Calculating 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 Reserve/Guard pension then let me repeat the questions & answers so that you can confirm your own math. If you’ve had a different experience, please post about it in the comments!  I’ve read the references and checked them with an expert, but I haven’t personally gone through the process.

When you’re in the Reserves or Guard, your time toward a pension is credited on two factors: the number of points you build up, and the number of “good years” you’ve completed. You accumulate points for drill weekends, active duty periods, and some special circumstances like online/correspondence courses or funeral honors detail. Each service is a little different in their point calculations– for example a Navy Reserve drill weekend awards two points per day because a Reserve weekend counts for four drill points.

Earning Points

Points accumulate from both active duty and the Reserve/Guard system. Each day of active duty counts as one point. Each drill counts as one point, as do the days of active duty in the Reserve/Guard for training or mobilizations. It’s possible to get points for other purposes but they’re generally limited. (It’s 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.)

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.

Good Year

A “good year” ensures that you show up each year for a certain minimum amount of work. Again each service has their individual requirements, but generally 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. You may be required to earn a certain minimum number of points within 12 months, and to maintain your mobilization readiness (like completing the medical checklists). When you do that, you’re credited with your “good year”.

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”.

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  1. Reply Minnie June 12, 2015 at 10:31 AM

    I will turn 60 in February 2016. Do I need to do anything before then to initiate my retirement pay?

    • Reply Doug Nordman June 14, 2015 at 5:54 AM

      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

  2. Reply Bob Waters May 20, 2015 at 7:37 AM

    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

  3. Reply Traitcurious March 28, 2015 at 4:19 AM

    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.

    • Reply Doug Nordman March 28, 2015 at 6:17 PM

      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.

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