What You Need To Know About National Guard Retirement

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National Guard Retirement

Retiring from the Reserves or National Guard is more flexible than retiring from active duty. In the vast majority of cases, your retirement is based on at least 20 good years of service.  (A “good year” requires a certain minimum number of points or days of drill or active duty as well as complying with other readiness requirements.)

You’ll be tracking these years as you complete the minimum annual requirements, and after you reach 20 years, our service will formally notify you with a letter of eligibility.

National Guard Early Retirement

Under the Temporary Early Retirement Authority (TERA), Full-time Guardsmen may become eligible for a retirement earlier than 20 years. In June of 2016, Army Secretary Eric Flannigan signed a directive to expand the TERA program to encompass National Guard Soldiers.

TERA is now available for Guardsmen serving under Title 32. While not an entitlement, early retirement is an option for those officers overlooked for promotion or enlisted personnel being involuntary separated.

TERA allows Guardsmen with at least 15 but fewer than 20 years of active service to receive the same benefits as those who retire with 20 or more years of service. Those who elect the option have their retirement pay reduced accordingly

According to the directive, Army Directive 2016-27, the following soldiers may request TERA in lieu of involuntary separation, involuntary release from active duty, or involuntary release from active service. All affected soldiers must have at least 15 years but less than 20 years of service.

  • Officers who twice were not selected for promotion and whose names are not on a list of officers recommended for promotion.
  • Officers who were selected for continuation on active duty by a selection board but were not subsequently promoted or continued on active duty and who are not on a list of officers recommended for continuation or promotion to the next higher grade.
  • Officers who have been selected for discharge by an Officer Separation Board.
  • Army National Guard and Army Reserve officers serving in the Active Guard and Reserve Program who were selected for continuation on the reserve active-status list but were not subsequently promoted or continued on the reserve active-status list, and are not on a list of officers recommended for continuation or promotion to the next higher reserve grade.
  • Army National Guard and Army Reserve officers in the AGR Program who were twice not selected for promotion and whose names are not on a list of officers recommended for promotion.
  • Army National Guard and Army Reserve officers in the AGR Program who, pursuant to selection by an AGR Release From Active Duty (REFRAD) Board or Active Service Management Board (ASMB), have been selected to be involuntarily released from the AGR Program.
  • Warrant officers who twice were not selected for promotion to the next higher regular warrant officer grade.
  • Warrant officers who were selected for continuation on active duty by a selection board but were not subsequently promoted or continued on active duty, and are not on a list of warrant officers recommended for continuation or promotion to the next higher regular grade.
  • Army National Guard and Army Reserve warrant officers serving in the AGR Program who, pursuant to selection by an AGR REFRAD Board or ASMB, have been selected to be involuntarily released from the AGR Program.
  • Army Reserve warrant officers in the AGR Program in the grades of CW2 and CW3 who have not been selected for promotion for the second time, and whose names are not on a list of officers recommended for promotion.
  • Enlisted soldiers who were selected to be involuntarily separated as a result of a Qualitative Service Program.
  • Enlisted soldiers in the AGR Program who were selected to be involuntarily released from active duty or active service as a result of an AGR REFRAD Board or ASMB.

Reduced Age Retirement

Some members of the Guard may be eligible for a retirement earlier than 20 years.The current legislation (passed in mid-2016) reduces the age 60 retirement requirement by three months for every 90 consecutive days of mobilization for war or national emergency.

In other words, a Reservist volunteering to deploy to the desert for a year would now 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 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.

Visit HRC’s website for more information about Retirement Early Age Drops

When you’re eligible to retire, you may still prefer to stay as long as you can. You may be successfully balancing the military with your civilian career and your family and you might be able to continue your routine for years.

The money may not be much, but it can greatly boost your tax-deferred savings. Military pay offers another stream of income to serve as insurance against civilian layoffs and may also augment necessary skills in a civilian career.

Some Guardsmen will even work in unpaid billets that only offer retirement points, in hopes of later qualifying for a paid billet or earning a promotion. As your family situation permits you may be able to kickstart your military career with advanced schools, special programs, or extended active-duty mobilizations.

In metropolitan areas with a large military presence, it’s not unusual to serve with many Guard members in their late 40s or even mid-50s.

Of course, you’ll have to balance your interest in staying with the prospect of mobilizing and deploying every few years.

Another issue, perhaps a minor one, is time in rank.  The service requirement to retire at your current rank is generally three years (since the date of promotion, not selection!).  Keep an eye on your service policies, because when the services are trying to cut their end strength it’s not unusual for this requirement to be reduced to two years.

National Guard Retirement

Nationa Guard Retirement is even simpler than an active duty retirement.  (This link summarizes the requirements.)  The twenty-year letter of eligibility has already certified that the member is eligible to retire, and their retirement request sets the date.

If a retiring Guardsmen is actually on active duty (mobilized) at the time of their retirement then separation procedures are executed just as for any demobilization.

If a Guardsmen is not on active duty then there is no DD-214, no medical/dental examination, and no other paperwork. They’re transferred to “retired awaiting pay” status, they’re issued a “gray” ID card, and they wait for age 60. At age 59½ another round of verification paperwork is completed and the pension begins six months later.

National Guard Retired Awaiting Pay

The Department of Defense wants Guardsmen to request retirement instead of resigning. One difference is that personnel “retired awaiting pay” could hypothetically be mobilized, although that has not happened in decades. (It would require a full mobilization for a Congressionally-approved war, which is broader than the Presidential mobilization declared after 9/11.)

Another difference is that requesting retirement keeps Guardsmen on the pay seniority list. At age 60, the years of annual pay raises and longevity increases will be applied to your first pension check, which will be based on the latest pay tables and the maximum longevity at that rank.

A resigning Guard member will not receive any of those increases, so the cost of avoiding mobilization is a retirement frozen at the pay tables in effect at resignation– which by age 60 may be decades old and without any pay raises or longevity increases.

The Reserve Survivor Benefit Plan

The Survivor Benefit Plan is an important consideration for “retired awaiting pay” status. You may be waiting for the pension benefit for over two decades, and if you don’t make it to age 60 then you may want to ensure that some of your pension is still available to your surviving loved ones.

Retirees can elect SBP coverage during the years between retiring and reaching age 60. No premiums are paid during this time, and if you don’t make it to age 60 then at least your survivors will still receive their SBP payments.

However, if you do celebrate your 60th birthday then you’re required to pay the next two years of SBP premiums (deducted from your pension payment) to recover the cost of your insurance during those years between retiring and reaching age 60. After paying two years of premiums the retiree has the option to decline SBP or to continue with it under the same rules as active-duty retirees.

You can determine the amount of your pension using this retirement calculator or this one.

Health Insurance While Retired Awaiting Pay

You do not have any subsidized military healthcare when you’re retired awaiting pay. Tricare will start at age 60 and Medicare/Tricare For Life will start at age 65, but Reservists/NG awaiting a pension will need to buy other health insurance. Healthcare benefits may be one reason that some Reserves/NG continue to drill well into their 50s, although that should not be the only reason to continue to serve.

In late 2009 Congress authorized “Tricare Retired Reserve“, which began in fall 2010.  It’s intended to offer a version of Tricare Standard to retired National Guard who are still under age 60. The program is not subsidized by the government and fees are quite high compared to other Tricare premiums. $400-$1000 per month may even be higher than some civilian healthcare programs, but this program offers the first “gray area” coverage between retirement and age 60.  I’ll cover the details in the next post.

