a person covered by paragraph (1) must have served satisfactorily in that grade (as determined by the Secretary of the military department concerned) as a reserve commissioned officer in an active status, or in a retired status on active duty, for not less than three years.”

      Paragraphs (B) through (F) cover some exceptions to that three years which apply to very few people. They’re essentially for situations beyond your control which prevent you from serving three years, or when you’re an O-5 select (still awaiting Congress’ approval for promotion) serving in an O-5 billet.

      The part which I’m frequently asked about is paragraph 1370(d)(5)(A). It authorizes the Guard to waive that three-year requirement to two years:
      “(A) The Secretary of Defense may authorize the Secretary of a military department to reduce the 3-year period required by paragraph (3)(A) to a period not less than two years.”
      You have to request the waiver, they have to approve it, and two years is a hard minimum. Two years is usually approved during drawdowns when someone’s already available to take your billet.

      Table 4-2 of AR 135-180 appears to match federal law with the “Voluntary separation” column for the “Officer: O5 and above” row requiring three years. The six months would only apply if you were being involuntarily retired (1370(d)(3)(B) through (F)).

      From the vocabulary used during your conversation with the Retirement Services section, it’s possible that they misunderstood your question. “High Three” is a pension calculation, not a time in grade. If your Date of Initial Entry into Military Service (the date you received your very first military ID) is before 8 September 1980 then your pension is calculated using the Final Pay system. That’s pretty rare these days, and us remaining Final Pay dinosaurs who are still in uniform are either admirals/generals or Reserve/Guard members with very long breaks in service. Let me know if you have a DIEMS before that date, even for the Delayed Entry Program or by attending a service academy.

      Otherwise if your DIEMS is after 7 September 1980 then your pension is High Three, calculated from the average of the highest 36 months of pay received during your career. (That’s completely separate requirement from three years’ time in grade.) For a Reserve pension you’d retire as an O-5 if you met the Title 10 U.S. Code section 1370 requirements, and then the High Three calculation would determine the pay factor in your pension. If you did not meet those time-in-grade requirements (or at least get a waiver to two years) then you’d be retired as an O-4.

      Those DIEMS dates and High Three calculations are in paragraph 4-6 of AR 135-180 and also in federal law.

      I’ve been crunching pension numbers for nearly 20 years, and I have no idea where that point-value system came from. (It’s certainly not in federal law or on DoD’s website.) Every time I get that question it causes confusion– even if the Guard tables are up to date. I find it far easier to manually calculate the High Three average.

      As mentioned in the post above, once you have your Notice Of Eligibility letter then there are two ways to receive a pension from the Reserves or Guard. One way is “retired awaiting pay”, which almost everyone chooses. (The other option is “discharge” or “separation”, which I’ve only seen twice.) When you apply for “retired awaiting pay” then your High Three pension is calculated from the pay tables in effect at the time you start your pension. (That’s usually age 60, or possibly three months earlier for every 90 days mobilized to a combat zone or for a national emergency.) That’s because during the grey-area years of “retired awaiting pay” you’re technically subject to activation for a total force mobilization (which last happened in WWII) and you’re considered to be serving (for the longevity column in the pay tables) as though you were on active duty right up to the day your pension starts.

      This means that you have to serve three years’ time in grade to retire at the rank of O-5 (waiverable down to two years) but you do not have to worry about MRD. You’re simply continued in your “retired awaiting pay” status until you reach age 60. You’re given all of the increases in the pay tables because your pension will be calculated from the pay tables in effect in 2034– and at the O-5 longevity as if you’ve been on active duty the entire time.

  19. Mike Vaughn says


    Good morning. Outstanding article and feedback. I am similar to one of the comments above. I am a Traditional National Guardsman (i.e. one weekend a month and two weeks a year) who will receive a non-regular retirement. I was promoted to LTC (O5) in July 2018 and can’t seem to get a definitive answer concerning the 3 years time in grade concerning 10 US Code 1370. I stumbled across this code a few weeks ago and sent it to the ‘Retirement Services’ section for clarification. I was told that my retirement would be based on highest grade held and current pay table. I was specifically told that “High 3″ does not apply to me. After a phone conversation, I was told that AR 135-180 applied (which I believe it does) and it says ” If the Soldier was transferred to the Retired Reserve or discharged on or after 25 February 1975, retired grade will be that grade which a commissioned officer or enlisted Soldier held while on active duty or in an active reserve status for at least 185 days or 6 calendar months. A warrant officer must have served on active duty or in an active Reserve status for at least 31 days”. There is no mention of 10 US Code 1370 in this regulation. This is not in alignment with 10 US Code 1370. I have since sent a request back to them asking them to confirm if 10 US Code 1370 applies or does not apply to me and I am awaiting a response. Who could answer this question definitively? The engineer in me needs to be given something definitive in writing.

    Also, I was informed about the use of the “Value of a Point” table which seems to be the same, once converted, to the current military pay tables listed on DFAS/MyPay. Is that correct? Will my final “High-Three” be based on the military pay tables or “Value of a Point” table (which is I believe is the same thing) if I go into the Retired Reserve (grey area)?

    Last question. My MRD is in 2029 however I will not turn 60 until 2034. Am I still authorized to stay in the Retired Reserve beyond my MRD to continue to get the pay increases toward my retirement at 60?

    Thank you, in advance, for the feedback.


    • Doug Nordman says

      Good question, Andrew, and the answer needs some math. I don’t use point valuation factors because they’re frequently approximated or even outdated. They also neglect additional expenses like health insurance.

      Instead, I estimate the pensions at the different retirement dates and ranks.

      From the information you’ve mentioned, it looks like you’ll turn 60 years of age in March 2021. (Please correct me if I’m wrong on that.) No matter when your pension may start, age 60 is when you’ll also be eligible for Tricare Prime or Select as a Guard retiree. That part is in federal law.

      If you leave your drill billet before March 2021 then you’ll lose Tricare Reserve Select ($43/month or $218/month for member or family in 2019) and have to spend additional money for Tricare Retired Reserve ($452/month or $1083/month in 2019). You might find a cheaper health plan from a civilian employer or on the federal/state ACA exchanges but Tricare may have better copays, deductibles, and caps.

      It also looks like you’re eligible to start your pension in November 2019. You’ll have to make sure that your 90-day periods are all done in the same fiscal year (up through September 2014) for deployments to combat zones. More details on those requirements are at Ryan Guina’s post:
      More importantly, you’ll have to make sure that HRC agrees with your 90-day accounting and will start your pension in November 2019.

      If you retire in the next few months then you’ll pay for your own health insurance for about 24 months. If you continue to drill until age 60 then you’ll receive drill pay (at the E-7 or E-8 rank) and you’ll keep Tricare Reserve Select. You’ll want to do the math for those incomes and expenses as well as your pension calculations.

      You’re under a High Three pension plan, and your pension will be calculated from the average of the highest 36 months of pay. Those 36 months will probably be the ones just before your pension starts, and at the pay tables in effect when your pension starts. We already know the pay tables for 2019:
      but we don’t know the paytables for 2020 or 2021. You can estimate those future pay tables by hoping that military pay goes up 1.5% per year.

      You’ll want to run three estimates, perhaps updated for your actual point counts:
      1. Retire in March 2019 as an E-7>34 with 4046 points and start your pension in November 2019. You have to pay for health insurance through March 2021.
      2. Retire in March 2021 as an E-7>36 with 4146 points (50 points per year) and start your pension immediately. You have two more years of E-7 drill pay and two more years of TRS health insurance.
      3. Retire in March 2021 as an E-8>36 with 4146 points and start your pension immediately. You have two more years of E-8 drill pay and two more years of TRS health insurance.

      E-7>34 or >36 pay in 2019 will be ~$5430/month, in 2018 is $5291.40/month, in 2017 was $5167.50/mo, and in 2016 was $5061.30. E-8>34 or >36 pay in 2019 will be ~$6197/month.

      You could estimate that E-7 pay in 2020 tops out at $5511/month and in 2021 at $5594/month.

      You could estimate that E-8 pay in 2020 tops out at $6290/month and in 2021 at $6384/month.

      Now let’s calculate the pensions:
      1. March 2019’s High Three E-7 average has nine months in 2016, 12 months in 2017 and 2018, and three months in 2019.
      That’s [(9x$5061.30)+(12x$5167.50)+(12x$5291.40)+(3x$5430)]/36 = $5204.13
      The pension is (4046/360) x 2.5% x $5204.13 = $1462/month.

      2. March 2021’s High Three E-7 average has nine months in 2018, 12 months in 2019 and 2020, and three months in 2021.
      That’s [(9x$5291.40)+(12x$5430)+(12x$5511)+(3x$5594)]/36 =$5436.02
      The pension is (4146/360) x 2.5% x $5436.02 = $1565/month.

      3. March 2021’s High Three E-8 average has nine months in 2018 as an E-7, three months in 2019 as an E-7, 9 months in 2019 as an E-8, 12 months in 2020, and three months in 2021.
      That’s [(9x$5291.40)+(3x$5430)+(9x$6197)+(12x$6290)+(3x$6384)]/36 = $5953.27
      The pension is (4146/360) x 2.5% x $5953.27 = $1714/month.

      You can tinker with these formulas if you change the dates or the ranks. I hope this helps you figure out the best approach for your other considerations!

  20. Andrew Kazensky says


    Can you help me figure out how the point valuation factor, used in retirement calculators, is determined? I want to decide if the increase in retired pay is sufficient to stay in the Air Guard as a Drill Status Guardsman (DSG) another 28 months, until I reach age 60, or if I should just retire in the next few months. Additionally, I would like to know the increase of retired pay if I could get promoted to E-8 in the next 4 months (need 24 months retainability to be promoted). To do this, I am using the Reserve Retired Pay Calculator ( However, I cannot figure out how to determine the point value to use in the calculator for the “Member Projected Information” section when using the “Future Pts Value” selection of the “Based on Pay Table of Year” required information.

    I have 4,046 points as of today which equates to 11.239 years of service, and that equates to a .281 pay multiplier.
    My LES shows 34 years of service so I am over 26 years for pay purposes. Therefore, the 2018 E-7 monthly pay for over 34 years/26 years is $5,291.40, and $5,291.40 * .281 = $1,486.74 That is pretty good for doing what I love..serving my country. But, I am beginning to feel the time is near for retirement. So, is there a financial advantage to going to age 60, 28 more months, as an E-7? Is there an advantage to trying to get promoted to E-8 and then go to age 60? I am eligible for reduced retired pay in Nov 2019 due to active duty performed after January 2008.

    Thank you.

    • Doug Nordman says

      Good questions, Harry.

      DFAS calculates a pension using the DoD Financial Management Regulation (DoD 7000.14-R) volume 7B chapter 3.
      You’d follow along in paragraphs 030201, 030203, 030205, and 030208, and 030209. Maybe you’re also covered under 030204.

      First, you’d want to make sure that you’re indeed eligible for Final Pay (a Date of Initial Entry on Military Service on or before 8 September 1980). 33 years implies that you joined in 1984 (High Three) but you may have joined earlier and had some interrupted service. More importantly, you want to make sure that DFAS also has that information in your record, or else they’ll default to High Three.

      Next, verify that you and DFAS are using the same point count (3837 points?). If they’re using a different number then you’d have to correct that with your drill records and your DD-214s.

      Third, what year did you start your retirement? For the vast majority of Reserve & Guard retirees eligible for Final Pay, it’s your 60th birthday year. If your Reserve pension starts at age 60 and your 60th birthday was in 2017, then you base your pension on the 2017 pay tables. If your 60th birthday is in 2018 then you start with the 2018 pay tables. (A few Reserve/Guard members deployed for at least 90 days in a fiscal year to a combat zone or for a national emergency, and they’d start their pension at least three months sooner. More info on that is at: ) You’re also right that you start with the years of longevity as though you’d been on active duty all the way up to the start of your pension. At the E-7 paygrade, that tops out at E-7>26.

      Finally, the Final Pay formula is
      (Points / 360) x 2.5% x base pay = $/month
      According to the rules in the FMR, the first division is carried to three places and rounded to two. The formula’s resulting dollar figure is rounded down.

      If you started your pension (60th birthday) in 2017 then your deposit would be
      (3837 / 360) x .025 x $5167.50 = 10.66 x .025 x $5167.50 = $1377/month.

      If you started your pension in 2018 then your deposit would be
      (3837 / 360) x .025 x $5291.40 = 10.66 x .025 x $5291.40 = $1410/month.

      Let me know if I’ve made any incorrect assumptions.

  21. Harry Horner says

    Good Morning to all, let me start off with my retirement has been a pain since Dec 2017, after 33 years active and reserve I have learned to dot my i’s cross my t’s because all forms had to be correct,and what not,well I guess my problem is with DFAS seems to me after phone calls emails letters etc, they pretty much do what they want? One good conversation with a gentleman there actually to me to send a copy of my orders to them and they will correct them, enough said. So since December my retirement has not been correct period. I have used the calculators formulas etc, and what I have doesn’t match what DFAS has? So, what does a retired E-7 over 26 years (final Pay) option with 3837 points supposed to receive (gross) 3837~360=10.6583333333×2.5%=0.2664583333×5291.47=1409.9562770833 if I am supposed to use the current 2018 pay scale for E-7 over 26 if I can get corrected on this or I’m on the right path please let me know, Thanks

    • Doug Nordman says

      Good questions, Peter, and your retired rank is indeed based on your highest grade earned. Here’s the federal law:
      Keep in mind that the NC Army NG and Army HRC have to have your Navy records on file. You already have your Notice Of Eligibility and your approval for retired awaiting pay, but you should verify with Army HRC that they also have your record of satisfactory service as an E-7.

      My apologies if you already know this, but hang on to your records until your pension starts. You may have to “prove” it to HRC one more time when they contact you (around age 59.5) to do the final paperwork for your pension.

      You retired awaiting pay in 2007 as a NG E-7 with 21 years of service, and your longevity advances (until your pension starts) just as if you were on active duty the entire time. By 2018 you’re an E-7>32 years whose base pay is $5291.40. Pay raises are typically 1.5%-2% per year, so a conservative High Three average of the three years of pay tables in effect when you turn age 60 would be about 96% of the latest base pay.

      In today’s dollars your pension would be roughly:
      (5100 points / 360) x 2.5%/year x ($5291.40/month x 96%) = $1800/month.

