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Federal Employees Benefits Q &A

Do you have questions about your federal employee CSRS or FERS pension/annuity or federal employee retirement planning? Concerns about your Thrift Savings Plan (TSP) account or what about federal employee pay and leave issues?

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The Q&A forum is moderated by Ed Zurndorfer -- an expert on federal employee benefits -- and a Certified Financial Planner, chartered life underwriter and chartered financial consultant in Maryland.

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#1 Posted : Monday, November 13, 2017 6:06:09 AM(UTC)

Rank: Newbie

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Joined: 10/31/2017(UTC)
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United States
Location: Texas

BLUF/TLDR: Does bought back military time count fully toward retirement in the civilian service or only toward benefit calculation?

I'm a new civilian employee coming over from the military. When I arrived at this job, the HR person briefed me on benefits. She explained to me that my military time will count toward the benefit calculation, provided I buy back my time, but it will not count toward eligibility.

In other words, if my requirement to retire is 20 years and age 57, I still have to do a full 20 years in the civilian service to retire at 57, but then my 11 years in the military will be taken into account when my percentage is calculated. So the 11 years doesn't help me get to the 20 years requirement to retire, but I will be paid as though I did 31 years once I fulfill the 20 year requirement strictly with civilian time.

Sorry if I over-explained that, but it seems like something that could be misunderstood if someone was just looking at this quickly.

Now, at first I was inclined to believe her. I had no reason not to, and she's (supposed to be) the expert. However, after realizing that she gave me other information about the military that was clearly incorrect, I decided to check this assertion on the internet. So far I have found nothing that makes this eligibility vs. benefit distinction. Every reference to military time toward retirement simply states that if you buy back your time, it counts. Seems like if there was an important distinction like this, it would have been mentioned in the 5 or 6 articles I read about the topic. On the other hand, I have not read anything that explicitly refutes her claim either. Hence why I am here looking for a definitive answer.
Ed Zurndorfer  
#2 Posted : Monday, November 13, 2017 5:28:33 PM(UTC)

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Here is the definitive answer as coming from OPM's CSRS and FERS Retirement Handbook: Bought back military service - in your case 11 years - under FERS counts for both retirement eligibility purposes and for FERS annuity computation purposes. This means that if at age 57 you worked for 20 years under FERS and you bought back 11 years of military service, then you would be able to immediately retire (you have 31 years of service and you reached your minimum retirement age)and your FERS annuity would be computed based on 31 years of service and any unused sick leave.
#3 Posted : Tuesday, November 28, 2017 5:54:45 PM(UTC)

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Do note, however, that buyback service cannot be used to meet the five year minimum of creditable civilian service. In other words, the military service can be used to meet the balance of the 20 years (or 10 years or 30 years) for an optional retirement, but at least five years of service have to be civilian employment.

(See 41A1.1-2 B. Note 1 of the CSRS/FERS Retirement Handbook)
Ed Zurndorfer  
#4 Posted : Wednesday, November 29, 2017 2:55:11 AM(UTC)

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