I was prompted to write this after talking with a co-worker who is a retired Army officer and West Point graduate. In talking with him one day he told me he had bought four years of time for federal civil service retirement based on his Academy time.
Military members who go to work for civil service short of a 20 years active duty military retirement can buy years for civil service pension accrual purposes. Those getting a 20 year active duty military retirement or a 15 to 19 year early retirement under the Temporary Early Retirement Act (TERA) cannot buy civil service retirement years for those years in the military as a general rule unless they want to forfeit their military retirement.
One exception to this is time spent as a cadet or midshipman in the U.S. Naval Academy, U.S. Military Academy, U.S. Air Force Academy, or the U.S. Coast Guard Academy.
That time at an Academy can be bought for retirement time even if you are getting an active duty retirement since the time spent at an Academy is not counted as part of the military service retirement. It can also be bought along with one’s active duty years if you are not drawing a military retirement. Thus an Academy grad who left active duty after six years could buy ten years towards a civil service retirement.
For a retired military officer now working for the federal government it is a good deal since the cost you buy years at is based on what you were paid while at the Academy which is around what an E-4/ E-5 gets paid. Doing this usually pays for itself soon after one retires from civil service.
For additional information about this see Chapter 22 of the CSRS and FERS handbook and contact the HR office for the Agency you currently work at for the steps you must take.
For further information on crediting your military service academy time, contact your local HR office. If they need assistance, they can contact their headquarters level agency retirement counselor. A listing of agency headquarters retirement counselors and benefits officers may be found at: https://apps.opm.gov/abo/. If your headquarters counselor requires assistance, they may contact their liaison in OPM’s Benefits Officers Training and Development or send an inquiry to: [email protected].
Wayne L. Johnson served on active duty for 20 years, four as an Army Legal Clerk and 16 in the Navy’s Judge Advocate General’s Corps. Special thanks to the Benefits Officers Liaison and Development, Benefits Officers Training and Development, Retirement Services, Office of Personnel Management for providing material for this article.