  22. Peter M. Heiman says

    I am very appreciative of the information that has been presented here as it has answered a number of questions I had. If I could bother you for an analysis of my situation I would greatly appreciate your feedback.

    I spent 11 years (1983 – 1994) in the active US Navy where I achieved the rank of CPO (E-7). My discharge DD-214 shows E-7 as my discharge grade, my discharge was R-1 Honorable. I was out of the service for 3 years. I returned to service in the North Carolina Army National Guard at the rank of E-6. I was told that upon reaching retirement age (60) my pay would be based on E-7 as this was my highest rank attained. I remained an E-6 throughout my 10 (1997 – 2007) years in the NCANG and retired at this grade. I have my “20 year letter” and I have a little over 5100 points with the active Navy, reserve time and an activation in 2005 – 2006. I elected to “retire awaiting pay” as I saw that the financial upside was worth the possibility of being re-called.

    I have a few questions: First, where they correct in saying that my retirement pay would be based on my highest grade earned?
    Second, if above is correct, when and how do I make that change?
    Third, based on the info I have give and your knowledge, what is a ballpark figure for my retirement? I understand I am high three so current pay scales would be great for now.


    • Doug Nordman says

      You’re right, Keith, Reserve & Guard servicemembers have a lot of edge cases in a very complicated pension system.

      First, make sure you get at least 35 points before December 2020. That should earn you the 15 participation points for a good year, but of course it’d be even better if you earned 50 points on your own before December 2020. As usual, you’ll have to meet all of the unit’s other requirements to be awarded that 20th good year.

      Second, make sure now that your official service records are accurate. By December 2020 you’ll ideally have everything in your official Army National Guard database and updated, waiting only on your 20th good year and your Notice Of Eligibility letter. Guard units are notorious for not having the earlier Army service dates in their database.

      Third, you have more than 10 years of commissioned service so you’re eligible for an O-3 pension. (That’s in federal law.) In addition your pension is calculated from the High Three average of the pay tables in the year that you reach age 60 (2020 in your case) and at the longevity as though you’d been on active duty the entire time. This is more than 37 years since February 1983, which is the >34 and >36 columns in the O-3 pay tables (for 2018, 2019, and 2020).

      Finally, I’d apply for a continuation on drill status until April 2021 in order to reach 20 good years. Your Guard unit will either approve the waiver or coordinate with the Army’s National Guard Bureau to make sure you have your 20 good years logged by December 2020.

      It’s worth your time to have a JAG review your service records and your waiver plan to make sure that I’m not missing any details.

      Please let us know how this works out.

  23. Keith McCullar says

    After reading some of the other questions on here, I don’t feel like I’m the only one with a very unusual situation.

    I enlisted in the Active Army in February 1983. I began Basic Training in April 1983. I left active service in April 1985 (two good years) and immediately joined the Army National Guard. I left the Guard in September 1986 (one good year) to begin ROTC. I was commissioned in June 1988 and entered the Regular Army as a second lieutenant in September 1988. I resigned my Regular Army commission in September 1999 (11 good years) as a Captain with nearly seven years in grade.

    I had almost a 16-year break in service before enlisting in the Army National Guard in April 2015 with the purpose of obtaining my final six good years. I am closing in on my 60th birthday in December 2020 and should have 50 points for the Apr 2020 – Apr 2021 retirement year by my birthday. But since I won’t have completed the entire year until April, can that final year be counted as soon as I accumulate the 50 points required for a good year? I’m concerned that the Army may terminate my service as soon as I reach age 60 which could just be a few months before I complete 20 good years. I would also have to wait for my 20-year letter and my retirement orders to be cut before my retirement would be completely official.

    Am I right for being concerned or is there a system in place that provides for soldiers who are as close to retirement as I am?

    I’m also wondering about how my High 3 will be calculated. Is there any problem you see with my O3 retirement pay being calculated at the same time I am still serving as an enlisted soldier in the Army National Guard?

    Thank you for your time.

    • Doug Nordman says

      As you know by now, Joseph, the Navy didn’t have the Army’s records on file and DFAS went only by the Navy’s service record.

      What should be reflected on your LES right now is your Pay Entry Base Date (and Date of Initial Entry on Military Service) of July 1992. When your PEBD or DIEMS is set to that date then you’ll be paid for your current rank— and with over 26 years of longevity.

      The Navy should indeed add in your six months and 26 days. Once your Army records are included in your Navy record, then BUPERS should forward the information over to DFAS.

      In addition, you may have been paid at the wrong longevity rates for the last 17 years. When you joined the Navy in 2001, BUPERS and DFAS should have adjusted your PEBD and DIEMS to July 1992 and immediately started paying you at the >8 years rate. In July 2002 you would have gone >10 years. I don’t know whether there’s a statute of limitations on that. You could ask a PSD supervisor about it, but you may need to consult a JAG to find the rules and the legal references. I think the JAG could be more helpful than DFAS.

      You may already know that if you have at least three good years from your Reserve service then you’re now eligible for a Reserve pension at age 60. You could hypothetically resign from active duty now, file for “retired awaiting pay” from the Reserves, and receive a pension at age 60. You can read more about that at this post:

      If you deployed to a combat zone after 28 January 2008 then you may be eligible to receive a Reserve pension three months earlier for every 90 days in a fiscal year.
      Regardless of when the Reserve pension starts, Tricare would still only start at age 60. You’d have to find other health insurance (like Tricare Retired Reserve) to cover the gap to age 60.

      But before you make a retirement decision, I’d talk to a supervisor at PSD about adjusting your PEBD/DIEMS and correcting your back pay. If they can’t show you the references to explain what they should do (as described above) then your next step would be a visit to the JAG. It’s painful to fix these problems now (while you’re on active duty) but it’s even harder doing the BCNR when you’re a retiree.

  24. Joseph says

    Hello Doug,

    I am currently serving on active duty in the Navy with 17 years and some change behind me. I was an Army reservists from July of 1992 until July of 1998. In those 6 years as a reservists I was active duty (Boot camp, AIT, AT) a total of 6 months and 26 days. Correct me if I am wrong, but should that active duty time should be added to my current base pay in the Navy. It should reflect on my Navy LES. Would this be a matter to present to DFAS? So far I am hitting dead end after dead end. BCNR fixed my record but I still have not seen any back pay.

    Thank you.


    • Doug Nordman says

      Good question, Henry, I’m sorry to say that you could have started your Reserve pension over a year ago. The good news is that you can have it paid retroactively to your 60th birthday.

      The first step is applying for your pension through your military service:
      You’ll need your Notice Of Eligibility for your pension, your point count, and your approved retirement request.

      You can apply through the service’s websites (or by a phone call). If you’re near a Reserve Center or a military base then you could stop by their personnel center to start the process.

      Once you have your retirement package from your service you can apply to the Defense Finance and Accounting Service to start the deposits. In your case they should also pay you for the months you’ve already missed back to your 60th birthday.

      You can calculate your retirement pay using the information in this post and your point count. (DFAS will also do this calculation for you.) You’re a Final Pay retiree because your Date of Initial Entry into Military Service was before 8 September 1980. Your pension will be based on the 2017 pay table (the year you turned age 60) at the longevity of your rank as though you’d been on active duty all the way up to 2017. (It’ll probably be a column like “>30”.) Because your pension system is “Final Pay”, you do not have to worry about High Three.

      By the way you’re also eligible to apply for Tricare health insurance, either Tricare Select or Tricare Prime:

  25. Henry B Abalos says

    how do I begin, calculating my retirement pay and what is the process of applying. I have 8 yrs of active (1977-1984) , 20 yrs of Reservist. My age now is 61, when can I apply?

    • Doug Nordman says

      Congratulations on your promotion, Wendy, and your dates satisfy the three-year requirement!

      Some services allow selectees to pin on their higher rank before they actually get paid for the rank, so that sentence clarified that it depends on the date of the pay and not the selection or pinning. You started getting O-5 pay at 0001 31 Aug 2018 and you’ll retire awaiting pay at 2359 on 31 Aug 2021.

      Federal law also allows the service secretaries to waive the three-year time-in-grade requirement down to two years, so you probably would’ve been good even if you fell a little short of three years.

  26. Wendy Strainic says

    Doug you are extremely kind to take so much time to assist with these questions. I joined Active Duty AF in 1989 for four years. I then joined the Reserves after a two year break. I started enlisted and became an officer. If I make O-5 this year I plan on retiring in three years. I currently have 5324 points and ran the numbers in your article. 5324 / 360 x 2.5 = 36.97. O-5 with 32 years is $8876 (using the old 2016 table) x .3697 = $3281. That seems so much more than I thought it would be. Did I do something incorrectly?

    • Doug Nordman says

      Glad it’s helping, Wendy! This is the most popular post on the blog every week for over five years.

      Your Date of Initial Entry in to Military Service is after 8 September 1980, so you’re under the High Three pension plan. With three years’ time in grade *after* you start receiving O-5 pay, then you’ll retire as an O-5.

      O-5 pay in 2018 tops out at $9280.20, and your High Three average of today’s O-5 pay would be roughly 97% of that (assuming 1.5% pay raises every year).

      High Three = points / 360 x 2.5% x High-Three average
      = 5324 / 360 x 2.5% x ($9280.20 x 97%)
      = $3328/month.

      Your estimate is good. Many Reserve/Guard members have 3500-4500 points at retirement, so you’re a little on the higher end of the bell curve.

      You’ll earn even more points (and good years) as an O-5.

      Keep checking the new pay tables every year in case O-5 pay has any longevity raises past the current 22 years. The actual numbers depend on the pay tables in effect when you’re ages 57-60 to determine the average of those 36 highest months, but using the 2018 pay tables puts the calculation in today’s dollars.

      The real significance of $3328/month (in today’s dollars) is that your savings/investments may only have to bridge the gap between the day you stop earning a paycheck and the day you start your Reserve pension. (Because it’s in today’s dollars, when you start the pension it should have about the same buying power.) That includes Tricare at age 60, Tricare For Life at age 65, and Social Security somewhere between ages 62-70.

      • Wendy Strainic says

        Hi again Doug. I did make O-5 and now am less than 18 months from retirement. I was re-reading your reply and I notice you noted *after* 3 years at Lt Col. I pinned on 31 Aug 2018 and was planning on retiring 31 Aug 2021. Do I need to add a day?

      • Doug Nordman says

        Robert, I’m not familiar with the policies of every service community, but you’ll probably need a waiver after age 60.

        The best source for that is your assignment officer, who can let you know the current maximum age. Those limits change with community retention and force policy.

      • Robert Megerle says

        Hello, I’m newly commissioned as a nurse. Usaf says MSD is age 68. I need 10 good years to retire as commissioned officer. Am I forced to apply for waivers to continue past age 60 or will they leave me alone to serve out my 10 years as officer? I’ll be 28 years in at age 67. I really want to stay till then.

      • Doug Nordman says

        Great question, Francis!

        You can stay past 20 good years in the Reserves/Guard as long as they let you stay.

        However to be eligible for Tricare Reserve Select, you have to be in a drilling status (pay billet). If you go into the IRR for even one day then you technically lose your TRS insurance.

        Here’s the requirement list from the Tricare site at:
        “Members of the Selected Reserve (and their families) who meet the following qualifications:
        Not on active duty orders
        Not covered under the Transitional Assistance Management Program
        Not eligible for or enrolled in the Federal Employees Health Benefits (FEHB) program
        Note: Those members in the Individual Ready Reserve including Navy Reserve Voluntary Training Units do not qualify to purchase TRICARE Reserve Select.”

      • John says

        I recently was approved for an MSD waiver to earn points past age 60 (SECAF Waiver to Title 10 USC 12308). This must be done 6-18 months before age 60 and needs justification. They are generally approved to age 62. Going past 62 would be a challenge in both AD or Reserves even in the exempted medical AFSC’s. There is information and a power point for MSD 12308 waivers past age 60 on the web.

      • Dave Luna says

        It seems that your the man to ask a questions concerning retirement pay and other issues concerning retirement.
        I enlisted in the Navy in January 1980 and left active duty September 1997. I entered the reserve a few months later and completed my reserve time in November 2002. I am eligible for retirement pay in March 2022.
        I have a couple of questions if you can please assist me with. First one concerns my pay calculator, how can i calculate my expected retirement pay?
        Next, when should I file the paperwork requesting retirement. I’m looking for assistance with the paperwork and any information you can provide regarding TRI Care and if it is worth the price.
        I appreciate any assistance you can provide.



      • John says

        I don’t mind that this whole conversation with Dave Luna is nested under my topic. But for clarity it might be better if it was moved to it’s own thread. Also Dave, yes, apply earlier than they say. I applied early July and did not get my first check until November (2019) even though I turned 60 that Sept. And that was with a big letter writing campaign I did.

        Tricare Select (not standard), $300 a year now for a couple (or if you have minor children). Higher copays and deductiable. OR Tricare Prime $600 a year (I believe) for a couple (or with minor children). lower copays and no deductible. Like Doug said, if you don’t use much medical, Select may be a better choice. Angry that Select is no longer free of an “Enrollment Fee:.

  27. Shawn says

    I’m currently a member of the ARNG. I entered the Delayed Entry Program 01 Feb 1979 and went to basic training in July 1979. I’m now commissioned and currently an O4, but expect to go to the DA Select Res AMEDD Officer board March 2019 and will probably pin O5 on late 2019. My MRD is 20201231. Currently I have 6677 points, but I’m deployed right now and will have 6849 at the end of this deployment. I also have 25 yrs for retirement purposes now with a RYE date 06/08. I have deployed and can RPED 22 months at the end of this deployment but I have no desire to draw early since I’m pending possible promotion to O5. What am I looking at for retirement?

    • Doug Nordman says

      Shawn, these are excellent questions for a future blog post, and I’ve sent you a long e-mail (from NordsNords at Gmail) about the issues.

      There are three different dates which could affect your retirement pay, and I’m having trouble figuring out how to put them on the calendar. Please e-mail me what these dates would be:
      1. The date of your 60th birthday.
      2. The date you’d expect to start being paid as an O-5.
      3. How many months early you could start your pension.

  28. Philip Sagayo says

    Hello Doug,
    First of all, thank you for your dedication to helping future retirees. After reading all the questions above, I don’t feel as bad. I have 3600 points with 21 good year and retired as a E7, Deployed 6/08/10 to 07/28/2011 what can I expect for retirement?