The program is not subsidized by the government and fees are quite high compared to other Tricare premiums. $400-$1000 per month may even be higher than some civilian healthcare programs, but this program offers the first “gray area” coverage between retirement and age 60.  I’ll cover the details in the next post.

Keep in mind that no matter what version of Tricare you choose, it does not include dental insurance.  Most military retirees pay for their own dental insurance and dental care.

Guard Pension Starts At Age 60

One of the biggest advantages of the Guard is having an inflation-adjusted pension by age 60. It’s paid by one of the world’s most credible financial institutions, or at least one with the power to raise revenue by taxation.

A civilian retiree, if they even have a pension, may not only have to wait years– but they may also have to worry that the company won’t survive to pay the “guaranteed” pension. A military pension is even more highly rated than an insurance company’s annuity, and you don’t have to worry whether the insurance company will be able to make good on its future claim.

The future is never certain, but a military pension is as close as you can get to a guaranteed stream of income at a known date.

The key to retirement as a Guardsmen is planning your retirement finances around multiple streams of income. By the time you request retirement (awaiting pay), you’ll have several different forms of savings. In addition to the pension at age 60, you’ll also have your military Thrift Savings Plan account, as well as personal IRAs and taxable investments.

If you’re in the federal civil service then you’ll have a second TSP account. If you’re employed by a corporation then you’ll probably have another tax-deferred savings account (a 401(k)) as well as other forms of deferred compensation. And if you’re self-employed there are several other ways to save through tax-deferred accounts.

When a Guard pension is in your future, your early-retiree challenge is to live off your savings until the tax-deferred accounts are available and until the pension starts. The advantage of the pension is its known starting date, its inflation adjustment, and its high probability of payment.

Your other savings may only have to bridge the gap between your retirement request and the start of your pension. You won’t have to worry about outliving your personal portfolio– only about making it last until the pension begins.

In addition to spending down your taxable accounts, you can also tap your tax-deferred accounts if necessary, and under some conditions even without penalty. If savings won’t stretch to cover the whole gap between retiring and receiving a pension, then annual income can be augmented from part-time work or a civilian bridge career.

The planning and calculations may seem complicated or even overwhelming, but today’s retirement-planning software is tremendously flexible at projecting multiple streams of income over an entire retirement.  We’ll cover more details and a “multiple streams of income” example in a later post.

Related articles:
Reserves and National Guard
Mobilizing with the Reserves and National Guard
The “Military Articles” section of the Recommended reading tab

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I retired in 2002 after 20 years in the Navy's submarine force. I wrote "The Military Guide to Financial Independence and Retirement" to share the stories of over 50 other financially independent servicemembers and veterans.

104 Comments
  1. Reply
    Stephanie Heumann January 16, 2017 at 11:59 AM

    Hello,

    With my combined Active duty and Guard time I have 9 yrs total service. I will be 51 next month. I went back into the Air Guard in June 2013 and was told I just made it to get 20 good years in by age 60. My les shows a payday of 070510 with 9 years. How can I tell if I would actually get a retirement since I would be 61 before my 20 yrs are up?

    Thank you,

    Stephanie H.

    • Reply
      Doug Nordman January 18, 2017 at 9:42 AM

      Stephanie,

      You’re protected by federal law, but you’re also going to have to request an extension in your status past age 60.

      First, please check your Air National Guard drill records to make sure that you indeed have nine good years. Sometimes mistakes are made at the local or national level, and you want to be absolutely sure that the ANG national database has everything you’ve earned. Good years are not just based on points. Good years also depend on mobilization readiness (dental/medical), being within physical standards (height/weight and the physical fitness test), and perhaps satisfactorily completing annual active duty. Even if you have enough points to qualify for a good year the unit still has to attest to the personnel center that you met the standards to receive a good year. If that unit confirmation doesn’t get into the ANG database then although you may have enough points for a good year, you won’t have the credit for a good year.

      It’s far easier to correct those records now than a decade from now. Keep good records of your drill musters and your active duty and make sure the official database gives you credit for everything you’ve done– and then gives you credit for a good year.

      If you have nine good years in your record today, then you’ll need 11 more good years to qualify for a Reserve/Guard retirement. Since you’re 50 years old with nine good years, that means when you get the 11 more good years you’ll be 61 years old.

      Federal law says that when you reach 18 years of service then you’re entitled (protected) to stay on active duty status (drilling) until you reach 20 years (good years) of service. Here are the sections of federal law for enlisted and officer ranks:
      https://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/10/1176
      https://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/10/12646

      Although Reserve/Guard pensions normally start at age 60 (or a few months earlier for some mobilizations), you’ll have to stay in a drill status past age 60 to earn the last couple good years. That requires an age waiver for you to stay up through age 62. This could be what you were told in June 2013, but they may have meant that you just made the age deadline to qualify for your pension. Make sure you get that waiver to stay in a drill status past age 60, because it doesn’t happen automatically. Here’s one cautionary tale:
      http://cjonline.com/news/2014-11-28/reservists-request-stay-military-past-retirement-age-denied

      Next time you’re at the drill weekend or on a military base, I strongly recommend that you talk to a JAG lawyer about your good years, your broken service, your age, and your need for an age waiver. When you submit the waiver, make sure you know who’s approved it and that it’ll be completed on time.

      I’m not sure what you mean by “My LES shows a payday of 070510 with 9 years.” That could be referring to the number of pay months that DFAS has in their records for your longevity on the pay tables. It’s not the same as your ANG record of your number of good years. The LES is not the reference document for retirement eligibility. That can only come from the ANG record of your good years, because that’s what’s used to generate your Notice Of Eligibility letter for your pension.

      I hope this clarifies the rules! Please let me know if that answers your questions or if there are other issues.

  2. Reply
    yttelv@gmail.com November 30, 2016 at 1:23 PM

    If I have to leave the service (AGR-Army Guard) at 17 years active duty because of RCP. Do I qualify for TERA?

    thank you for your time.

    Val

    • Reply
      Doug Nordman December 2, 2016 at 12:28 AM

      Val, while you’d technically qualify for TERA, and although it’s in effect through 2018, the program is not generally offered by the services.

      If you end up facing separation at 17 years then you should apply for TERA and let the Guard decide. You may also be allowed to extend to get to at least 18 (good) years of service, which (under federal law) would enable you to be continued to 20 good years.

  3. Reply
    Hector A Garcia November 2, 2016 at 2:21 AM

    I retired from Army reserve on retired reserve status and never received and retirement certificate or flag, where can I contact to get this that I entitled?

    • Reply
      Doug Nordman November 3, 2016 at 5:06 PM

      Great question, Hector!
      If you’re near a military base (of any service) you could contact their Retiree Activities Office. They’ll put you in touch with the Army’s regional support command.

      If you’re not near a military base then contact the Army’s Retirement Services Officer through this site:
      https://soldierforlife.army.mil/retirement/blog/332

  4. Reply
    Derrick Justice August 28, 2016 at 3:13 PM

    I have a toral of 21 years of service between the Army National Guard , Army Reserves but ETS before i could submit retire but unit has been demolished due to budget costs and personnel. Who do i contact with this matter?

    • Reply
      Doug Nordman August 30, 2016 at 6:19 AM

      Derrick, the best approach is contacting the Army’s HRC headquarters or the armory nearest you.

      The Army should have a full record of your service as well as your retirement eligibility. However you should be ready to provide all of your DD-214s and anything else that will document your point count and good years. It’s possible that records weren’t correctly shared between the NG and the Reserves.

