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Retirement Planning

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#1 Posted : Friday, December 11, 2020 7:06:22 AM(UTC)

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This is turning out to be kinda long, but I wanted to share my experience in case anyone else is heading down this path. BLUF: most of the stuff I've read on the internet does not explain how difficult it may be to actually get credit for your active duty time even though you have all the orders and LES's.

There are three pieces to this: documenting your active duty time, getting an earnings estimate, and working with your agency's HR to get it all processed so you can make a payment, also called the "military deposit" which is the official term if you want to search the OPM and DFAS sites.

The active duty time covered by a DD214 was easy. For my other active duty time I had to show that it was Title 10 and performed "honorably." I had to get a letter (a "Statement of Service") from Army Human Resources Command to show this. This was a memo that was pretty much the same as my DA 5016, the retirement points record, with a couple added columns.

Getting the earnings estimate from DFAS was fairly straightforward, with a couple of caveats: first, their system is optimized to ingest data submitted by fax, and it is getting harder and harder to find a fax. Second, in these COVID times it takes much longer to get your estimate: the first one I got took a couple weeks, but the last one took over ten weeks to generate and it a month for me to get it once they put it in the mail (they said it was mailed 11/9 and I just got it 12/9).

I was able to request copies of missing LES's from DFAS; in many cases they could not provide an LES but instead provided an MMPA (whatever that stands for) showing what days I performed active duty for the entire year. HOWEVER if you are an "old guy" like me they can only go back to 1994. As a historical note, I discovered that prior to some date far too long ago to be of interest to anyone else, the Army Reserve pay system did not include active duty; instead a separate Army pay voucher was issued. DFAS would not accept these. Fortunately this was only a couple of lost weeks in my case but they would have been cheap to buy...

The irony of getting documents from DFAS only to send them back to DFAS to get an estimate was not lost on me. However nobody else found it amusing.

DFAS DID MAKE SOME ERRORS IN THE ESTIMATES!!! Check your earnings estimate carefully when you get it!

I took all this to my HR department and they were sticklers. In a couple of cases, the period in my earnings estimate did not line up exactly with my "Statement of Service" by a day. They would not accept this. You'd think it would be a simple matter to adjust it by a day or so (after all it is an "estimate"), they insisted on a new Statement of Service. HR would not accept any of the orders or LES's I had carefully assembled over the years, so I had to send them to Army HRC to get the estimate 'corrected.' Fortunately the guy there was willing to work with me to adjust things as needed.

Another issue I had with my HR was that they needed verification for the exact dates of duty, and it had to be on the Statement of Service (if not on a DD214). As an "old guy" I had service prior to 1994 that the Army HRC could not show exact dates for. No, my LES's and orders were not sufficient. Again I was fortunate that these did not amount to a large number of days.

Finally I got all the necessary corrections and took it all to HR. HR then sent it to Payroll so they could "verify" it. Eventually I got a number and I could make a payment to DFAS. I went to a local DFAS office to make by payment by check; I've read you can also do it online using pay.gov but I have not tried that.

But the process is still not totally done... my HR/Payroll STILL needs a "Paid in Full" letter from DFAS (and the receipt DFAS gave me wasn't sufficient). So I am still waiting for all of my time to actually show up in my civilian pension estimate.

That's my story. Hope it is of use to someone. A lot of the problems may be unique to my situation because I started my civilian service many years after completing much of the active duty I wanted to get credit for.

A couple of tips:
- Make sure you are using the latest version of the OPM RI20-97 form when requesting your estimate. The form only has lines for a few sets of dates, so if you need to list more dates, just use more forms.
- It may help to include promotion orders when requesting the estimate from DFAS
- Use the DFAS fax cover sheet generator at the website listed on the RI20-97 form. It will generate a confirmation email when your paper is loaded into the system, usually a couple hours after you fax it in.

Every time I post on this topic some other people say it was really easy for them and I must be a dolt. Good for you. But if you have any specific questions feel free to PM me.

DISCLAIMER: You read it on an open internet forum :)
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#2 Posted : Monday, December 28, 2020 4:29:32 PM(UTC)
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Glad you were able to get it worked out. It can be complicated for Reservists. Our Payroll guy had to request the Paid in Full Letter from DFAS. Once you get that, make sure it gets uploaded to your eOPF. You will need it when you file for retirement as a Civilian. Make sure they recalculate your SCD correctly, too.
#3 Posted : Wednesday, December 30, 2020 11:10:41 AM(UTC)

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Great to see you got it done. I had to do it twice in 32 years,that was besides Basic Training. All three times times I never had any issue. My was National Guard time, Presidential orders My only issue was they added annual leave to me for the time bought back. I had 438hrs and it was the last pay period, it pushed me over to 471 with two days to use it! Everyone one said ah that sucks, Post Master made calls Union made calls nothing. I made a call to the Military buy back people, they said this happens all the time we will put it back next PP. Done!
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