    • Doug Nordman says

      Philip, you’ll need a couple more details when you do your calculation.

      As the post says, when you retire awaiting pay then your longevity in your rank will continue to accumulate (just as though you were on active duty) until your pension starts at age 60. E-7 pay tops out in the >26 years column of the pay tables, so if you’re an E-7 retiree then you’ll probably earn the maximum pay in that retirement rank.

      You’ll have to calculate your own High Three average of the future pay tables that will be in effect when you reach age 60. If you want to do the calculation in today’s dollars then just take roughly 96% of the latest pay tables for the maximum pay in your retirement rank. (That 96% assumes two years of 2% raises.) If you’re already close to age 60 (or starting your pension early) then you might be able to calculate your High Three average from the current pay tables and assume a 2% pay raise for next year.

      Your deployment dates cross over a fiscal year. Your pension will start three months earlier for every 90 days during a fiscal year that you spent deployed to support combat operations in accordance with the 2008 NDAA requirements. You already know that you have 90 days before 30 September 2010, and you probably have another three 90-day periods before the end of the deployment. You’ll also have to check that your orders comply with the deployment requirement to support combat operations. If your orders were written correctly then you’ll be eligible to start your pension at age 59.

      You can look at the example calculations I’ve done for David J. and Sophia below and follow the format with your numbers.

      Keep in mind that although your pension could start at age 59, Tricare will still only start at age 60. You’ll have to cover your own health insurance all the way to your 60th birthday.

  29. Sallie says

    I am completely confused when it comes to my retirement. The more I read, the worse it gets. I will be retiring in May of 2018, and I have already submitted my paperwork. However, I have no idea what my retirement pay will add up to. I have 20.5 good years, retired as an O4, and have 3,073 points. Initially, I requested the High 36 but after reading your reply to Sophia highlighting the difference between High 36 and Final Pay plan, I am not sure I made the right choice. I also have an 80% VA disability, which leads me to my second question. Should I apply for CRSC, or is that automatically calculated with your retirement paperwork. Some individuals I have spoken to said it is while others say it is not. I have received estimated monthly retirement amounts from $300 to $4,000.00. Can you please provide me with assistance in making the correction decisions. I have used numerous methods from various military calculators. HELP!

    • Dave McDonald says

      Look into service connected disability rating rather than combat related for your disability; did you get checked out for sleep apnea also?

    • Doug Nordman says

      I hear that, Sallie. The Reserve/Guard retirement system is so complicated that this has been the blog’s highest-ranked post every month for over five years.

      The good news is that you didn’t really have a “choice” on Final Pay or High Three. Final Pay is only for those who joined the military before 8 September 1980 (with a Date of Initial Entry into Military Service before then), so you’re most likely on the High Three pension calculation.

      As Dave mentions, Combat-Related Special Compensation is different from Concurrent Retirement and Disability Pay. DFAS will choose the higher amount for you when your pension starts.
      Until your pension starts, you’ll continue to receive your VA disability compensation.

      Since you’re retired awaiting pay, you’re also eligible to purchase Tricare Reserve Retired health insurance until your Tricare starts at age 60. TRR is not subsidized like Tricare Reserve Select so the TRR premiums are higher. You might do better with employer health insurance or from the ACA health exchange, although you can continue to seek treatment from the VA for conditions that are related to your disability rating.

      Even if you’re eligible to start your pension earlier than age 60 (due to combat deployments or national emergencies of at least 90 days in a fiscal year), Tricare starts at age 60.

    • David J. says

      I have a little bit of a unique situation too and it has been very difficult to try and figure out how much I will receive at retirement. I am an Army Reserve LTC. Initial Entry was 7/15/1982, but my PEBD is 11/8/1984. MRD is 8/21/2020. At my MRD, I will have about 4600 points and 30 good retirement years (DA Form 5016) or 36 years for pay (from LES). Additionally, I will have 4 years of qualifying NDAA (post January 2008) service. Should I retire using the NDAA service or wait until age 60?

      • Doug Nordman says

        Great question, David J.!

        First, your Date of Initial Entry on Military Service is after 8 September 1980 so your pension is High Three. Back in the days of the Final Pay dinosaurs (I’m one of them), some Reserve/Guard retirees would delay the start of their pension until after the next pay raise. They’d lose a month or three of pension deposits and they’d eventually make it up on a higher base pay number in their pension calculation. (Assuming they lived long enough.) However today’s High Three averages 36 months of base pay to start the pension calculation, so you have no benefit to delaying the start of your pension.

        Second, when you’re retired awaiting pay (gray area), your longevity in your rank continues to accumulate as though you were on active duty the entire time. O-5 pay tops out at >22, which means there are no more longevity raises to affect your pension calculation. Even if you start your pension four years early (because of the 2008 NDAA deployments) you’re still maximized on the O-5 pay table. It’s possible that Congress will pass legislation in the next two years to change O-5 pay, yet the last overhaul of the pay tables was in 2007. I wouldn’t delay the start of a High-Three pension because it takes so long for the (very slightly) higher payments to make up for the skipped deposits.

        Third, the early-pension accounting is finicky. The 2008 NDAA initially required each 90-day qualifying period to be served within the same fiscal year. If your deployments started on 1 October and ended the following 30 September then you had four 90-day periods. Any other combination of dates meant that you’d only accumulate three 90-day periods. This fiscal-year law was changed for deployments beginning on 1 October 2014. The details and chronology of the law are in this post by ANG servicemember Ryan Guina:
        You’ll need to go back over your deployment orders and your DD-214s to make sure that you have valid 90-day periods with each one before October 2014 inside the same fiscal year. Any 90-day periods after September 2014 can cross over the fiscal-year dates.

        No matter how many 90-day periods you count up, it’s almost always better to take the early pension. Let’s see whether we can confirm that.

        By federal law, the pension is calculated using the pay tables in effect during the month that you start your pension. In other words, you’ll be figuring out your High-Three average of the pay tables in effect at age 60 (or in your case, as early as age 56). You don’t explicitly mention the date that you’ll turn age 56, but I’m guessing that it’s before your MRD of 21 August 2020.

        Your base pay is already maximized on the pay tables and the High Three average is not worth waiting for a pay raise, so the only advantage to delaying the start of your pension would be if you’re on active-duty orders all the way up to your MRD. That’s a complicated calculation but we can come up with an estimate and you can refine it.

        The first issue is the future pay tables that’ll be in effect during the month you start your pension. We don’t know what the pay tables will look like in 2019 or 2020 but 2% each year is a reasonable estimate on the current 2.6% legislative proposal. You could use those estimates to calculate the 36-month average of your O-5 base pay.

        The High Three Reserve pension calculation is:
        (points / 360) * (36-month average of base pay) * 2.5%

        Calculating the 36-month average of your O-5 base pay is a little tedious. If you start your pension in September 2020 then your High Three average is eight months of the 2020 O-5>22 pay, 12 months of 2019 O-5>22 pay, 12 months of 2018 O-5>22 pay, and four months of 2017 O-5>22 pay.
        With the assumptions we’ve made on O-5>22 pay, the numbers are:
        2017: $9062.70/month
        2018: $9280.20/month
        2019: $9280.20 * 1.02 (a 2% pay raise)
        2020: [($9280.20 * 1.02) * 1.02] (another 2% pay raise)
        The High Three average is
        [(4 * $9062.70) + (12 * $9280.20) + 12 * ($9280.20 * 1.02) + 8 * ($9280.20 * 1.02 * 1.02)] / 36
        = $9401.22/month.
        Your pension would be:
        (4600 / 360) * ($9401.22/month) * 2.5% = $3003/month starting September 2020.
        (Federal law rounds down to the dollar.)

        If you turn age 56 in August 2019 and started your pension in September 2019 then your High Three average would be about 2% lower. You’d also have less than 4600 points, so you’d have to forecast your August 2019 point count to come up with a closer estimate of your pension. Maybe the result would be $2900/month.

        If you’re eligible to start your pension at $2900/month in August 2019, then the only reason you’d delay it would be to continue serving (until your MRD) for at least $2900/month of pay & allowances. The drill weekend for an O-5>22 in 2018 is $1237.36 and one drill is $309.34. You’d have to do a drill weekend plus another 5-6 days of orders or drills (every month) to get up to an average of $2900/month. That’s 65 days of AT orders or an extended ADSW, although some of that would be allowances for food & housing (BAS, BAH).

        Once you verify the dates of your 2008 NDAA deployments, the start date for your pension might be later (closer to your MRD) than I’ve forecast. You’ll have to check your 90-day periods on your DD-214s to make sure it really is 48 months earlier and not a smaller number.

        If you let me know your date of birth (to figure out ages 56 and 60) and your estimated point counts at those ages then we can refine the estimate.

        Another caveat to the 2008 NDAA is that it applies to the pension but not to Tricare. When you retire awaiting pay (and then start your pension early) your health insurance will shift from Tricare Reserve Select to Tricare Reserve Retired. You’ll start Tricare (Select or Prime) on your 60th birthday. (Five years later, after signing up for Medicare, you’ll be eligible for Tricare For Life.) Of course you’re also free to use insurance from a civilian employer, to search for a better policy on the ACA insurance exchanges, and to use the VA for your service-connected health issues.

  30. Sophia R. says

    I’m trying to get a ballpark idea of my reserve retirement pay when I turn 60 this November. I am currently a gray area retiree, transferring into the Retired Reserve April 1, 2015. I entered active duty Mar 17, 1985, have 28 good years between active/reserve duty and 4833 points.
    I found a 2017 Reserve Point Valuation for Retirement Benefits Chart indicating a .77125 point value for an 06 with 28 yrs. My calculations indicate $3727.45 a month based upon the 2017 chart.
    Do you know if there is an appreciable difference in 2018? If I start my pay Jan 1, 2018 would I receive a higher amount?

    Thanks for your help.

    • Doug Nordman says

      Thanks for the question, NLDekker, but the whole point of the sentence (in the intro to the post) is that most of the Reserve calculators aren’t accurate. (Even when they’re available. *) This post goes into all the details necessary to determine an accurate estimate, and (more importantly) to understand how the rules affect your pension.

      [* I think you’re referring to the DoD calculators at . We at The-Military-Guide are never going to try to fix that problem. You might find a service-specific calculator behind a CAC login, at a Reserve center, or at a Guard armory– but of course a lot of Reserve/Guard servicemembers don’t have CACs and might not have convenient base access. Yet everyone can do a manual calculation.]

      Good retirement calculators are hard to create. (I share your frustration. I’ve been using them for over 30 years.) Accurate Reserve/Guard retirement calculators are even more difficult because of the incredibly varied and highly individual career parameters. That’s why this post shows you how to make sure that your estimate is accurate.

      This has been the blog’s most popular post nearly every day for almost six years, and it’s because the manual method works better than any existing calculator.

      If you want help verifying your numbers then feel free to comment here, use the “Contact me” form, or e-mail NordsNords at Gmail.

  31. nldekker says

    You say there are ‘many military retirement calculators online’. Where? The only one that works, sometimes, is the USA’s HRC portal. However, whenever I try to access it, my computer lights up with security warnings reference hackers, regardless of the web browser used. How about putting a working retirement calculator on your webpage?

    • Doug Nordman says

      Thanks for the update, Charles. We’d heard about the appeals but I missed that final announcement.

      In case BUPERS changes that link, here’s an excerpt of the text from the FAQ:
      1. How did the policy for Midshipman cruise credit for retirement pay change?

      In 2009, after a legal review by both Navy Personnel Command and Defense Finance and Accounting Services (DFAS), it was determined that Title 10 U.S.C. § 2107(g) actually prohibits the awarding of any credit for NROTC midshipman time, including summer training cruises for those officers who entered the NROTC Program after the enactment of the 1964 Reserve Officers Training Corps Vitalization Act (ROTCVA).

      3. How will I know if I am personally affected?

      All personnel affected by this change will receive individual letters from Navy Personnel Command notifying them that their official record has been modified to indicate the correct retirement credit and/or points, as applicable. In addition, DFAS will notify each individual by separate letter of how much their retirement pay will be affected.

      4. How much credit is being taken away from my retired pay calculation?

      The amount of time deducted from your total active duty creditable service or retirement point credit will be equal to the time you served on active duty for training during midshipman cruise periods. The average time credited was approximately 30 days each summer.

      7. What do I need to do to not have to pay the money back? I owe less than $10,000.00.

      The Secretary of the Navy has requested, on your behalf, a waiver of indebtedness if less than $10,000.00.

  32. Charles Gramaglia says

    The parenthetical in your note is obsolete. You wrote: “Note … (It’s also possible for officers commissioned from NROTC to receive points for the days they were on active duty for midshipman summer training… )”

    It is no longer possible to get reserve retirement credit for NROTC cruises. As a matter of fact, DoD concluded that it was NEVER legally permissible to grant such credit and DFAS is recovering pension $$$ from retirees who were granted NROTC cruise credit. Some retirees in their 60s and 70s were recently informed that the credit for service in their late teens/early 20s has been rescinded and they owe a portion of their back pension to the USG.

    Take a look at the FAQs that Navy Bureau of Personnel posted in Sept 2016:'s.aspx

    • Doug Nordman says

      Good question, LTC!

      Federal law requires three years’ time in grade above the rank of O-4. The service secretaries can waive that requirement down to two years. ( It’s not clear whether that law requires a Reserve/Guard member to earn good years for their time in grade, but the specific answer seems elusive. Do your best to complete good years for your time in grade, and avoid the IRR if possible (because it’s so hard to get a good year in the IRR).

      Once you’ve served at least two years’ time in grade (ideally two good years) then you could apply for “retired awaiting pay” status. When your retirement request is approved for the higher rank then your longevity will continue to accrue in that rank while you’re in gray area (just as if you were on active duty) until you begin drawing your pension. Even though you could apply for retirement when you’re around 23 years of service, your pension would be calculated from the maximum longevity column of the future pay tables in effect when you start drawing your pension

  33. LTC Barter says

    Excellent article… much appreciated. I’m a reserve member with about 10 years active duty and 10 years reserve. I was just selected for 0-5 and expect the promotion in the next 10 months. The jump in pay (at the current pay tables) is pretty significant, so I want to make sure I stick around for the promotion. My only question is if there is a time period required to stay in the reserve to retire as an 0-5 once pinning it on? I believe on active duty you have to have two years time in grade?