      Here are two links to get you started:
      https://g1arng.army.pentagon.mil/Pages/Default.aspx
      https://www.hrc.army.mil/

  5. Reply
    Jack brooks August 16, 2016 at 3:34 PM

    Can anyone help me i have tried to get in contact with the phone numbers the guard gave me when i retired in dec2011 but none of the numbers are good. I was told i would be contacted 6 months prior to turning 60. It is now close to 60 days and i have heard from none nore am i recieving any help buy the numbers im calling they keep giving me another number that either doesnt answer the phone and the voice mail is full. Is there anyone that can help me. Thank you

  6. […] Need To Know For The FY 2016 Army MAVNI Program Calculating A Reserve Retirement Retiring From The Reserves & National Guard How Many Years Does It Take To Become […]

  7. Reply
    Lonnie Crose August 8, 2016 at 5:20 PM

    I have a combined 18 good years with the Army and Air Force Reserves. I have 20 years total but 2 years are under the 50 point minimum. When I get 20 good years can I submit my retirement package or do I have to wait for the 20 year letter? I want to retire as soon as I can because it is really causing problems in my civilian job and home life.

    • Reply
      Doug Nordman August 10, 2016 at 8:48 AM

      Great question, Lonnie!

      First, contact your local Air Force Reserve center to make sure that they have a record of your Army Reserve points as well as your AF Reserve points. (Other readers report that this has been a problem.) Next you’ll want to check how many good years they have on your record. For example, you may have been short of 50 drill points during a year but your 15 participation points may have put you over the 50-point threshold for a good year.

      Once you reach 20 good years, request your Notice Of Eligibility from the Reserve center. They may need a few months to audit your record(s) and confirm the 20 good years. Once you’re sure that you have 20 good years then you could reschedule drills or even take an authorized absence from drills until your retirement date. You’ll want to wait until you have the NOE letter before you apply for retirement.

      Keep in mind that once you leave drill status (even for one day in the IRR) you’ll lose your eligibility for Tricare Reserve Select health insurance.

  8. Reply
    Les Hinton June 6, 2016 at 10:13 AM

    I will be 60 next year and will only have 18 years and 2 months combined active duty and reserve time. I have paperwork being processed to stay past 60 but have not yet heard back on that. My question is will I be able to draw a partial retirement of I am not able to get my good 20 years in.

    • Reply
      Doug Nordman June 7, 2016 at 3:01 PM

      Great question, Les.

      The good news is that you’ll have 18+ years by the time you reach age 60, and federal law does not allow separating servicemembers with more than 18 years of service. The intent of that law is to allow serving until vested in the pension.

      The “other” news is that TERA is not currently being offered by the services, but it’s still an option at their discretion through 2018. If your 22-month age waiver is not approved then you should apply for TERA. You’d still have over 85% of the Reserve/Guard pension that you’d normally receive at 20 years of service. Better yet, your retirement will have an inflation-fighting cost of living adjustment plus Tricare.

      Your sustained superior performance will probably be critical to the approval of the age waiver.

  9. Reply
    vicki henderson June 3, 2016 at 10:09 AM

    I served 14 years active duty and 6 years in the national guard. I received my 20 year letter. I began working for the postal service and “bought back” my 14 years of active duty towards my postal service retirement. For example have 12 years actual with the postal service but 26 years on the books due to the buy back option. My question is, how does this affect my retirement through the national guard when I reach age 60? Will I received retirement pay for only my 6 years served in national guard or for the full 20 years of military service.

    • Reply
      Doug Nordman June 3, 2016 at 4:10 PM

      Great question, Vicki– the good news is that you’ll receive your full National Guard pension at age 60.

      You’ve paid for your military service credit deposit for your years of active duty. The law which allows you to do that also makes an exception for Reserve/Guard retirements, because you’ve earned that on your own and haven’t bought it as a credit. The details are in Chapter 22 of the FERS Handbook:
      https://www.opm.gov/retirement-services/publications-forms/csrsfers-handbook/

      • Reply
        Vicki Henderson June 4, 2016 at 2:34 AM

        I guess what I am asking is it “beneficial” for me to buy back my military time. I have 14 YEARS ACTIVE DUTY and 6 YEARS NATIONAL GUARD time for a total of 20 YEARS OF MILITARY SERVICE. Do I lose the 6 years of national guard time if I buy back my 14 years of active duty time. I suppose I am a little confused as to what happens to the 6 years for national guard time since the time spent in the guard after the buy back would be less than 20 years.

        • Doug Nordman June 4, 2016 at 11:18 AM

          I understand what you’re asking, and I realize that it looks too good to be true. But this is one of those rare times when you get both benefits. Your question has been asked before, and it’s not easy to find the answer, but the answer is that you get both your full civil-service pension and your full Guard pension.

          The reason you get both is because you paid a lot of money to the civil-service system to buy additional retirement credit. Because you spent your own money for that, you still retain your military retirement credit. You still have 20 good years of National Guard service, and your Notice of Eligibility letter (your 20 year letter) is still valid. If you haven’t already, you can still apply for “retired awaiting pay” for your Guard pension.

          The civil-service pension buyback rules are different for military active-duty retirements and Guard/Reserve retirements. If you had retired from active duty (not the Guard) and then bought back your military service credit toward your USPS pension, then you would have been required to give up your active duty pension. (This is generally a bad deal.) However you’re qualified for a Guard pension, and when you buy your military service credit the civil-service rules do not require you to give up your Guard pension.

          Your Guard retirement is under Chapter 1223 of federal law (10 U.S.C. 12731). The specific rule from the civil-service handbook (that link in my last response) is section 22A4.1-1 (Receipt of Military Retired Pay) in the text set off by the carats: “In determining eligibility for CSRS retirement or in estimating the amount of annuity for an employee (special rules for survivors of employees who die in service are covered in Chapter 70), who receives military retired or retainer pay, do not give credit for any military service at the date of separation for civilian retirement unless one of the following is true.
          […]
          2. The employee is receiving military retired pay that was awarded:
          • On account of a service-connected disability incurred in combat with an enemy of the United States; or
          • On account of a service-connected disability caused by an instrumentality of war and incurred in the line of duty during a period of war; or
          > • Under the provisions of 10 U.S.C. 12731-12739 (Chapter 1223) which grants retired pay to members of reserve components of the armed forces on the basis of age and service (active and reserve). <"

  10. Reply
    Thomas Jazdzewski April 16, 2016 at 3:27 AM

    I am currently 50 y/o and I am awaiting to receive my military pension after serving in the Michigan Army National Guard for 21 years. My question is…..How and where do i obtain a copy of the National Guard Retirement Pay calculator? Can I have a hardcopy one sent to my home address; as everytime I attempt to open a Retirement Calculator link on different military websites, it indicates “No Access” to the site? Frustrating.

    Another question I have is, how do I find out if my records are on file with the National Guard-Lansing, Michigan, and who do I contact to find this information out? I don’t want to get to age 58-59 submit my Eligibility to Receive Retirement Pay forms, and I’m then told, there’s no record on file for me???

    Where do you recommend I start? Thanks

    • Reply
      Doug Nordman April 17, 2016 at 11:49 AM

      Good question, Thomas, and we get it a lot! You can calculate your pension right here using one of the blog’s most popular posts:
      http://the-military-guide.com/calculating-a-reserve-retirement/
      If you want a second check then feel free to e-mail me your inputs.

      The online calculators have generally moved behind the service’s firewalls, requiring a CAC login or a DoD account. I think the reason for the move is so that they can access your point count records directly to make sure you have at least 20 good years. However it makes access difficult for IRR servicemembers and gray area retirees.

      The best place to start with a service verification is the state adjutant:
      https://www.hrc.army.mil/TAGD/Verify%20National%20Guard%20Service
      You might also find a better e-mail address or phone number through a unit website:
      http://minationalguard.com/

  11. Reply
    Ruth March 22, 2016 at 10:52 AM

    I was in the Army National Guard, have 22 good years of military service and received my 20 year letter. Then I transferred to the Army Reserves. Due to inactivity I was transferred to the Inactive Ready Reserve. I am approaching age 60 this year and want to apply for my military retirement. To date I have not received any information regarding my retirement at age 60. I have attempted to contact the Reserves to get help with this process but so far nothing. Where should I start to get help with this?

    • Reply
      Doug Nordman March 24, 2016 at 5:17 PM

      Congratulations on your retirement, Ruth!

      A frequent cause of this problem could be that the Army Reserve is not aware of your National Guard pension eligibility. The Guard may have transferred all of their responsibilities for your pay record over to the Reserve HQ, who may not realize that you’re ready to start your pension.

      Start by forwarding your Guard “Notice of Eligibility” (20-year letter) to Reserve HRC headquarters. (https://www.hrc.army.mil/TAGD/Reserve%20Component%20Retirements) Use that website’s mailing address and phone number to make sure they have your current address and bank info to do the paperwork and start the deposits.

  12. Reply
    Doug Nordman February 26, 2016 at 4:57 AM

    Thanks for your question, Stephanie. This conversation goes a lot better when it’s started by the person who misses the military, although I appreciate that spouses are concerned– or even tired of being driven nuts by the problem.

    The short answer is “No, you can’t return to active duty.” In this case it’s due to age, although all the services have experimented with waivers up through the late 30s. Some retirees have returned to active duty for short stints of 30-90 days for unusual skills like trauma surgeon or electrical utility grid operation in a battle zone. Other times it could be for a few months developing a special program or research project. Although the answer is usually “No”, if he has a unique skill then he can always ask the command or person who needs that skill and let that sponsor help with the waivers.

    Another idea is serving the military in another capacity. Contact your local base’s Retired Activities Office, volunteer with a JROTC program at a high school, volunteer as a candidate guidance officer for students considering a service academy, or work with a veteran’s organization like MOAA.

    Another idea is volunteer service. Look into disaster recovery with Team Rubicon, or helping with a local wounded warrior program, or volunteering with almost any other community non-profit organization. The key is to figure out what he really misses (leading a group? military camaraderie? mentoring and training?) and then find a way to do it without the military uniform.

    A final suggestion is Ernie Zelinski’s Get-A-Life Tree. You can find the form at this link: http://bestretirementquotes.blogspot.com/2009/10/get-life-tree-great-retirement-planning.html (and Mr. Zelinski wrote an outstanding book about it, too). Use it to jumpstart your thoughts and find creative answers that are way better than doing what you’ve always done before. This can also be used by couples and families to come up with shared activities.

    I’ve had a copy of the Get-A-Life Tree on my desk for nearly 14 years, but frankly I’ve been too busy to make the time to fill it out. I don’t want to get back in to the military, but I’ve found my own way to continue to pay it forward and mentor while I enjoy the camaraderie. When I’m not writing or talking with military & families, then I surf a lot, too!

  13. Reply
    Stephanie February 23, 2016 at 7:23 AM

    My husband retired from the USMC with 20 years active duty (LtCol) and is receiving his retirement. He misses it so much. He is 48. Is there a way for him to get back in? I know he would be happier serving than just receiving a check every month.

  14. Reply
    Doug Nordman February 11, 2016 at 6:46 AM

    Thanks for asking the question, Bill!

    The best answer is “Call your local recruiter.” The issue is that you’re considering this during a military drawdown, and you’d also need an age waiver. The recruiter might be able to suggest ANG duties or projects that you could join. That depends on what type of service & camaraderie you’re seeking, and what openings they have.

  15. Reply
    Bill February 8, 2016 at 4:40 PM

    I retired in February 2013 after 31 years of service, I’m in a non pay retired status. I miss serving. I’m 50 years old how can I reenter the Air Natiobal Guard

  16. Reply
    Doug Nordman January 12, 2016 at 4:01 PM

    You’re welcome– I’m happy to help!

  17. Reply
    Valerie January 11, 2016 at 5:00 PM

    Doug, thanks so much for your reply and for the website for the pension calculation. This is very helpful. BUPERS did call me back and they explained that the ball is in DFAS’s court. I figured I may not see the pension before 1 March and understand that unfortunately this is not out of the norm. I’m satisfied that I have done all that I can, but will call them in a week or so as BUPERS suggested to get an update on the processing. Again, I appreciate your guidance!

  18. Reply
    Doug Nordman January 5, 2016 at 8:23 PM

    I’m sorry to hear about DFAS’ slow processing, Valerie.

    I don’t have any other points of contact for you. From what I’ve seen before, I think DFAS is moving as fast as usual. Most Reservists retire years short of their 60th birthday and DFAS has rarely needed to move quickly in their retirement processing.

    If DFAS finishes their processing by 15 January then you could receive your first pension deposit on 1 February. However it’s more likely that they’ll use the rest of January and your first deposit will come on 1 March. The “good” news is that you’ll be paid all the way back to the amount that you were originally supposed to receive after your 60th birthday (on 1 December). The other news is that you may end up with a corrected 1099-R for 2015 before DFAS is finished with your pension processing.

    If you haven’t already read this post, it helps you with the pension calculation:
    http://the-military-guide.com/2012/06/02/calculating-a-reserve-retirement/

  19. Reply
    Valerie January 4, 2016 at 10:22 AM

    I retired from the Navy Reserve on my 60th birthday in November 2015. I received my Retirement Order and Transfer Authorization To Retired Reserve Status With Pay For Non-Regular Service on my 60th birthday. Along with that paperwork I received retirement certificates from Chief Naval Personnel and POTUS, along with a flag. Very nice and much appreciated. However, as of today, 01/04/16, I have not received my first pension paycheck. I called DFAS and they said the Navy had sent them some paperwork the end of November, but the Navy did not send it electronically (as is often the custom). Therefore, someone has to enter all the information into the document DFAS requires by hand, which is apparently time-consuming. DFAS said I could call back in 2 – 3 weeks to check on the progress. From speaking to the DFAS person, the onus is on the Navy to complete the processing of my paperwork and get it to DFAS.

    Question: Is there somebody else whom I should contact to get some information on my retirement pay, other than DFAS? I did try to call BUPERS this morning but the best they could do was redirect me to someone’s voice mail, which indicated that I probably wouldn’t hear back before the next 48 hours.

    I only want to know exactly how much I will receive in retirement (I do have an estimate), and when I can expect to receive it.

  20. Reply
    Doug Nordman December 31, 2015 at 5:05 PM

    Derrick, it’s generally permitted by law (if you meet the requirements) and you can always ask for waivers, but the military is in a drawdown and there may only be limited opportunities.

    I’d recommend contacting a recruiter to see what’s available.

  21. Reply
    Derrick December 29, 2015 at 3:39 AM

    I am a Gray Area Retiree, as of Apr 15. Is it possible for me to unretire and become a drilling reservist or m-day soldier again?