    • Doug Nordman says

      Outstanding question, Steve, and an impressive service record! That’s the most points I’ve ever seen.

      I think you’re correct: your Guard pension is a better deal than your active-duty pension. Let’s check a few parameters from your e-mail.

      You’ve used the phrase “final basic pay”. The term “Final Pay” has a specific meaning for those who’ve entered the military before 8 September 1980. Since you also say that you have 40 good years, it would imply that your Date of Initial Entry on Military Service (the date you first received a military ID card) is in the 1970s. If that’s correct then your Reserve/Guard pension is indeed calculated from your final base pay.

      You might have to educate a few pay clerks in NGB and at DFAS. If they’re struggling to calculate your pension then you’d direct their attention to the DoD Financial Management Regulation (DoD 7400.14-R, volume 7B, You’d refer to paragraph 010102.A.1 (Final Pay) and .B (the pay tables in effect immediately before starting the pension).

      Paragraph 030501 entitles you to the most favorable pay formula. This means that the calculation has to be done for both active-duty (regular) and Reserve/Guard (non-regular) retirements, and you’d get the higher amount.

      030501 also means that DFAS might have to do a Tower Amendment verification. I don’t think the Tower Amendment will affect you but I’ll describe it in case someone mentions it. It requires DFAS to check the pay table increases against retiree COLAs for the years after you made E-9. The calculation verifies that (if you’d filed for retirement at the moment you made E-9 on active duty) you’re still getting the highest pension to which you may have been entitled, especially if retiree COLAs were higher than active-duty pay raises.

      Finally, check Table 3-1 Rule 13 on the FMR’s page 3-28. That describes the non-regular retirement formula (including a bunch of footnotes) for your rank and years of service. This is also the table that DFAS will use to check the amount of active-duty pension you might be eligible for, as well as any differences under the Tower Amendment.

      If your Guard pension is based on Final Pay at age 60, then you have another bit of flexibility that I’ve only seen in a few people during the last decade: the base pay at which you start your pension.

      A Final Pay Reserve/Guard pension uses the pay tables in effect when you reach age 60. If you’ve deployed to a combat zone since 28 Jan 2008, or mobilized for some national emergencies, then your pension could start a few months earlier. See paragraph 010208.F of the DoD FMR and read Ryan Guina’s summary here:

      If your pension starts in late 2018 then it’d be based on the 2018 pay tables. However if you elected to delay your pension by a few months then it could start at the pay in effect on the 2019 pay tables. If you’re turning age 60 in November or December 2018 then it might make sense to start your pension in January 2019, when the pay tables are (hopefully) 1%-2% higher. You’d lose a month or two of pension deposit but you’d make it up over the next 50-100 months of your life at a higher pension. The law which lets you do this is reflected in FMR 010801.D

      And if you’re eligible to start your pension in late 2017 (because of mobilizations for an earlier retirement), then you might want to wait until January 2018 when that pay raise kicks in.

      Note that this delay is only worth doing for Final Pay retirees. High Three retirees won’t notice a difference in their 36-month average. Even for Final Pay retirees, this is running up the score after winning the game. You’d need good longevity and a healthy lifestyle to make sure the delay pays off.

      With those possible changes in mind, your Guard Final Pay pension is based on your longevity (40 good years) at your final rank (E-9) as though you’ve been on duty the entire time (which, in your case, you have actually done). The 2017 pay table tops out at E9>38 for $7844.70/month. An estimate of your 2017 pension is:
      11,313 / 360 x 2.5% x $7844.70 = $6165/month.
      Your 2018 pension may be 1%-2% higher, depending on the FY18 budget legislation.

      Regardless of the age that you’re eligible to retire or when you choose to start your pension, your Tricare benefits start at age 60.

      You also need to make a decision about the Survivor Benefit Program. Let me know if you have any questions, but for most Reserve/Guard members at age 60 the premiums are more expensive than the coverage is worth.

  34. Steve says

    Greetings Doug, I read several comments in your blog about calculating final basic pay.
    I intend to apply for reserve retirement instead of active based on the following:
    I will have approximately 11,313 retirement points when I retire based 40 good years, 29 of which are active duty in the Army Reserve AGR program.
    I understand the formula for calculating the percent based on points 11,313 points divided by 360 days based on 30 day months = 31.24 years x 2.5% 0 = 78.5%

    The calculator on the My Army Benefits Website reflects my “final basic pay” as 7,845 a month, E-9 over 39 years. This is the amount that the retirement pay is based on, not the pay rates at 32 years, is that correct?

    • Doug Nordman says

      Great question, Dennis, and I understand why you seem a little frustrated by the lack of information from people who should know how the system works. I’m not an expert on the federal law of the civil service, and if you need an expert legal opinion then you should hire a lawyer for a few hours of advice. However I can get you (and perhaps your lawyer) started with the references.

      I’d suggest you begin with a current copy of the OPM FERS Handbook. Here’s a link to a sample which might be the current chapter, although it’s from 1998. You’d want to make sure you have the latest edition:
      For example, section 22A2.1-2.E on page 8 of that document goes into the detail you seek, and it essentially says that only the active-duty time of your Reserve career counts… but not every period of active duty.
      Way back on page 31 of that PDF, the FERS section says that the CSRS rules in section 22A2 also apply to FERS.

      I realize that you’re trying to convert points into years/months. In the Reserves, every month has 30 days. That comes from the DoD Financial Management Regulation (the FMR) which has detailed procedures for calculating the Reserve/Guard pension. Once you know your total points of active duty then you can divide by 360 and 30 to get the years & months.

      For more general reading on your military service credit deposit, I recommend Ryan Guina’s interview of Eddie Wills:
      Eddie also has an extremely detailed guide to the process of obtaining your military service credit deposit. Since you’ve been at USPS for so long, you may have some interest to pay on your deposit. Eddie’s post on the process can help you walk through the paperwork and decide whether it’s still a good deal:

      If you haven’t already seen the DFAS part of the process for making your payments, here’s their page:

      After you’ve read through these references, if you still have questions then I’d suggest you contact Eddie through Once he’s answered your questions, then you could either take the USPS’ word for their numbers (which you’d help them calculate) or have a lawyer advise you on any details of the federal law.

      I realize that you might not have enough good years to receive a Marine Reserve pension, but federal law has a specific exception to allow you to receive both a civil service (FERS) pension and a Reserve/Guard pension:

      This advice has worked for other veterans with similar questions. Please let me know if you have more questions.

  35. Dennis G Allison says

    I have tried for years to get an answer and no one and I mean no one has been able to answer my question and I have tried military personnel and former military and still after 16 yrs and 6 months working for the U S Postal Service can not get anyone to calculate/ convert my 12 years in the Marine Corps Reserve military points to actual days, that I may be able to buy back from the federal government/ USPS for retirement.
    To buy back the time I need the points to be converted into actual months/years. If there is anyone with the actual knowledge and not just a thought, would you please email me at: [email protected] or even call me at
    901-496-8092 I am a former SSGT with 4.5 Years time in grade. I was actually discharged in 1988 and with to work for the Postal Service in December 2000.

  36. Arthur Thomas says

    Thank you so much your article helped me a lot. I should have applied for my retirement pay a long about 7 months ago but I live in a foreign country with no bank account here. I have been living here for the passed three years. Is there anyway I can apply from here to obtain my retirement pay?

    • Doug Nordman says

      Thanks for the update, Greg– do you happen to have a link to that reference for others to use? Would that be in the Financial Management Regulation or somewhere else?

      I still get the question every few months.

  37. Matthew says

    Is there a maximum number of reserve point that can be earned in a career? Someone told me that 7500 was the maximum number of reserve points that could be earned. I can not find any references. I’ll have roughly 7600 points with 38 years of service in the National Guard at grade of W5. Just wondering.

    • Doug Nordman says

      I’m not aware of any limits. You could drill in the National Guard or Reserves for up to 40 years (depending on making rank) and could even get an age waiver as old as 62 years.

      If you reach over 18 years of active-duty points (AT, ADSW) while mobilized on active-duty orders of at least 30 days, then you could reach sanctuary and be eligible for an active-duty pension at 20 years of service. That would hypothetically cap your point count at about 7300 points because you’d retire and immediately start an active-duty pension. The reality is that most Guard/Reserve servicemembers never reach sanctuary and continue to earn points.

      • Greg Potts says

        Hey Doug — I know this was posted a couple years ago –but here is a addition for you regarding this question — IF a member declares sanctuary — they will complete the reserve order they are on (typically a deployment order) then be placed on Active Duty to complete their time until their 20th year of active service (think 7300 active points) — at that time, they MAY elect to go back to the reserves and continue to serve OR they can elect to take an active duty retirement — the retirement would ALSO add the value of Inactive Points the member earned as reservist, convert them to find a total value of days (points) served and add that to the 20 years of Active points — so if they had 360 Inactive points — then 21 years .. and so on.
        My unit had several folks enter sanctuary and I helped all of them with this process.

      • Doug Nordman says


        I’m happy to help with those numbers, although I depend on the manual calculation instead of those point charts.

        I’m going to assume that you did not deploy to a combat zone after 28 January 2008 for at least 90 days during a fiscal year. If you had, that would entitle you to start your pension three months earlier for each of those 90-day segments. If that might be an issue, though, you can read more about it at this post from my friend (and ANG officer) Ryan Guina:

        You could wait to start your Reserve pension on 1 January 2019, but it works against you with High Three. It can work with the Final Pay pension system (it’s usually less than a 10-year payback), which is applicable to those who started active duty before 8 September 1980. However High Three averages the final 36 months of pay tables before you start your pension. If you delay the start of that pension while the older base-pay numbers are dropping out of the 36-month average, you could be missing thousands of dollars a month in pension deposits which would take decades to make up.

        When you start your Reserve pension in November 2018, the 36 month average uses 11 months from the 2018 pay tables, 12 months from the 2017 tables, 12 months from the 2016 tables, and December 2015. You probably retired awaiting pay with at least three years time in grade as an O-6 (or a waiver down to two years), so your pension is calculated from that rank.

        If your Date of Initial Entry into Military Service is 17 March 1985 then (for pay longevity purposes) your DIEMS date puts you as an O-6>30 in March 2015. I happen to know that the pay tables top out for O-6 at 30 years (it’s the same pay for O-6>32) so it’s a little easier to look up the numbers.

        Here’s the numbers I’m using:
        2018 O-6>32: $11,599.80
        2017 O-6>30 and O-6>32: $11,328.00 for both
        2016 O-6>30 : $11,094.90
        December 2015 O-6>30: $10,952.40

        The November 2018 High Three average is:
        [(11 x $11,599.80) + (12 x $11,328.00) + (12 x $11,094.90) + $10,952.40] / 36 = $11,322.91

        4833 points / 360 x 2.5% x $11,322.91 = $3800/month.
        (The Financial Management Regulation requires DFAS to truncate the result to the lower dollar.)

        If you start your pension in January 2019 and there’s a 2.0% pay raise (which seems like a reasonable compromise on the 2.6% proposal), then your High Three average would drop December 2015 and January 2016 while adding December 2018 and January 2019’s 2% pay raise.

        The January 2019 High Three average would be:
        [($11,599.80 x 1.02) + (12 x $11,599.80) + (12 x $11,328.00) + (11 x $11,094.90) ] / 36 = $11,361.36
        and your new pension amount would be $3813/month. However you lost the entire month of December ($3800) and some days in November. Making up >$3800 at a higher pension of $13/month would take over 24 years. (It’d be an additional $126.67/day or 9.75 months per day for whatever you lost from your November birth date). Maybe you’d win that bet (it’d motivate me!) but I’m not sure it’s worth the payoff.

        Regardless of when you decide to start your pension, you can sign up for Tricare Prime or Tricare Select on your 60th birthday.

  38. Brenda says

    Thank you so much. This was extremely helpful as I feel my time is getting close that I’ll decide to retire. Awesome article!

  39. Tony More says

    Hi Doug, fantastic and informative article- thank you! So just to make sure I’m clear I am RET 2 awaiting RET 1 beginning Dec 01 2016. My pay base date is 6/87 so at that point I will have 29.5 years for pay purposes which at my current pay grade of O3E has me maxed out at $6880. My total career points are 6050. I had a lot of active duty. So in calculating my retirement is my service percentile totally dependant on my total points or do I get any thing extra % for the years I have over 20 i.e. my 29 years of service ?? Thanks Tony

    • Doug Nordman says

      Thanks, Tony, and you’ve asked a good question.

      I’m not clear on the RET1 and RET2 acronyms, but let me answer the rest. Your pension amount at age 60 will be based on your total points and on High-Three average of the pay tables in effect when you’re 60 years old.

      Reserve and Guard members have to get at least 20 good years to receive a Notice Of Eligibility letter certifying that they’re qualified to retire, but the extra years just give you an opportunity to rack up more points (and more promotions). Unlike the active-duty retirement formula, the extra Reserve/Guard years themselves are not part of the calculation. The multiplier is fixed and is only applied to your total points.

      Because you’ll be using the newest set of pay tables at age 60, you’ll still benefit from the pay increases between now and your 60th birthday– as well as any possible longevity increases in the O-3E row. Right now you’ve maxed out that longevity, but it’s remotely possible that DoD could change the pay tables as they did in 2007.

      For now, I’d calculate your pension based on your total points and today’s pay tables. I’d assume that your pension (if you started it today) will keep pace with inflation until age 60. That assumption is unpredictable (and imprecise) but it’s a reasonable approximation.

  40. harold f. deason says

    Retired from army reserve with 22 yrs .was asked to volunteer for Army inactive duty with hip pocket orders to go to McDill AFB Tampa to open a reception station in case of a emergency conflict,Had to keep a military duffel bag maintained for the 13 years should my retirement pay be recomputed for that time?

    • Doug Nordman says

      Harold, I’m a little unclear on some of the jargon like “inactive duty”, “hip pocket orders”, and “duffel bag”. However if you were issued written orders for this duty then you could have been eligible to receive points which would be added to your total point count. That would raise your pension. The question is whether your duty status was actually earning you points or whether it was just putting you in a position to be quickly mobilized if necessary (no points until mobilized).

      I’d suggest that you contact an Army Reserve center (phone or e-mail), give them a copy of your orders and your personal info (so that they can research your records), and see what they know.