  22. Reply
    steve December 3, 2015 at 4:35 PM

    I have a buddy who was in the Navy for just below 4 years. He got out and joined the ANG. He retired from the ANG and was placed in the “RAP” system. During his time in the ANG he went to sand land and got injured. It was documented in the paperwork and in his medical file. It’s been 2.5 years since he retired and now his old injury is acting up and he is in pain. He went to the VA and because he does not have a DD214 or any letter or paper work from his unit they told him he was wasting his time and they will not help him. He has his medical records and showed it to them but because he is “RAP”, no DD or other they will not touch him. Is there any thing that he can do?

    • Reply
      Doug Nordman December 5, 2015 at 8:18 PM

      Steve, if your buddy has retired then he has a retiree ID card and a retiree record in the ANG system. He can obtain his latest DD214 from the archives (https://www.archives.gov/veterans/military-service-records/). He might also be able to get a copy from his last ANG unit or the ANG personnel HQ.

      He can also get much more help with the VA by contacting a Veteran Services Officer with a local vets group like the DAV, MOAA, American Legion, VFW, or IAVA.

  23. Reply
    Doug Nordman November 29, 2015 at 9:32 AM

    Kelly, responding to your 28 Nov comment below:

    The recruiters have quotas, and they’re trying to find people for the biggest career fields with the lowest retention. If you’re qualified for (and interested in) a mainstream warfighting community like infantry, artillery, ships, submarines, flying, or missile officer then there maybe be openings. The smaller, more specialized support communities may already be fully staffed.

    Another key could be signing up during off-peak times like January-March instead of the huge graduation season in June and the smaller one in December.

    It’s quite possible that you’re talking with the wrong people. However if they’re focused on filling the urgent openings (and you’re not) then they may not be interested in talking with you. You could try another recruiter in another district or even another service. Another option would be finding someone on active duty in the field you’re seeking who could advise you on finding a position.

  24. […] Doug Nordman, The-Military-Guide […]

    • Reply
      Kelly Conflicted November 27, 2015 at 5:44 PM

      Hi Doug,

      I want to go into the service and go the full twenty, if possible. I’m looking at Active Duty Officer or an Air NG Dual Status Technician position. I’ve read a lot on both, and I’m most confused about the retirement… Techs get Federal Employee Retirement AND military retirement through ANG? Would that be a better move stability-wise in today’s world rather than trying to make twenty in Active Duty with the downsizing? Seems to good to be true….what am I missing? Your thoughts and opinions are greatly appreciated, sir.

      • Reply
        Doug Nordman November 28, 2015 at 5:03 AM

        Great questions, Kelly!

        First I’d suggest finding a career field that interests you and signing up for one obligation. When you approach the end of your first active-duty obligation, that’s a much better time to decide whether you want to stay on active duty for 20 years. Your experience will help you decide whether to shift to the Reserves or the ANG.

        I would not make a career choice based on the pension options. Join the military for the personal challenge, to achieve your potential, to be a part of something bigger than yourself, and to work with incredible people. If you’re having fun and feeling fulfilled then you’ll reach 20 years and a pension as the icing on a well-earned cake. But if you join the military to spend 20 years earning the pension and realize that you don’t enjoy the daily experience, then you’re holding yourself to an unreasonable commitment which will affect your physical, mental, and emotional health.

        It’s possible to earn both a federal civil-service pension and a Reserve/Guard pension. I’m not familiar with the details of the dual status technician career, but it’s a very small program compared to all of the other ways to earn those pensions. You may find yourself competing for limited opportunities with very few options in location or type of work. However many military retirees find bridge careers with federal or state civil service (while collecting a military pension) and even more go on to do the same in civilian careers (when the corporation has a pension plan). Again, find careers that fulfill and interest you. Don’t make yourself a hostage to a pension plan– you can save enough assets to fund your own financial independence.

        Don’t base your choices on the downsizing, either. The media focuses on the 10%-15% of servicemembers who are leaving (or who are asked to leave) but the other 85%-90% are still on the job. The best way to stay in a military career is to find a challenging field that interests you and has room for you. Learn all you can and do the best job you can do. The military will always need people who are good at their jobs, good with a team, and good at leading teams. You’ll practice those skills every day when you’re enjoying the work.

        The real value of a federal pension is in its inflation-fighting COLA and cheap healthcare. But instead of depending on a federal pension to fund your retirement, make it part of a diversified plan. In addition to the COLA and longevity insurance offered by a federal pension, you can also reach a high savings rate. Build your own investments in passively-managed equity index funds (in your Roth TSP, your Roth IRA, and taxable accounts). When you can maintain a savings rate of 40% for about 16-20 years, then you’ll reach financial independence even without a federal pension.

        • Kelly Conflicted November 28, 2015 at 11:22 AM

          Thanks, Doug! My passion is definitely in Public Health and disease research. I have a Master’s in Public Health (3.85 GPA) and am all but dissertation for my PhD, but keep getting mixed messages from recruiters. I did my last 14 years as a police officer and loved the uniform nature of the job, but I want to apply my skillset to serve a broader population. I have passed the MEPS physical and have a current SECRET clearance, but still can’t seem to find an available active duty position other than going in enlisted, which is why I broadened my search to the NG. Am I talking to the wrong people, or is the military just that hard to get into nowadays?

          Thanks again for your time and assistance!!

  25. Reply
    Kelli Eddings August 17, 2015 at 11:27 AM

    I was in the Air National Guard for 22 years, the last two years were inactive due to medical issues. My CAC card was deactivated and I was not able to fill out the retirement paperwork, I was given an Honorable discharge. How can I get the paperwork filled out so I can take advantage of commissary and BX privileges.

    • Reply
      Doug Nordman August 18, 2015 at 7:31 AM

      Thanks for your comment, Kelli. I’m a little confused about your military status– and that might be a problem.

      If you were discharged from the Air National Guard before reaching retirement eligibility then you’re a military veteran, but without commissary or BX privileges. Congress has proposed awarding commissary and exchange privileges to veterans, but no laws have been passed.

      If you completed 20 good years with the ANG and have a Notice Of Eligibility letter that you’re eligible for retirement, then you may have retired from the ANG. However there are two types of Reserve/Guard retirements: retired awaiting pay (also known as “gray area”), and resigned (or separated or discharged).

      If you’re retired awaiting pay then you could talk to your local ANG unit or to the personnel office at your nearest military base. With your retirement orders and your DD-214, they should be able to issue you an ID card for base access (and commissary/BX access).

      If you were retired by being discharged then you will not be eligible for commissary/BX access until your pension starts, which for most Guard retirees is age 60.

  26. Reply
    Ralph Butera August 15, 2015 at 5:01 PM

    Sir,
    I have two questions- the first is about receipt of your first retirement check– if your birthday is the 10th, will you receive your first check on that date- or is it a prorated check received at the end of the month, then the next check on the FIRST.
    Second question- if there is an error on the direct deposit, how do you correct it
    Thanks

    • Reply
      Doug Nordman August 16, 2015 at 8:08 AM

      Thanks for your questions, Ralph! Everybody wonders about this.

      Military pensions (like military salaries) are paid in arrears. You’ll receive your first pension deposit on the 1st of the next month after your 60th birthday. As you suspect, it’ll be pro-rated. Subsequent pension payments will be deposited to your account on the 1st of the month. The reason that some of these deposits show up at the end of the previous month is because some financial institutions will credit your account a day or even two days sooner.

      Some Reserve/Guard servicemembers deployed to a combat zone after 28 January 2008 (or, in the Guard, for certain national emergencies). Their pension starts three months sooner for every 90 days in the combat zone during a fiscal year, and it’s paid under the same terms. However Tricare coverage still starts at age 60.

      Direct deposit information goes to the Defense Finance and Accounting Service through either your myPay account or by mailing in a form:
      http://www.dfas.mil/retiredmilitary/manage/direct-deposit.html

  27. Reply
    Deena Stanley August 4, 2015 at 1:45 PM

    Doug,
    I did 2 yrs as a Reservist prior to going Active, only one is a “good year”, followed by 6 years active. After a break in svc I reentered as a Reservist. I currently have 4 years of good reserve years after active duty. As I calculate it, I will turn 60 in Dec 2023 but will not have 20 yrs until Feb 2024. Will I be kicked out when I turn 60 or can I choose to stay an extra 2 months and retire after 60?

    • Reply
      Doug Nordman August 5, 2015 at 7:40 AM

      Thanks, Deena, great question!

      I’m not familiar with the age-limit rules for each service, but you’ll probably need a waiver from your service to do any drills or other point-earning activities after you turn age 60.

      A better option would be for you to complete all of your drills and AT before you turn 60 so that you qualify for a good year in 2023, even though the good year would not be awarded until after February 2024.

      You’d receive your Notice of Eligibility after February 2024 and immediately file for retirement. You’ll almost certainly have to work closely with your Reserve chain of command to make sure that there are no delays in determining your retirement eligibility and executing the process.

  28. Reply
    casper July 30, 2015 at 10:46 AM

    I am not sure how to start my retirement payments. I got my 20yr letter and filled out some paper work before I retired in 05. I will be 60 in OCT. 2015. I have not heard or gotten anything since then. Can you give some info on where to start.

    • Reply
      Doug Nordman July 31, 2015 at 7:29 AM

      Casper,

      The first place you could try is the personnel branch at your old Reserve/Guard unit. They’ll be able to look you up in the system and track the status.

      If you’re not near a military base (or a Reserve/Guard drill site) then you could e-mail or phone your service’s personnel HQ. You may need to send them a copy of your 20-year letter or your retirement application.

      Another option would be to contact the Defense Finance and Accounting Service. If your branch of the Reserve/Guard has already processed the paperwork correctly then DFAS will be able to check on your start date. The easiest way to check that (or to contact DFAS) is through a myPay account. If you don’t have a myPay account (or it won’t let you log in) then try contacting DFAS through these phone numbers:
      http://www.dfas.mil/retiredmilitary/about/aboutus/customer-service.html

  29. Reply
    Drillbit July 19, 2015 at 2:45 AM

    Doug,
    I’m an active USAR officer (meaning I’m drilling once a month) who is working on his 19th ‘good year’. I have 18 confirmed good years. I have one chance left to get promoted to the next rank next year after I’ll have completed my 19th good year. If I don’t get promoted I could get forced out for being passed over twice for promotion. Would I lose my reserve retirement at that point? If I was kicked out I would have 19 and 20 good years, but not the magic 20 good years.

    Thanks,
    Drillbit

    • Reply
      Doug Nordman July 20, 2015 at 5:24 AM

      Great poster name, Drillbit!

      I share your concern about selection– when I was on active duty, I was passed over twice and continued until 20 years.

      First, you should ask your personnel branch for the latest policy by your service secretary and chief of staff. (You’ll be working with personnel anyway to make sure your service record is complete and up-to-date.) I’m not familiar with every individual service change, especially those affecting the Reserves during the drawdown. There may already be a letter or instruction for the promotion board with guidance regarding those who fail to select.

      Second, if you’re not happy with the answers from your personnel branch, then consult a JAG for a review of federal law and Army policies.

      However I think you can depend on the Army to do the right thing and let you get to 20 for your Notice Of Eligibility… after a record review and possibly a continuation board.

      When the enlisted ranks reach 18 good years, they’re protected from discharge until reaching 20 years. (https://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/10/1176) Active-duty officers are also protected by federal law. (https://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/10/637) Until at least 2018, all of the services have the authority to use TERA to retire their active-duty members after 15 years.

      If you fail to promote for the second time then it’s likely that the Army will continue you to 20 good years, as long as you meet all of your unit’s drill and other performance requirements. It’s possible that you might be required to vacate your drill billet and transfer to the Individual Ready Reserve, but in the IRR you could continue with correspondence courses and other events to obtain enough points for a good year. To be safe, though, after the anniversary date for the end of your 19th year you should try to get your next batch of points as quickly as possible at the start of your 20th year.

      Please let us know what other instructions and policy you hear about!

  30. Reply
    sfchoosier July 16, 2015 at 2:33 AM

    What is the difference between “good” years for retirement and years for pay ? I have just over 20 verified “good” years and my 20 yr letter, but they keep telling me I have 25 years for pay, obviously I am curious if this will affect my pay when it begins in a couple years. Thanks for your help

    • Reply
      Doug Nordman July 17, 2015 at 9:21 AM

      SFCHoosier,

      When you reached 20 good years and retired awaiting pay, your service longevity continues to accrue on the pay tables as if you’ve been on active duty until your pension starts.

      This means that your retired pay will be calculated using the pay tables in effect when you reach the starting age for your Reserve/Guard pension (typically age 60) and at the service longevity as if you’d been on active duty up through that age.

      In your case, in 2015 you’re already considered to be over 25 years of service for pay purposes and you’ll go over 26 years of service next year. If your pension starts in 2017 and your retired rank is SFC, then DFAS will calculate your High Three pension’s pay base from the 2017 pay tables for the rank of E-7>26. That High Three average will be the average of the highest 36 months of pay for the pay tables of E-7>26 in 2017, E-7>26 in 2016, E-7>24 in 2015, and E-7>24 in 2014.

      Then your pension will be calculated from the formula:
      [High Three base pay average] x [# points] / 360 x 2.5%.

  31. Reply
    Pat Butler May 30, 2015 at 1:57 PM

    I requested my military records from the Military Personnel Records center and believe that when I was transferred to the IRR in 1994 I had 20+ years of service. I have had several others, who are knowledgeable in this area, look at my paper work and they agree. How can I get someone to review then officially and make a determination?

    • Reply
      Doug Nordman May 31, 2015 at 5:44 PM

      Pat, after 20+ years I think that your best bet is forwarding copies of the documentation to your service’s Reserve/Guard personnel HQ. (They may have your record online, but it may not be complete.) Your goal is to verify that you not only have 20+ years of service, but 20 “good years” eligible for retirement.

      The confirmation of that will be a Notice of Eligibility letter (and their copy of your records) followed by your retirement request.

      If you’re near a Reserve/Guard center for your service, you could contact them for more in-person advice. That would at least get you a solid e-mail address and phone number for the personnel HQ.

  32. Reply
    Army wife May 27, 2015 at 9:07 AM

    My husband has 15 good years in the army between the ARNG and active duty. He was just placed into the IRR. He receives VA disability for a back injury that only seems to be getting worse as he gets older. He went into the IRR because he doesn’t feel that his back can hold up to the stresses of the military and even his civilian job is becoming difficult for him. He was considering trying to get a medical retirement due to the circumstances but wasn’t sure if that was an option anymore or even an option at all with only 15 years and now being placed into the IRR. What are his options? Thanks.

    • Reply
      Doug Nordman May 28, 2015 at 2:47 PM

      First, I hope he’s seeing a VA doctor or his primary care doc (through his civilian employer’s health insurance). A few servicemembers try to downplay (or even hide) the severity of their injury, and any delays in exams/treatments usually make things that much worse. Get healthy before you start working on the career questions.