  41. Jeffery Deleva says

    I Served in the Navy from 1989 to 1994 (Just over 5yrs total). I was honorably discharged medically and currently have 20% disability status. I was informed several years ago that I could rejoin the Navy with up to a 30% disability rating and even confirmed it in person downtown. I then spent an entire day downtown going through their test and the recruiter never contacted me and over a month later said that I was denied the next day and he did not feel the need to inform me. To a Navy guy that took great pride, had perfect Evals, and even won Sailor of the Quarter before getting out. That was a slap in the face. (The recruiter later apologized and admitted he really fouled up and simply did not care about his job back then). This was years ago.

    I have a customer that just got out of the military that said I can still join because I have the ability to still serve 15yrs. (I am 45). My question is there any reserves that I can go to. If you type in Madproaudio BBB reviews online (I own this company). You can read reviews and see how exceptional my customers are treated to give you an idea of the man behind those reviews. I have always wanted to rejoin, or work with the government, etc. just difficult to figure out who can help make that happen.

  42. Doug Nordman says

    Glad to help, Jeffrey!

    You can do points in the IRR, but before you make that leap you should make absolutely sure that you’ll earn a good year. The services have all been clamping down on the courses that qualify for IRR points, and it’s getting more difficult to access them without a valid CAC. It takes a certain amount of discipline (and free time) to keep up with the pace of correspondence courses to reach a good years’ worth of points, and if you can only access the website from a distant Reserve Center then you’re not going to be happy.

    I know people in the IRR who have come up one point short of a good year, and you don’t want to experience that feeling. Of course you already have enough good years for your Notice of Eligibility and your retirement, so it’s not critical in your case.

    Another option (if you haven’t already considered it) is to drill ahead over the next few months or do an extra AT (if available) to get your good year. Confirm your point count (and for those who are at 20 good years, make sure you’ll get your Notice of Eligibility) and then take a six-month Authorized Absence from drill weekends before retiring.

    • trish says

      Spoke with HRC for USAR just yesterday, 21 July, re: IRR earning retirement points [RPs] for correspondence courses. That option is no longer available as of spring of this year (2016) – the only way to get a ‘good year’ of 50 RPs or more this year and beyond is to become an active USAR member via acceptance of a TPU position or find an IMA/DIMA slot & affiliate with some organization and make the Unit Training Assemblies [UTAs] and/or perform Annual Training [AT]/Additional Duty/’split train’, etc. Good luck!

      • Doug Nordman says

        Jeffery, it’s true that federal law requires military servicemembers to retire at age 60 (unless Congress grants an extension). However most services will only grant age waivers up to the late 30s, and they may be reluctant to grant both an age and a disability waiver. Trauma surgeons and linguists may be in demand, but unless you have a critical skill then the military will be more interested in younger and healthier vets.

        The path is indeed difficult, but it still starts with the recruiter. You may have better luck with a Reserve or National Guard recruiter, but keep searching until you find one who’s willing to work with you.

  43. Jeffrey says

    Thank you Doug for the timely response in my matter, I really appreciate the info you provided for me. Regarding my situation it looks like for me to go on active duty orders will take an act of Congress (literally).
    Unless I sign a wavier for my right to apply for sanctuary seems like the only way to deploy again for my farewell tour.

    One question I have is if I decide to go to IRR a year before my HYT. Can I still accumulate points in the IRR beside the annual 15 membership points through correspondence course and college courses and then retire from the IRR. Would that be another option to consider?

  44. Doug Nordman says

    Jeffrey, there might be some confusion on the sanctuary requirements. In order to qualify you have to be on active duty (mobilization or other orders >29 days) at the date you go over the 18-year point. Then you’re continued on active duty (in a different personnel category) until you reach 20 years of service.

    When sanctuary is granted then DoD makes the services pay for the pension difference out of their own personnel funds. The services track servicemembers who have at least 16 years of points and aggressively restrict them from reaching sanctuary status. With your 6405 points, you’re probably already on their database warnings. You’d be able to continue to do drill weekends and ATs but the only way to get orders of more than 29 days (let alone mobilization) would be with a three-star general’s approval from AF personnel HQ (the active-duty HQ, not the Reserve HQ). I’ve seen a handful approved before the drawdown, but I haven’t heard of any sanctuary approvals in the last four years.

    However you could keep accumulating points on drills and shorter orders, even if you go over 18 years of points. I know of two Reservists with over 7400 points, although they’ll never be approved for any orders over 29 days.

    Here’s more info plus the AF sanctuary instruction:
    I’m not sure whether the 2011 edition is the latest version and I don’t have access to the .mil instruction databases, so you should check that with a Reserve center.

    This post links to all of the military’s sanctuary instructions that are on public sites:
    But again they may have been updated in the last year.

    So in your case you’ll remain “retired awaiting pay” (gray area) until your Reserve pension starts. If you were mobilized for at least 90 days to a combat zone (or, for National Guard, some domestic emergencies) then you might qualify for an earlier pension start date. Since you were mobilized in 2012, your combat zone deployment’s 90-day periods would have to be within a fiscal year to count for an earlier pension start. If you have 180 days in a combat zone in one FY (or 90 days in one FY and 90 days in another FY), then your Reserve pension would start six months earlier. But if you have less than 90 days in a FY then that does not count. 120 days in one FY and 60 days in another FY would only start your pension three months sooner.

    Keep in mind that while your Reserve pension may start sooner, your Tricare healthcare will still start at age 60.

    You probably already know that you should have your VA status reviewed now to see whether you’re still at a 30% rating (or higher) before you retire in Nov ’17. When your Reserve pension starts, it’ll be reduced (“offset”) by your VA disability compensation. If your disability rating is at least 50% (and combat related) then you may be able to receive both your full Reserve pension and your VA disability compensation.

    Let me know if the “90 days in a FY” or a higher VA disability rating might be an issue and I’ll go into the gory details.

  45. jeffrey says

    I’m currently 52 as a E-7 have 30 years of service (13 active USMC & 17 USAF reserves) with 6405 points as of to date. I already have a disability rating of 30% from my active duty time when I was involuntary separated.

    I was considering applying for sanctuary next year, before my high tenure 11/2017. Wanted to know which scenario would benefit me more financially if I retire as a active duty with 20 years ( if I get sanctuary status) or as a gray area reservist waiting till 59.5 years old (mobilized in 2012 for OEF).

  46. John Duffy says

    I joined the Military in 1974 and am now receiving Reserve Retirement pay. DFAS figured my gross pay by using this long drawn out formula that figures how many years my points convert to, then multiply by 2.5 to get a percentage of active duty pay. I thought my pay was just suppose to be my total points times point value for rank and years. The way they figured it comes up to $19.00 less a month than the way I figured it. What is the proper formula?

    • Doug Nordman says

      Good question, John, and one of the most confusing issues in the Reserves and Guard.

      Since you joined the service before 8 Sep 1980, you’re eligible for the DFAS Final Pay formula:
      Monthly Pension = Points / 360 x 2.5% x Base Pay.

      However the “base pay” part is where most of the confusion comes from.

      The pay table is the one in effect when your pension starts. If you began receiving your Reserve pension in 2015, then you’re using the 2015 pay tables.

      The rank is the rank you retired at, but there’s a catch. When you “retire awaiting pay” instead of discharge or separation, then the longevity column is the years of service that you’d reach as if you’ve been on active duty the entire time up until your pension starts. For the vast majority of Reserve retirements, this is the maximum pay at your retirement rank (usually the >30 column).

      Your “point value for rank and years” number is simply a calculation used by the services to determine roughly how much money a point is worth. It has nothing to do with the actual calculation of your retirement pay. The DFAS number is different from your number because they’re using the proper formula.

      If you want to dig into the nitty-gritty of the calculation then it’s in Chapter 3 of Volume 7b of the DoD Financial Management Regulation:
      starting with paragraph 030205 at the bottom of page 3-9.

    • JOHN DUFFY says

      Thanks Doug. That helps a lot. I did not know that the point value was only used for a gauge of actual retirement pay. I don’t know if this is your area of expertise but I have another question. My total points is 6522 but only 6214 for retirement. I understand over the years the way retirement points are calculated has changed. In my case, is the extra 308 points used for anything?

      • Doug Nordman says

        Another good question, John, but I’m not sure about the answer. I’m familiar with today’s Reserve retirement rules, but not the changes from earlier years. As far as I know, every point earned at drills or on orders or even through the IRR counts toward a pension. Even if a Reservist didn’t make enough points to earn a good year, those point would still count for pension credit.

        If you have a point-count summary that lists a reason or reference for points that don’t “count” then I could try to research it. Another option would be contacting DFAS to make sure they’re using the correct point count total.

        One recent change has been removing points earned through midshipman summer training. After a legal review of legislation, DFAS is actually recalculating pensions and planning to recoup overpayments. SECNAV has asked that the recoupment be waived for amounts under $10K.

  47. Jim Cagle says

    Hi Doug–

    You may have missed it ( or maybe I did )
    but could you answer Bob Walter’s question? I’m in a similar situation except enlisted in 1978, was an officer from 1980-1992, 23 year break in service (LOL), now back to finish last few years as enlisted (not elligible for officer because I returned beyond 26 years from commissioning date). I was told before joining that retirement would be at highest rank attained, but that “pre 1980 rule” has me concerned.

    Thank you,
    Jim Cagle

    • Doug Nordman says

      Great question, Minnie!

      You’re in the window to hear from your service. Forgive me for preaching to the choir about this, but ideally you’ve already received your Notice of Eligibility and filed for retired awaiting pay (gray area) status.

      If you have an online account then log in to check for any notifications. (Not many gray-area retirees have an account.) If you’re near a Reserve or National Guard center then I’d e-mail, call, or visit them to show your ID and check your status. (While you’re there, they may be able to do any additional admin online.) If you’re not near a military site then contact your service’s Reserve/Guard personnel command directly and ask them to update your file.

      At some point you’ll be asked to log in to your MyPay account and verify your contact information. DoD requires that your pension be deposited directly in your financial account, so you’ll also need to check that they enter your account numbers correctly. If the pension payment doesn’t start on the date you were promised then contact DFAS directly about your Retiree Account Statement at

  48. Bob Waters says

    Please explain the rules for retiring from the National Guard with pay commensurate with the highest rank held anytime during military service.
    My situation briefly: Retired from the National Guard in Nov of 2014 with 20 years/6 months of service.
    I was an E – 5 at the time of receiving the 20 year letter and retirement orders. However, prior to my 8 years of service in the National Guard I had attained the rank of 0 – 3 while serving on active duty in the Navy, electing to resign my commission, receiving an Honorable Discharge after holding that rank for @ 2 years.
    Am I eligible to receive retirement pay based on the highest rank I held, which was that of 0 – 3?

    Thank you,
    Bob Waters

  49. Traitcurious says

    I plan to retire as a reservist not as an active duty soldier. I am currently deployed but I am AGR, will this deployment count toward reduced age retirement or must I be a TPU soldier.

    • Doug Nordman says

      Thanks for your question, TC!

      The 2008 National Defense Authorization Act enables early Reserve retirements for combat deployments exceeding 90 days during a fiscal year. The 2015 NDAA fixed a glitch in the 2008 Act and now lets those deployments cross fiscal years.

      Between 28 Jan 2008 and 30 Sep 2014, you had to mobilize and deploy to a combat zone for at least 90 days during the fiscal year. (That could be one deployment or the sum of a series of shorter deployments.) After Sep 2014, those 90 days can accumulate across fiscal years. For every one of those 90 days (or more) that you’re deployed to a combat zone (or mobilized for certain national emergencies) then your Reserve retirement starts the same number of days earlier.

      To qualify for this eligibility, your mobilization orders have to cite federal law– either Title 10 or Title 32 sections 12301(a), 12301(d), 12301(h), 12302, 12304, 12305 or 12306.

      Another issue is “combat zone”. Those designated areas have changed significantly over the last few years so your mobilization may no longer be eligible to qualify for an earlier retirement.

      I’m not sure of the Army meaning of the phrase “TPU soldier”. (In the Navy that acronym means “Transient Personnel Unit”.) However if you’re injured during a mobilization for combat duty under these conditions (either in training or in the combat zone) then your time in a Warrior Transition Unit also counts toward the 90 days. Let me know if “TPU soldier” is a different subject.

      Although your Reserve pension may start earlier, the NDAAs do not address Tricare health insurance. That still starts at age 60 regardless of deployments to combat zones.

  50. Luis says

    Hi everyone I join on September 1998 the NG and on April 2000 I went active duty. I’m currently on a MEB procedure can I qualify to request early retirement. Also is there a way to calculate my active years in service.

    • Doug Nordman says

      Great question, Luis!

      Although Congress has authorized the Temporary Early Retirement Authority legislation through 2018, each service uses it at their own discretion. Your best option is to contact your service’s personnel branch to determine their policy and to request TERA. However (depending on the nature of your disability) you may also qualify for a medical disability retirement. The medical retirement will not have the pension reduction that’s part of the TERA calculation, so you should see how the MEB process turns out before requesting TERA. You should also review the MEB and the TERA questions with a military lawyer. The JAG can help you verify that you’re getting due process from the MEB and that you’ll receive all the benefits to which you’re entitled.

      Even if you request TERA, your service may still turn you down.

      The fastest way to calculate your days of active duty is to subtract the difference between the present date and the date you were mobilized. You can do that with most spreadsheet software or using a website like

  51. jim spencer says

    i have 4 full active army and 10 reserve. i got out in 2000, can i get a civil service job to make up the remaining 6 years ?

  52. Andrew says

    If I have 4 years of active duty time and 16 years of reserve time all with “good years,” does that mean that the age to begin receiving retirement pay will still be at age 60 or at 56 due to the years of active time?

    • Doug Nordman says

      Thanks for the question, Andrew! The active time (an active-duty obligation or a Reserve mobilization) only reduces the retirement age if it occurred after 28 January 2008 in a combat zone. It reduces the retirement age by 90 days for every 90 days (in the same fiscal year) in that combat zone. There’s a rumor that the “fiscal year” phrase was removed by the 2015 legislation to allow the reduction to be any consecutive 90-day period (whether or not it crosses fiscal years), but I haven’t seen that correction yet.

      The earlier retirement only applies to the Reserve pension and not to Tricare. Tricare starts at age 60 regardless of the start date of the Reserve pension.