      Once he’s updated his diagnosis and treatment plan, he should re-apply to the VA for an update on his disability. This may not only raise his disability rating but may also open the prospect of a Physical Evaluation Board. The board decides among three main options:
      – continue in the ARNG (active, drilling, or IRR) with treatment and eventually a Reserve/Guard retirement, or
      – disability retirement (Chapter 61) instead of a Reserve/Guard retirement, which would start his pension payments now instead of “retired awaiting pay”, or
      – Temporary Disability Retired List (TDRL) with periodic reassessments for either retirement or a return to duty.
      Here’s a summary of the PEB choices:
      http://militarypay.defense.gov/retirement/disability.html

      Even when your spouse ends up with a Reserve/Guard pension (not a disability retirement), if the back injury is related to combat (or training for combat) then he may also be eligible for Concurrent Retirement Disability Pay. However the Reserve/Guard pension and the CRDP will not start until he reaches his eligibility age for the pension, which is age 60 for most Reserve/Guard retirees.

      He can read much more about his VA and disability retirement options at PEBForum.com.

  33. Reply
    Alex Egan May 21, 2015 at 7:06 AM

    I have a question, my brother has been in the reserves for 15 plus years (enlisted in 1999). He was injured in a motor vehicle accident 5 years ago and was able to stay in despite brief periods out for a surgery. He now may need another minor surgery that may impact his ability to pass the annual physical exam, he wants to stay in at least another 5 years. If he can’t pass the exam – will he lose 100% of any pension he might have 5 years from now if he passes the medical exam?

    • Reply
      Doug Nordman May 23, 2015 at 12:52 PM

      Good question, Alex, and I get it a lot!

      No, his retirement is safe. However he may be retired with a disability pension, and it may happen sooner than 20 years.

      Federal law says that once you reach 18 years of service, you can only be retired– not separated. That includes 18 “good years” as well as 18 years of active duty.
      https://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/10/1176

      If his injury results in a permanent disability then he could be retired now. The medical board could recommend an early retirement (based on his point count) or a disability retirement (based on the disability rating percentage). A military disability retirement is also known as a Chapter 61 retirement for the governing section of federal law. His pension would be based on the calculation that produces the higher amount.
      http://militarypay.defense.gov/retirement/disability.html

      Of course the medical board may also recommend that he stay on duty, continue treatment, and continue as a drilling Reservist.

      He needs to make sure his diagnosis and treatment are thoroughly documented. Even if he recovers, the injury could be considered a lifetime disability (especially if it could get worse as he gets older). He should talk to a VA Veteran Services Officer to get started on a VA disability claim. He won’t need to file a claim now, but they’ll make sure that he knows what to document and how to file a claim when he does retire. Ideally he’d process the VA claim at the same time as retiring from the service, and that way he’ll maximize his VA benefits.

      If the injury was related to combat, or to training for combat, then he may also be eligible for Combat Related Special Compensation.
      http://themilitarywallet.com/combat-related-special-compensation-crsc-benefits/

      As he works through the recovery from the injury, he may also want to read the PEBForum website for more advice from vets who’ve dealt with similar issues.
      http://pebforum.com/site/threads/u-s-navy-manual-of-the-medical-department-chapter-18-mebs.22611/

      Please follow the blog on Facebook or Twitter– in a couple weeks I’ll have another post on this subject from another reader’s similar question.

  34. Reply
    Jim peters May 9, 2015 at 5:52 AM

    National guard Chapter 61 retiree at age 45. Question. at 60 does my disability change from retiree based on rank to retiree based on points?

    • Reply
      Doug Nordman May 10, 2015 at 9:29 AM

      Great question, Jim, and a very confusing issue.

      The short answer is “No.” Once you’re medically retired under Chapter 61, you stay medically retired under Chapter 61 for the rest of your life. You do not “switch over” to a Guard/Reserve retirement at age 60.

      For example, see the response by Jason Perry, former Army JAG officer and the founder of PEB Forum, at this link:
      http://pebforum.com/site/threads/medical-retirement-may-be-turned-to-reg-retirement-tricky-question.24661/#post-133845

      What does change at age 60 is your potential eligibility for Concurrent Retirement and Disability Pay (CRDP). The first requirement for CRDP is that you’ve reached Guard/Reserve retirement age. The full paragraph says “… retiree with 20 qualifying years of service, who has a VA disability rating of 50 percent or greater and who has reached retirement age. (In most cases the retirement age for reservists is 60, but certain reserve retirees may be eligible before they turn 60. If you are a member of the Ready Reserve, your retirement age can be reduced below age 60 by three months for each 90 days of active service you have performed during a fiscal year.)”
      http://www.dfas.mil/retiredmilitary/disability/crdp.html

      So at age 60, if your VA disability rating is at least 50%, then you can also start receiving CRDP. But you’re still medically retired under Chapter 61 (for rank).

      I’m not sure which calculation is used for CRDP, but I would suspect that it’d be the points system. If you’re facing a VA disability rating of at least 50% then you should confirm the CRDP calculation with Jason Perry at PEBForum.com and with DFAS.

      Finally, note that there’s a difference between CRDP and CRSC:
      http://www.dfas.mil/retiredmilitary/disability/comparison.html

      • Reply
        Michael July 19, 2015 at 10:11 AM

        Quick question Doug…I am a chapter 61 retiree with a 20 year letter…if I start receiving my army reserve pay at age 60…would this change my tricare insurance coverage…I pay $45 for tricare now…reserve tricare is over $900 a month…what is your thoughts

        • Doug Nordman July 20, 2015 at 5:31 AM

          Thanks for your question, Michael!

          There shouldn’t be any changes to your Tricare insurance coverage.

          When you reach age 60, you’ll continue on your Chapter 61 medical coverage. You’d have the option to switch to Tricare (Prime or Standard) but you’ll want to keep your current Tricare insurance. When you turn age 65 then you’ll sign up for Medicare and Tricare For Life.

          Tricare Reserve Select is intended for drilling Reservists who have no other access to health insurance, although the ACA has put more competition into the healthcare market than COBRA.

          Tricare Reserve Retired is intended for Reservists in the “gray area” (retired awaiting pay) who would otherwise be paying higher rates for health insurance. But again the ACA has hopefully reduced the price of buying insurance on the exchange marketplace.

  35. Reply
    Shawn Whyte April 15, 2015 at 4:24 PM

    Doug,

    I joined the National Guard after 16 years of active service. When I retire at 20 years will I receive any pay or do I have to wait until I am 60?

    • Reply
      Doug Nordman April 16, 2015 at 8:14 AM

      Thanks for your question, Shawn!

      Your 16 years of points and 16 “good years” have earned you credit toward a Guard “non-regular” (Reserve) retirement. You would only be eligible for an immediate active-duty pension if you retired via the Temporary Early Retirement Authority (TERA) program (or via a medical disability retirement).

      Now that you’re in the Guard, you’ll have to earn at least four more good years to be eligible for a Guard/Reserve pension. Once you receive your Notice of Eligibility (your “20-year letter”) then you’re eligible for a pension that begins at age 60.

      As noted in the second paragraph of this post, if you deployed to a combat zone for at least 90 days during a fiscal year after 28 January 2008, then you’re eligible to start your pension 90 days earlier. The 2015 National Defense Authorization Act modified that “fiscal year” legislation to stretch across fiscal years after 30 September 2014. Even if your combat deployments qualify you to receive your pension earlier, your Tricare benefits will still start at age 60.