      • Dave McDonald says

        Here is some helpful info concerning the early drop:
        Early Retirement for National Guard and Reserves. REDUCED AGE RETIREMENT AD, for this purpose, means service pursuant to a call or order to AD on orders specifying, as the authority for such orders, a provision of law referred to in section 101(a) (13)(B), and performed under section 688, 12301 (a), 12302, 12304, 12305, 12406, and chapter 15 (insurrection), or under section 12301 (d) of Title 10 USC.

        WASHINGTON (Army News Service, June 5, 2013) — More reserve-component Soldiers may now be eligible to receive retirement pay before 60, if they meet certain criteria.

        As of January 2013, Congress authorized more categories to the 2008 National Defense Authorization Act, which originally applied only to reserve-component Soldiers serving in overseas contingency operations like Iraq and Afghanistan, said Sheila Dorsey, chief, Reserve Component Retirements.

        The way it works is that Soldiers can count 90 days of their tour toward 90 days earlier retirement for each fiscal year deployed, according to Richard Gray, supervisor of Retired Pay.

        That part is still in effect.

        The new categories include reserve-component Soldiers who are activated to respond to national emergencies such as natural disasters like hurricanes or earthquakes. Another category is for those in warrior transition units who were hurt while mobilized for such responses, Gray said.

        The most important thing Soldiers can do to meet the criteria, Dorsey said, is to check their mobilization orders or their DD-214 discharge document. Those documents need to have any one of the following Title 10 or Title 32 U.S. codes annotated: 12301(a), 12301(d), 12301(h), 12302, 12304, 12305 or 12306.

        If one of those numbers is not there, either the Soldier won’t be eligible or needs to see someone in the personnel office to get the appropriate code amended, she said.

        There are some exceptions to the rule. Soldiers who’ve demonstrated substandard performance are an exception, for instance. Gray said Soldiers can check with Human Resources Command for eligibility information. The HRC can be reached by calling 502-613-8950 or by visiting

        While Soldiers who meet the criteria can receive retirement pay before age 60, they will still need to wait until their 60th birthday before they are eligible for Tricare, Dorsey said. Other than that, they will receive the normal retirement benefits such as exchange and commissary benefits.

        Despite deferred medical, Dorsey said she’s already seen a number of Soldiers taking advantage of the early-age retirement option.


        Those Soldiers with the eligible U.S. codes can accrue reduced-age retirement as follows:

        During any fiscal year, Soldiers can accrue 90 days of early retirement. Fewer days will not count or be carried over to the next fiscal year and more days past 90 will not count and will not be carried over to the next fiscal year.

        That 90-day period does not have to be contiguous. It could be the sum of more than one mobilization, so long as it meets the U.S. codes within that fiscal year.

        For instance, a Soldier might have three 30-day mobilizations in one fiscal year. That would meet the 90-day criteria. Or, there might be six 15-day mobilizations. That too would meet the criteria. Any number of combinations that add to 90 days would count.

        If a Soldier is mobilized on Sept. 1 for just 90 days, that would not count because the fiscal year begins on Oct. 1, and only 30 days would accrue for the first fiscal year and 60 the next, assuming that no other mobilizations take place.

        Another rule is that the 90 days can accumulate over fiscal years.

        For example, if a Soldier gets 90 days credit this fiscal year, he or she would be able to retire 90 days before age 60. Then, if a Soldier also gets 90 days credit next fiscal year, he or she would be able to retire at age 59.5, or 180 days before age 60.

        The accumulative effect can continue for a number of years in 90-day blocks, with the only stipulation being that a Soldier cannot retire before age 50.

        Link for computing time between two dates:

      • Doug Nordman says

        Thanks for the detailed summary, Dave!

        I’ve edited your comment to reflect that the fiscal year requirement has been canceled by the 2015 NDAA. Servicemembers can earn day-for-day credit for earlier retirement without having to count across fiscal years. The rest of the legislation remains in effect.

  53. todd says

    hi i wonder how long would i have to be in to retire and i have 5 years of active duty airforce and 1 year or army reserves so far ? can i apply my active duty points ?

    • Doug Nordman says

      Good question, Todd!

      You’ll have to earn a total of at least 20 good years in order to be eligible to retire from the Reserves or National Guard.

      You’ll get a good year when you earn 50 points (or whatever minimum your service requires that year), but you’ll also have to perform sufficient drills and remain current on your readiness for mobilization: medical, dental, physical fitness, and online training.

      Your active-duty service counts toward good years. If you review your point count summary online, you’ll probably see a good year for every year of active duty plus another good year for your Army Reserve time. If that’s the case then you only have 14 good years remaining until you’re eligible for retirement. Your active-duty time also accrues a point for each day, so you probably received over 1800 points for those five years.

  54. Mark says

    Thanks for the most informative retirement article I’ve ever read! A question for you: I’m sitting at 18 years of reserve time with around 3500 points (5 years of active duty for training and 2 years of deployments.). I’m looking at taking an AGR position. How will they calculate the reserve points in the active system? How soon will I be eligible for active retirement?

    • David L. McDonald says

      I am three years deep into retirement on 01MAR15 and HRC still is unable to get my retirement correct. I have an active duty retirement, and have been ping pronged all over the retirement services community: RSO, HRC,G-1, NGB, to name a few. My retirement is the story of Everybody, Somebody, Anybody, and Nobody. Google everybody,somebody, anybody and nobody of the story. I expected more of a “Message to Garcia” retirement, one where people who deal with this for their job would actually do their job. Have knowledge of Title 10 USC concerning retirement, DOD FMR vol 7b, and the AR’s. Instead, I have had to educate a broken system, a scloretic bureaucracy. Don’t suggest the politician route, the service organization route both major failures. I am making progress on my own, as of Sep 2014, I have three retirement certificates and am finally going in the right direction. I am now the correct rank from SSG to CPT, but still at the wrong retirement percentages for years of service and wrong retirement. The subject matter experts went from my 20 yr AFS, non disability retirement to a reserve early drop.
      All of my time was active, with over ten years as a commissioned officer. They all had access to this info before I retired.

    • Doug Nordman says

      Mark, I’m having a little trouble sorting out your terminology, but I’ll give it a shot and you let me know if I’m interpreting it correctly.

      It sounds as though you’re in the Reserves now, with 3500 points on your record and credit for 18 good years. All of your five years of active duty for training and your two years of deployments should already be included in that 3500 points. You can verify that by going to your service’s online record of your good years and your point count.

      I’m not sure what type of duty your AGR position may be, but whether it’s mobilization or some other form of active duty for training then you’ll get one point for each day of duty. (If the orders are for more than 29 days then other benefits kick in, like Tricare.) For every year that you achieve 50 points (or your service’s requirements for that year) and meet all of the other readiness requirements, you’ll get another good year of Reserve credit.

      When you reach 20 good years then you’re eligible for a Reserve (“non-regular”) pension. If you’re on active duty every day of the next two years, then at the end of that time you’ll have earned another 731 points and you’ll have 20 good years. Your point total would be 4231 and your pension would be 4231 / 360 * 2.5% = 29.38% of the High-Three average of the base pay for your rank and your longevity of the pay tables in effect when your pension starts.

      Depending on the dates and locations of your deployment, your pension may start before age 60. (See the last paragraph of the post.) If you think this may apply to you then you could e-mail me the dates of your deployments and we could confirm all of the details. However first I think you’ll want to check your online records to make sure the good years and point count are accurate.

  55. Doug Nordman says

    Stephen, you’d have to spreadsheet the math to decide whether finishing 20 for an enlisted active-duty pension is better than going to the Reserves for an officer’s pension. Some of the math depends on your age at retirement and when you’d start a Reserve pension.

    Regardless of rank or the size of the pension, I think the most significant factors in a military pension are the cost-of-living adjustment and the cheap Tricare premiums. Without crunching all of the numbers, it’s probably better to take an active-duty pension sooner at a lower rank.

    Of course the key is whether you’re able to stay on active duty to finish 20 years.

    The above paragraphs assume that you’re still enjoying your time in uniform. If you’re miserable on active duty then it’s probably better to transfer to the Reserves, enjoy the improvement in quality of life, and know that your pension will pick up at age 60. The cliché “It’s only money” certainly applies here.

  56. Stephen P. says


    Once again thanks for the insight.

    It sounds like for those few that are in my situation (involuntarily separated at 17.5 and prior enlisted) the best chance at an active duty retirement is to take the revert back to enlisted option and finish off my time as a chief.

  57. Doug Nordman says


    Not quite. See this post:

    Here’s a summary: the services discourage sanctuary because they have to pay big bucks for it. When a Reservist reaches sanctuary (and is retained on active duty for an active-duty retirement) then that pension funding is not supported by DoD. Each service has to pay sanctuary active-duty retirements out of their own personnel funds until the servicemember reaches age 60 (the Reserve pension start date) and the funding obligation reverts to DoD.

    If a servicemember has over 5840 points (over 16 years of points) then they’re still allowed to keep drilling and doing AT and even multiple ADTs of up to 29 days each. That’s considered training, not active duty, and that’s all approved by the local Reserve Center and the gaining command. However BUPERS N9 (and CNO N13) screen orders when the servicemember is ordered to active duty (30 days or more) via ADT, ADSW, or even mobilization. That’s considered operational active duty, and that’s only approved by OPNAV.

    Servicemembers are also required to track their point counts and ensure that they don’t exceed sanctuary without OPNAV approval. If they “somehow” reach sanctuary without that approval then they could be involuntarily released from active duty and sent back to Reserve status. See paragraph 6 of OPNAVINST 1001.27 (

    I have seen a Reservist mobilized by a PACOM flag officer even though the servicemember was very close to sanctuary (17.9 years of points). The next morning BUPERS overrode the flag officer and canceled the orders, then told PACOM to submit a sanctuary request. (It was disapproved.) The Reservist was allowed to continue to do drills and ATs, and one 29-day ADT per fiscal year. They eventually retired with over 7400 points (over 20 years of points, and 25 good years) but for a Reserve pension.

  58. Stephen P. says


    Thanks for the info, and the quick response!
    If I am understanding you correctly, while it isn’t common and the military doesn’t enable it, if an individual were able to somehow put together 3 years of active points they would be eligible for active retirement? I’ve been through the Navy’s MILPERSMAN, but the language used isn’t exactly straightforward. Although, I believe there is a section that seems to indicate that if a Sailor is on active orders and reaches sanctuary, they can remain on active orders? Is there any truth to that?

  59. Doug Nordman says

    Good question, Stephen!

    Federal law includes a section called “sanctuary”: any servicemember, active or Reserve/Guard, who reaches 18 years of active duty must be continued on active duty to 20 years (and an active-duty retirement). The Reserve/Guard services want to avoid inadvertently letting their members reach sanctuary (and an active-duty retirement), so they track everyone with more than 16 years of points and restrict their mobilization opportunities.

    If a servicemember left active duty at 17 years for a Reserve/National Guard career, they’d already be on sanctuary tracking. They would be permitted to do drill and AT (for up to 29 days) but longer stints of active duty would require approval by the service’s personnel HQ. It was rarely approved during the last 13 years of war, and in a drawdown it would be extremely unlikely.

    Instead a Reserve/Guard member would drill (and do AT) for at least three more years to reach 20 “good years” of service, and then would be eligible for a Reserve/Guard (“non-regular”) pension. They would start that pension at age 60 or (depending on combat deployments) possibly a few months earlier.

  60. Stephen P. says


    How does it work in situations that are effectively opposite the situations mentioned in the previous comments? For example, if someone was forced out of active duty with 17 years in (after perhaps being passed over for promotion) and then switched over to the reserves and accumulated 3 years worth of active points (1095 points). Would they be eligible for active duty retirement (i.e., receive their retirement pay immediately)? Thanks in advance.

  61. Gail Mollere says

    Do you get paid for 30 days per month or does the retirement pay vary according to the number of days per month? Thank you.

    • Doug Nordman says

      That’s absolutely right, Gail, the pension is paid as a 30-day month. You’ll get the same payment each month for the calendar year.

      The new calendar year’s first payment is boosted by its cost of living adjustment– which continues at the new level for the rest of the year until the following year’s COLA. Over my 12 years of retirement, the COLA has raised my pension by a total of 27%.

      • serg says

        What is your recommendation between early retirement from AD or a Reserve retirement? I qualify for TERA if I get passed over for Major. I have about a total of 16 years of active duty (10 USA commissioned, 6 enlisted) and about 14 enlisted reserve years from the Navy. I’m 51 years old.

      • Doug Nordman says

        Congratulations, Serg, it looks like you’re already eligible for a Reserve retirement!

        Please check the requirements at this link:
        and make sure you have your Reserve Notice of Eligibility letter (confirming 20 good years) as well as an accurate Reserve point count. The Navy Reserve may not have tracked your active-duty Army time, and you may need to update their records to obtain your NOE.

        If you received your first military ID card before 8 September 1980 (Navy Reserve) then your retirement system may be Final Pay. It depends on what was entered as your Date of Initial Entry on Military Service:

        If your first military ID was issued after 7 September 1980 then your retirement pay base will be High Three.

        Then check your service’s TERA message. If you’re passed over you may still have to apply for TERA, and there’s no guarantee that you’ll be accepted. If you meet the TERA criteria then calculate your pension using the FMR TERA tables at this link:
        and consider the issues at this link:

        Next, calculate your Reserve pension (assuming it starts at age 60 as an O-3) and compare it to your TERA pension. Your TERA pension may start at a smaller number but it will have an eight-year head start on your Reserve pension. I feel that the most important factor in either pension is its COLA, and your TERA pension may grow at an annual rate of 1%-2%. By the time you’re 60 years old, the COLA could make your TERA pension higher than your Reserve pension.

        Finally, talk to a military lawyer who’s familiar with Title X U.S. Code for military retirement law. You want to make sure that your retirement occurs as an O-3. It’s also possible (but doubtful) that your deployments after 28 January 2008 may make you eligible to start a Reserve retirement earlier than age 60. You need solid legal advice on both of these criteria before you can count on the numbers. The Army has retired at least one other servicemember as an enlisted, despite their service at a commissioned rank, and you want to verify that your retirement references the appropriate sections of federal law.

        Let me know if you want any help with the numbers, and please tell us how your selection board goes!

  62. Louise says

    Thanks for giving a thorough explanation on reserve retirement. You shared some points that I don’t usually find in retirement blogs. Will look forward to your future posts. Thanks for sharing!

  63. delphinide says

    Great article! Thanks. You just convinced me to get out of the reserves and sell my points to a federal job. As an 0-4 with 7 years active and 13 projected reserve years, I’ll only have 3205 points after 20 years. My multiplier is only 22.3%, which means my projected High-3 monthly retirement pay is only $2388 a month. That is only slightly more than Social Security. Thank you for saving me from 2-3 more long deployments away from my family. Anyone would do better with TSP invested into moderate stocks.

  64. David L. McDonald says

    Any thoughts on how to get my officer retirement? I was on active duty for over 16 years Navy, RIF’ed after Gulf War One. Joined the MN Army National Guard, as an enlisted man, deployed to Iraq for 2 years, entered Sanctuary Program, and retired from Army with over 20 years of active federal service. I have been retired for 2 years now and still cannot get anyone to explain to me why title 10 Sections: 1370, 3926 and 3911 do not apply to my situation. I held my commission for 10 years and 08 months in the Navy.
    The Army retired me under 3914 and 3964 of title 10.

    I don’t get it.


  65. chris colombo says

    I have a friend who is trying to straighten out his Active Federal Service (AFS) time as an Army Reserve AGR officer. He’s looking for the regulation that defines AFS and specifies what the calculation includes. As this deals with pay and thousands of folks have gone through this process (and the DOD being a bureaucratic beast) I’d imagine this is spelled out in detail. At stake is whether he’s forced to a mandatory retirement date or gets to retire. Could use some help! Thanks,

  66. lisa says

    I have 10 years of just Reserve time. I’m planning on going back on active duty to complete another 10 years. If I do that, will I get my retirement when I complete my 10 years of active duty time or will I have to do more time to get my retirement right when I retire?

  67. Dennis G. Allison says

    My name is Dennis and I served 12 years in the Marine Reserves and I got out with 4.5 years time in grade as a E-6 Staff-SGT back in 1988. I worked a non-goverment job until I was hired at the United States Postal Service on Dec. 1st,2000. No one anywhere can tell me how or who can help me calculate my retirement points into time so that I can buy back this time towards my federal retirement. I am only intending to work 6 more years and retire and the time served in the military can make a difference. I had all good years and never missed any drills and also pulled extra duty as well.

  68. czinkie says

    Thank you so much for all the useful and interesting information! I’m 2 years away from age 60 and trying to calculate whether I can retire from my civilian job (high school teacher at a private school – no pension) a little earlier so I can spend my time volunteering to teach adults to read. Your blog helps enormously!!!!

    • Doug Nordman says

      Thanks, gotta love a comment from anyone named “Moondoggie”!

      I’ve never heard of the program you describe, but I know that there are some “critical skill” civil-service or contractor jobs which require the employee to also hold a billet in the Reserve or National Guard.

      Right now the only way that I’m aware of to receive a Reserve pension before age 60 is to deploy to a combat zone for at least 90 days in a fiscal year.

      I’m going to forward your comment to He’s also a Reservist in a civil-service billet, and if he doesn’t immediately know then answer then he’ll know where to find out. I’ll let you know the word either way.

      • Doug Nordman says

        Thanks for your comment, ChaplainG! My response is turning into a complete blog post, so please check your e-mail for a message from NordsNords [at] Gmail.

      • Doug Nordman says

        Thanks, Cliff!

        Good point about the deadlines and the packages. Each service has their own procedures on their Reserve/National Guard websites, and they’re all just different enough (and changing frequently enough) to be extremely confusing.

        The answer regarding remarried ex-spouses is “It depends”. The Uniformed Servicemembers Former Spouse Protection Act provides guidance on when an ex-spouse is entitled to a portion of a military pension, even if they (and you) have to wait until you turn 60 years old. However that’s just guidance for the state courts, and your specific situation depends on your divorce agreement.

        It’s not “just” your retired pay. It’s also whether the ex-spouse is entitled to any of your other military benefits (like Tricare and base access) and whether they’re entitled to be covered by your Survivor Benefits Plan.

        I recommend that you start with this post:
        and follow up on all of the links. Most important of all, check your analysis with a lawyer who’s familiar with military divorce.

      • Doug Nordman says

        The post is up at:
        Please let me know if you have any questions.

        I recommend that you review your divorce agreement with a lawyer to make sure you’re covered for your ex-spouse’s military disability, Survivor Benefit Plan, Tricare, and Social Security. A little time and expense now can save you thousands of dollars of frustration and litigation later.

        If he has a significant degree of disability then he’ll receive a portion of his pension from the Veteran’s Administration, and your divorce agreement may not cover that situation. If that happens then you’ll get less than $1975/month. He may be able to make changes to his SBP beneficiary, too, unless that’s covered in the divorce agreement. It’s possible that you’ll be eligible for Tricare healthcare when he turns age 60, and Tricare For Life at age 65. And finally, you’ll need to check whether it makes sense for you to eventually draw Social Security benefits based on your own earnings record or his. I cover these issues in more detail in the post.

        Please let me know how this works out. Thanks for asking the question– I think it’ll help a lot of readers.

      • Doug Nordman says

        Sorry about the divorce, Margie, but the amount of the pension is a complicated and confusing question for many people. State divorce decrees and federal law (for military pensions) make it even more complicated. I’m sending you an e-mail and I’ll follow up with a full post on your question. I should have the e-mail headed your way later today.

  69. Moondoggie says

    Great article! Plain English is very appreciated. Perhaps you can help with this issue… I heard a Reservist’s “grey period” could be reduced (start receiving retirement pay before age 60) by becoming a Civil Servant employee after separating from Active Duty (but transitioning into the Reserves with no break in service). Is there any truth to this? Thanks!

  70. ChaplainG says

    So I have gotten conflicting information. I commissioned in 1994. I spent three years as a designation 1305 in the Chaplain Candidate program. All three years were 50-point years. In April 1998, I had to raise my hand again. I served 4.5 years on active duty. I left active duty, had one bad year in the reserve, and have since had all good years. I am over 18 for seniority and pay. One person says that my three years as a chaplain candidate count towards pay and seniority, but not towards retirement. Another says that a good year is a good year. Both know policy inside and out. Both are very senior reservists.

    Your thoughts? Chapter and verse would be helpful.


  71. Cliff Coburn says

    Excellent article, thank you. It cleared up my retired pay questions One thing I didn’t see mentioned was that about 4 months before a gray area naval reservist turns 60 they should receive a package to be completed and returned to NPC. These can be obtained (if they don’t get them like I didn’t) from One should look for the DD108, W4, 1059 2656 and the instruction NAVPERS 1800.

    I have another question. Is a remarried ex-spouse entitled to any of my USNR retired pay.

      • Doug Nordman says


        You’re absolutely right, there is something specific that says you can get credit. But it’s buried in BUPERSINST 1001.39F of 17 Sep 07, “Administrative Procedures for Navy Reservists”. I’m looking this up on website of the Association of the U.S. Navy (, which is an excellent advocacy group for Navy Reserve servicemembers. According to the Navy Personnel Command website, 1001.39F is undergoing major revision. If you’re on active duty or in the Reserves then you’ll probably have a better chance than me of figuring out when .39G will be released. (Or an alert reader will let us know here on the blog.) What I’m about to describe is from .39F, and I sincerely hope it’s fixed in .39G.

        The “problem” is that most officers are given an active duty service date (the date that they actually started active duty as an officer) of the day they’re commissioned. (If they’re in ROTC then that date may be even later– the day that they start their first active duty.) Since this date doesn’t count ROTC midshipman training that happened before their starting date, officers have to submit a record of that earlier training.

        Article 2600.3 (Chapter 20, page 20-8), says:
        3. ROTC Summer Training Credit. Per 10 U.S.C., section 971, graduates of the U.S. Naval Academy (or other service academies) are not eligible for summer training credit. Members that participate in ROTC Midshipman/Cadet summer training are eligible for retirement point credit (one point per day under orders). Because the actual number of days served on summer training can vary, it is necessary that training be properly documented as a prerequisite to awarding retirement point credit. Proper documentation consists of one or more of the following and should be submitted to NAVPERSCOM (PERS-911):
        a. Standard ROTC Summer Cruise/Training Orders (prior to 1978 – NAVPERS 2500, after 1978 – NAVEDTRA 1320/1) issued for each period of a midshipman summer training and endorsed upon
        the member’s arrival and departure.
        b. Leave and Earning Statements (LES) or NAVCOMPT 2120, Pay Voucher.
        c. Ship’s Deck Logs or Ship’s Diaries, which show the dates the member (by name) embarked and debarked.
        d. A letter from the ROTC Unit CO certifying the actual dates of summer training.
        e. A letter from DFAS Cleveland, OH, certifying the actual dates of summer training.
        f. NAVPERS 1070/613 (Administrative Remarks) prepared by the ROTC unit, which states that the member is being discharged to accept a commission. These standard Administrative Remarks usually list the summer training completed while enrolled at that particular ROTC unit.

        Most officers find out about this opportunity years (even decades) after their NROTC summer training. They may no longer have their midshipman orders or their LESs, and there’s just no easy way to get a certification letter from an old CO or DFAS. It’s remotely possible that they still have their page 13 admin remarks. After those options are exhausted, though, the only remaining opportunity to obtain credit is the ship’s deck log. By this point you’re praying that the command recorded your report/detach dates in the deck log, and that the deck log is legibly filed at the Naval Archives.

        Hope this helps. I’ve been around the block a few laps and I have the spare time to research this information. However if any of you other readers have an update, I’d appreciate it!

        September 2017 update: Here’s the link where the Navy has canceled credit for midshipman summer training:'s.aspx

      • Doug Nordman says

        Steve, thanks for your question and my apologies for my delayed response. FINCON12 is sucking up all my brainpower this week.

        I don’t know the answer to the ID card, but it depends on whether that decision is made by the DEERS staff (who furnish the info for the ID card) or the DFAS pay system (which decides what rank is used for your retired pay).

        My guess is that if you retire before time in rank that you’d have a gray-area ID with your final rank, but when you reached age 60 then your new ID card would reflect the lower rank.

        Reaching TIG may be easier than you think. In a drawdown, the services will frequently waive their TIG requirements from three years down to two or even one. Keep an eye on your service’s Reserve personnel website or ask them about it.

        If you’re Navy then I’d join the Association of the U.S. Navy ( and e-mail their staff with the ID card question. Or maybe one of the other readers will chime in with the answer!

      • Doug Nordman says

        Excellent website, thanks! I’ve heard those numbers being thrown about at drill weekends, but they’re a great way to project your benefits out 5-10 years…

      • Doug Nordman says

        Tara, you might want to start with BUPERS Online for your point count. ( If that’s not accessible then you could try BUPERS’ Reserve help desk at 866-827-5672. (

        The DD-214 is a tougher problem. I think you’re going to have to get that directly from PERS-912 at 866-827-5672 again. If that’s not working then you could try the PERS-9 directory at .

        Hope this helps. Please let us know how it works out so that we can spread the word in an updated blog post!

  72. Margie Wilson says

    If my ex husband was active duty for 10 years and 20 years reserve and he has 5300 retirement points how much will he receive, I will receive 50%

  73. CWOK says

    Nice article. Just oficially hit “Retired awaiting pay” this 1Apr. Whata PITA to calculate. I’d just like my reduced pension rate now please, instead of at 60. Ahh well. Last deployment was in 05, so I missed the ‘early pay’ too. A couple years is a big deal. The Green Weenie strikes again.

  74. Sean says

    Can anyone show me in writing where it says you can or cannot get credit for your Midshipmen summer cruise? You are on active duty orders, wearing a uniform, and getting paid. So unless there is something specific that says you can’t get credit, I don’t see why you can’t?

  75. Steve Tyahla says

    Thanks for putting this in English, but I do have one particular question:
    If you enter the retired reserve well before 60 (“gray area”) but have not achieved the minimum time in grade at your retirement rank in order to qualify for that retirement pay, do you actually lose the rank you were promoted to? I’m guessing not-seems illogical, but…never know. Basically, I want my ID card to still show the rank I reached even though I realize I’ll receive retired pay based on the next lower rank at which I did meet TIG.

  76. Bimmerbill says

    Nords, don’t forget the “APPROXIMATE Point Value For Retirement Benefits” charts (

    For instance, I have 1826 points and have point value of .426 (O3 with 22 years). So1826* .426 = $777 a month (estimated- before tax, SBP, RCSPB, etc). If I recall correctly, a point was valued at .38 when I retired in 2007 so you can see the yearly COLA raise we enjoy as gray area retirees.

  77. Tara says

    Great article. I think you did a much better job of explaining these issues than the actual Navy Reserves! So, maybe you can assist me with a couple problems. 1. Where can I get my calculations for points earned (14 Active/14 Reserve). Also, I need to get a copy of my DD214 for my Active time (2001-2002) but only have a Member’s copy and my Federal job won’t accept this for credit. Any ideas? Thanks again. Tara

    • Terese LeFrancois, Ret USAFR says

      Before deciding which rank (O or E) to retire, recommend you do the calculations for each and consider the final numbers. If O-3 for 10 years gets you more/less than E6/7 for 26 years or the opposite, then take that into account. One must also consider personal values – is it more important for you to retire as an officer with perhaps less retiree pay than a senior enlisted with more pay? Definitely check with a good attorney first!

  78. Deserat says

    Excellent article – one of the best explanations I’ve seen…I never knew how they came up with that multiplier – thanks!

    • Doug Nordman says


      Congratulations on your service– there’s not many Final Pay members still on duty!

      You’re wise to consider this question before you apply for retirement. My first piece of advice is: consult a military lawyer from a base legal service office. They’re familiar with both federal law and DoD retirement rules and can figure out the details. By enlisting before 6 Sep 1980, your retirement comes under legacy rules that today’s personnel staffs may not see very often.

      As I understand the DoD Financial Management Regulation (, you’re eligible to retire as an O-3. Sections 010501(E) and 030105 include the phrase “of the highest grade held satisfactorily at any time in the Armed Forces.” You’re over 10 years of commissioned service, so the key question will be whether your broken service affects the rules which apply to your officer or enlisted status.

      The problem is that Title 10 U.S. Code sections 3914 and 3963 apply to Army Reserve enlisted who were “previously administratively reduced in grade not as a result of the member’s own misconduct” and refer to retirement in an enlisted paygrade. You’ll be retiring through the Army’s HRC, and they may not be familiar with your USAF service. It’s critical that your USAF records be reflected in the Army’s electronic database (not just your paper service record) or else the Army computers won’t recognize your commissioned service.

      As you go through the determination process (which I recommend you start now), make sure the HRC staff refer you to the applicable regulations. If an Army regulation (or federal law) supersedes the FMR and Title 10 paragraphs that I’ve mentioned above, then you’ll want a lawyer to help you figure out which takes precedence. Even if HRC agrees that you’re retiring as an O-3, you still should ensure that they can quote the applicable regulation– and avoid a later unpleasant surprise. It’s absolutely essential that you resolve these questions now, before you apply for retirement, in order to avoid having to resolve them through a corrections board after retirement.

      Hopefully another reader can chime in on these regulations. I’m going to check with a few other servicemembers & veterans who may be able to help with this question. If you get an answer first, please let us know!

    • jon robinson says

      Hi Doug,

      Thanks for your article, it is very informative! I enlisted in AD USMC in 1977, completing 3 years of honorable service in 1980. In 1985, I entered AD USAF as an officer and served 7.5 years – again I was honorably discharged in 1992.

      In 2001, I joined the USAF reserves, again as an officer. Later I was passed over twice for promotion to Major (04) and was discharged in 2006. The absence of USAF OPRs between 1992 to 2001 (inactive USAF reserves) hindered my chances for promotion to Major. Anyway, I was honorably discharged from the USAF Reserves in 2006, and I joined the US Army reserves as an E5. I was promoted to E6, have obtained my 20 year letter and I am still serving as an IMA reservist in Korea.

      My question: I have approximately 26 good years for reserve retirement, with 13 good years as an officer, 9 years as an O3. I fall under the Final Pay retirement plan (I enlisted before 6 Sept 80). Do I qualify to retire at my highest grade (O3) held, or do I retire as an E6 (that’s if I don’t get promoted in my present reserve position)?

      Ok, thanks for your help.


      • David L. McDonald says

        Unfortunately I have hired a lawyer to sue the government for my benefits. Both of the elected officials I have contacted about my retirement have been dead ends. I will keep you posted on the results.


      • Doug Nordman says

        Good to hear from you again, Dave! I just re-sent you my response to your 4 July “Contact me”; please check your e-mail (and perhaps your spam folder) for my NordsNords at Gmail address.

        I’m not sure how the Army arrived at their determination of your retirement rank, and you made good points in your 4 July message. If you have not already seen a military lawyer at a local military base then that still seems to be your best option. If no military base is nearby then the next choice would be to consult a civilian lawyer (preferably a military veteran) with experience at having retirement records corrected by military review boards. You already seem familiar with the DoD Financial Management Regulation so the lawyer might be willing to offer a free hour to review your FMR references and your service record. Please let us know what you’ve learned from that and what other assistance we can offer.

      • Doug Nordman says

        Thanks for your comment, Chris!

        The definition of active federal service is in federal law. I’ll start by disclaiming that I’m not a lawyer, and your friend definitely needs the services of one. The lawyers know how to page through the federal law’s revisions, amendments, updates, and other minor changes. They also have the tools to research previous cases for legal precedents that might not be reflected in the actual text of the law. As you say, I’m sure that there have been many lawsuits in this area over the last few decades, but I’m not sure how to find them. As for finding the lawyer: they should contact their unit’s lawyer or base legal officer or even see if they can find someone in their unit who has a civilian practice. Just about any lawyer or paralegal should have the tools to research the law and the case history, although a military lawyer will be more familiar with recent precedents.

        The definition of active federal service starts in Title 10 of the U.S. Code, parts 101(d)(6) and (7). In the “Notes” tab of the Cornell law website ( ) it says “In clause (22), the definition of “active duty” is based on the definition of “active Federal service” in the source statute, since it is believed to be closer to general usage than the definition in 50:901(b), which excludes active duty for training from the general concept of active duty.” That’s generally the contentious issue: ADT and AT (or anything else with the word “training” in it) does not count as active duty. Even if it involved a mission supporting active-duty forces (for example, flying fuel tankers for refueling jets flown by active-duty pilots) it’s still “training”. This is how Reserve servicemembers can still conduct drills and AT/ADT (for points and credit toward “good years”) without exceeding 18 years of active duty service and reaching sanctuary.

        Army National Guard active duty could also occur under Title 32 of the U.S. Code, which allows states to mobilize their Guard members with federal funds. It’s generally used to for homeland security missions but may have different definitions of “active federal service”. I’m going to immediately defer to the lawyers on this one.

        To further confuse the issue, your friend could have had their orders citing the wrong federal law codes. If personnel branches cite the wrong clause in your friend’s orders then that error can’t be held against the military for pay or retirement purposes. In general, under Title 10 anything less than 30 days is considered “training” and anything 30 days or more (when a new ID card is issued) would be considered “active duty” no matter what federal law is cited in the orders. I’m not sure about Title 32 limits.

        I hope this clarifies the situation without adding to the confusion. Please e-mail me more details if it would help refine the answer. I’ll also add this to a future “ask the readers” post where we might hear from others who have been in this situation.

      • Doug Nordman says

        Excellent question, Lisa! The answer is “Yes”– you can get either one.

        For the vast majority of servicemembers, 10 “good years” of Reserve duty is halfway to a retirement. When you add another 10 years of active duty to that Reserve record, you’ll reach 20 good years and have over 4000 points. At that point you’ll be eligible for a Reserve retirement.

        Your Reserve retirement doesn’t start right away, but it will start no later than age 60. (For every 90 days that you deploy to a combat zone during a fiscal year then your retirement age will be reduced by 90 days.) The active-duty services may not know to send you a Notice of Eligibility, so you may have to query your Reserve force headquarters to produce one before you leave active duty for “retired awaiting pay” status. You can read more about leaving active duty for a Reserve retirement at this post:

        If you want an active-duty retirement then you’ll have to stick around for 20 years of active duty or a Temporary Early Retirement Authorization at 15-20 years (these are generally only used during drawdowns). Medical or disability retirements are another possibility but way beyond the scope of your question. You could also separate anytime between 10-20 years of active duty and still enjoy the extra points on your Reserve retirement, but if you take any separation incentive payments then you’ll have to repay them once you start receiving your pension.

  79. Doug Nordman says

    Jim, your civil service time will not count toward a military pension.

    However your military service can count toward earning a higher civil-service pension (when you meet the requirements of the civil-service pension). It can also help you earn a higher rate on your leave.

    Here are two posts with more info:

  80. Doug Nordman says

    Sorry to read about the confusion, Gary.

    The six-month time-in-grade requirement for retirement is in federal law, but only for the ranks of O-4 and below. At O-5 and above, the same federal law requires three years time in grade to retire in that rank. That three-year requirement can be waived to two years by the service secretary.

    The High-Three pension calculation takes the average of the highest 36 months of pay. For a Reserve or National Guard retirement the pension is typically calculated from the rank for which you met the time-in-grade requirement. The pay base for that pension is calculated from the average of the highest 36 months of pay in that rank using the pay tables in effect when you start that pension. For the vast majority of Reserve/Guard retirees, the pay tables in effect at the start of the pension (usually at age 60, and as though they’d been on active duty the entire time) are higher than the pay they were actually receiving at the time they filed for retired awaiting pay.

    By retiring at MRD and immediately starting your Reserve O-5 pension (instead of starting it years or decades later), you had months of O-6 pay which were higher than your O-5 retirement rank. The Defense Finance and Accounting Service used the Tower Amendment to calculate the High-36 average to give you the higher pay base to use in the Reserve pension calculation. That’s the average of the 18 months of O-6 pay and the 18 months of O-5 pay for the pay tables in effect at the time you started your pension.

    In other words, even though you had to retire at an O-5 rank, the immediate start of your pension reflects the benefit of your months of O-6 pay… and that benefit stays in your pension for the rest of your life.

    Here’s the references on the Tower Amendment.
    Federal law Title 10 U.S. Code section 1401.a(f)(2):
    The Financial Management Regulation (DoD 7000.14-R article 0304:
    Public Law 103-337 (search for the keyword “Tower”):[email protected]/subtitleA/part2/chapter71&edition=prelim

  81. Doug Nordman says

    Thanks, Tom, it’s been the blog’s most popular post for nearly eight years!

    You’ve asked a great question. Your PEBD is used to calculate your Reserve pension, but it might not make a difference to you. I’ll tell you how it’s used and then you can check the numbers.

    Once you have 20 good years and your Notice Of Eligibility, then you can retire awaiting pay. When you retire awaiting pay (not “discharge” or “separation”) then your pension is calculated for:
    1. The future pay tables that will be in effect when your pension starts (age 60 for most retirees),
    2. At the pay columns in effect for your longevity when your pension starts as if you’d been on active duty the entire time. This is when your Pay Entry Base Date is used.

    For most ranks, today’s pay tables top out at longevity for 18 years of service, 20, 22, 24, 26, or 30 YOS. (It’s more than 30 if you’re a a flag officer, a W-5, or an E-9.)
    Figure out how many years of service you’d technically have at age 60, check the numbers in the pay table for your retirement rank, and see whether that incorrect PEBD date gives you a different pay amount.

    The last major change to the pay tables was in 2007, and it might happen again in the next 10 years. It’s possible that future pay tables (when you’ll be 60 years old) would change the longevity years for the maximum pay. If your PEBD error is even close to affecting this calculation then it’s worth correcting it to the right date.

    If your PEBD is wrong by a few days or weeks then it might not matter. If your PEBD is wrong by months or years, though, then it’s worth correcting. It’s a lot easier to correct it when you’re in uniform than when you’re in the gray area after retiring.

  82. LTC(R) Gregory Davis says

    Your PEBD would be updated when you reentered the military. For instance my initial PEBD was 10 Jul 1974; after my three year tour and one year in the USAR, I had a 8 year break in service. I then reentered the military in 1986 and my new PEBD became 1980

  83. Doug Nordman says

    You’ve asked great questions, Todd, and the law about 10 years of commissioned service only applies to active-duty retirements.

    The only rule for Reserve officer retirements is that you’ve served satisfactorily in the billet for at least six months. (O-5 and above require three years’ time in grade, which can be waived down to two years, in order to retire at that higher rank.) As near as I’ve been able to learn, that can be accomplished in the IRR.

    Returning to drill status from the IRR can be difficult, but it varies by service and by specialty. You’d have to check with your community for specific statistics.

  84. Doug Nordman says

    Cori, the federal law for early Reserve retirements applies only to Reserve and National Guard members. Those two deployments don’t count for an early Reserve retirement if you were part of the active-duty forces during those two deployments and not a Reserve or Guard member who was mobilized on Title 10 orders.

    However you might be eligible for some 90-day periods after the law was modified in 2013 and late 2014. You can read this post for the details:

  85. Doug Nordman says

    Joe, here’s a summary from DFAS:
    You’re always eligible to collect a pension that you earn through service (or qualify for through disability), but when you receive a pension then you have to pay back the gross amount (pretax) of the VSI.

    It’ll be recouped from your pension payments at a default amount of 40%, although you can repay it more quickly:

  86. David McDonald says

    You need to contact your branch. HRC Start here: Christopher L Hill
    LTC, AG
    Chief, Gray Area Retirements Branch (GAR)

    U.S. Army Human Resources Command
    1600 Spearhead Division Avenue
    Fort Knox, KY 40122
    Work Desk: (502) 613-8452

    Good luck I am still trying to straighten out my 2012 retirement fiasco.


    David L McDonald

  87. Doug Nordman says

    You’re welcome, Megumi, I’m glad it’s helping!

    I’ll describe your process for tracking an estimate until age 60.

    You’ll use today’s pay tables for your estimates because that produces results in today’s dollars. It helps simplify your retirement spending plans because you don’t have to adjust for years of inflation, and using today’s dollars for pension income & retirement expenses feels more realistic than future dollars.

    50 points per good year is conservative as the minimum. (Your annual points will probably be a bit higher than that over the next 12 years.) I’d start with your current point count (as of 2020) and then project at 50 points/year. Every year or two you could update this estimate with your current point count.

    The federal law for a Reserve pension says that when you retire awaiting pay (“gray area”) then your longevity at your retirement rank continues to accrue as if you were on active duty all the way up through age 60. Your commissioning at age 21 means that at age 60 you’d be considered to have longevity of >38 years in the pay tables at your retirement rank. You’d essentially use the pay table’s columns for the highest O-4 or O-5 pay. Keep an eye on the pay table’s >38 column in case Congress changes the rules for the pay tables over the next three decades.

    Although you won’t have pay stubs after you retire awaiting pay, your pension calculation (at age 60) assumes that you’d earned whatever the future pay tables over the years have at your highest 36 months of pay. For most retirees that would be your ages 57-60.

    To do an estimate in today’s dollars, you could average the highest 36 months of pay in today’s pay tables for O-4 or O-5 in the >36 and >38 columns. To simplify that calculation you could also assume that the High Three average of those months is 96% of today’s pay, which reflects annual pay raises of roughly 2%/year.

    When you update your estimate, you’d project your latest point count at 50 points/year through 20 good years. Then you’d use today’s pay tables for the highest O-4 or O-5 pay, and estimate its High Three average as 96% of that pay table’s numbers. Put those numbers into the Reserve pension formula, and that would give you a pension estimate in today’s dollars.

    When you retire awaiting pay then you’d continue updating your estimate every year or two with your final point count and the latest future pay tables.

  88. Doug Nordman says

    I appreciate the logic, John, and the federal law would have to be changed. Currently, pay raises are based on the Employer Cost Index (for retention) and COLAs are based on the Consumer Price Index.

    The best way to do that is working with your local veteran’s organizations and elected representatives.

  89. John says

    Thanks, BTW I just noticed your a fellow bubblehead. I was on George Bancroft Gold from 1981 to 1984, ET/Reactor Operator. It just seems like it is such a waste and so unfair, all this effort going into figuring a retiree’s Service Percent Multiplier, then one year later it means NOTHING. (The way to COLA’s are currently figured).

  90. Doug Nordman says

    “Submarines once!” In 1984 I was just arriving at USS JAMES MONROE BLUE.

    I understand the frustration about the world’s most complicated retirement system, but the federal laws are designed around military retention in the shorter term. Only 15% of servicemembers qualify for a pension, and DoD is more focused on retaining people for the first decade of service.

    If you decide to advocate for change, here’s several examples of how to boost your efforts:

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