      Drilling in the Guard for four more years may seem like a colossal pain. However I frequently hear from veterans in their 50s who wish that their younger selves had invested the time and sacrifice in getting the minimum number of points for the minimum number of years required to receive that pension.

      I think that it’s worth sticking around for four years of drills (and perhaps a deployment) just to earn the benefit of all the time & effort that you put into the first 16 years.

  36. Reply
    Howard D. Amos February 26, 2015 at 6:44 AM

    I am presently drawing VA disability (30%), I was told by someone back in 2007, that I could not draw VA disability and retired National Guard pay at the same time. So I kept the VA disability and not retire from the guard. I have a military retired ID card and Tricare for Life. Someone else told me that I can no longer apply for national guard retirement because 7 years has passed, since I turned age 60. Is this true?

    • Reply
      Doug Nordman February 27, 2015 at 12:12 AM

      Howard, you definitely need to contact the personnel branch of your nearest National Guard Army to discuss your pension and your VA benefits. You should also contact DFAS to make sure they have a complete record, and to verify that you’re receiving everything you’ve earned.

      It’s never too late. Contact them now to make up for the lost income.

  37. Reply
    Russ February 9, 2015 at 4:29 PM

    Hi Doug,

    In general, once I have submitted my paperwork for retired pay do I receive anything in writing prior to seeing my first payment show up in my bank account? I turn 60 in October 2015, have 3 90-day drop periods from a deployment and believe I should start receiving payments on 1 March for a partial month in February. I submitted my paperwork in early January of 2015 an am not sure if I should call to bug anybody or just wait.

    Thanks,
    Russ

    • Reply
      Doug Nordman February 9, 2015 at 11:28 PM

      Thanks for asking, Russ!

      You should have received confirmation by now. I think you need to bug DFAS and your service’s Reserve/Guard HQ. This late in February there might not be enough time to add you to the system for a March payment, although DFAS will eventually pay you everything that you’re owed.

      You could start by making sure that your myPay account is accessible and your direct-deposit info on there is correct, and then e-mail/call DFAS. If they need more help then you’d go back to your service’s Reserve/Guard center to send over the data.

      One issue is that the 90-day early retirement legislation initially required the 90 days to be all during one fiscal year. (This was corrected by the 2015 National Defense Authorization Act, but not retroactively.) This verification may be one reason for the delay.

  38. Reply
    Michelle February 5, 2015 at 10:50 AM

    Hi, I am currently in the process of a MEB and expect to be discharged medically within the next six months. I have my 20 year retirement letter and understand that I will be a grey-area retiree. Assuming that my disability is rated at least a 30%, is there any difference between a medical retirement and a regular retirement.?

    • Reply
      Doug Nordman February 5, 2015 at 10:34 PM

      Michelle,

      Thanks for a great question, and I’m sorry that you’re facing a MEB. This is a very tough question and worthy of an entire post, which I’ll summarize here.

      I’m describing the different systems with caveats because each medical retirement is a highly individual situation with dramatically different payments under the various laws. I’m also reaching the limits of my circle of competence– I have little experience with medical and disability retirements and I’m weak on the criteria.

      You’re either going to have a Reserve retirement (at age 60) with a disability rating, or a medical (disability) pension (possibly starting immediately upon retirement).

      Your disability rating will determine how much of your Reserve retirement is awarded as tax-free compensation by the VA instead of as a DoD pension payment. In addition, if your disability rating is 50% or higher and related to combat then you may receive VA compensation (also tax-free) in addition to your Reserve pension (instead of the more typical VA offset).

      If you receive a medical (disability) retirement then your pension is handled by Chapter 61 of federal law instead of the Reserve retirement legislation, and your pension amount is tied directly to your disability rating. You may be able to receive your pension immediately (instead of at age 60) but the total amount of your pension would be limited to 75% of your High-Three pay base (and could possibly be 50% of your pay base).

      My first suggestion would be for you to read the PEBForum.com and post your situation there for a more detailed analysis. My second suggestion is finding a local VSO (from a local chapter of the DAV, American Legion, IAVA, or MOAA) to have them do a detailed record review. They can advise you of the various issues and results that the MEB may determine.

      Another excellent resource is veteran Ryan Guina’s TheMilitaryWallet.com. Read all of his posts under the “VA Disability” tab, like this one:
      http://themilitarywallet.com/va-disability-pay-rates-rise/

      Depending on the results of your MEB, you may also want to seek legal advice for an appeal. Again you may want to have a VSO rep assist you with the MEB process as well as any prospective appeal.

      The MEB system is difficult to understand, and it’s almost impossible when you’re coping with health and disability issues. Find a VSO right away, and consider having a rep attend your meetings with the MEB and the VA. I know at least one servicemember who used a digital recorder (with permission) and a note-taking friend to make sure that they understood (and followed up on) everything they heard during meetings.

  39. Reply
    OGF October 11, 2014 at 5:52 AM

    Great info, Nords. Quick question: How does a reservist’s pension differ from an active duty pension, in terms of length of the pension? In other words, if I serve 20 yrs in the reserves, and draw the pension at age 60, does the annuity stream last 20 yrs (till age 80), or until death? If I lived to age 90, would the pension continue to pay that stream from age 80-90? Active duty? Thanks a bunch.

  40. Reply
    Tamla September 27, 2014 at 10:22 AM

    I am looking for information on national guard reserves. My dad served 2 years back in teh 50s. What benefits if any is he entiltled to?

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  45. Reply
    Reserve Retirement Eligibility November 4, 2013 at 10:26 PM

    […] articles: Military retirement from the Individual Ready Reserve Retiring from the Reserves and National Guard Reserve military pension for “discharge” instead of “retired awaiting pay” Calculating a […]

  46. Reply
    David V Grass August 28, 2013 at 2:59 PM

    I will be retiring this year Oct 2013, I turn 60 on Nov 2013 . I live in Missouri with 32 plus years of service. Which tricare will I be under? Will it cost me anything? Iam still employed with a city that offers blue cross insurance, I have the HSA plan, will this work with tricare when I retire. Please reply back the my Emil. Dave.grass@yahoo.com

    • Reply
      Gary Waters January 30, 2015 at 1:48 PM

      Once you turn 60, how long does it take for your retired pay to begin?

      • Reply
        Doug Nordman January 30, 2015 at 6:21 PM

        Thanks for the question, Gary!

        Retiree pay is on the first day of the month, so you’ll see your first pension deposit on the first month after you turn age 60. Your service should send you a package about 6-9 months before then for you to submit updated personal contact data and to set up the deposit. If you have not heard from then by that time then contact your service’s local Reserve/Guard center or DFAS.

        Here’s a link to the source: http://www.dfas.mil/retiredmilitary/apply/receive-pay.html

  47. Reply
    Nathaniel Emery May 19, 2013 at 1:45 PM

    Are there still two retirement options when you retire from the Air National Guard? Is so, how do I proceed with the correct version? I am 53 and what the retirement pay to reflect my rank in 7 years time.

  48. Reply
    R. Scougal April 6, 2013 at 1:00 AM

    I hope you can answer my question, or point me to more information. After 21 years in the Army NG, including a year of deployment in Iraq and numerous temporary home-station full-time orders, I went into the IRR – I was caring for my elderly father at home, and could no longer serve. I had originally thought I might return to the Guard, but that turned out not to be possible, and I ETS’ed from the IRR. I received my “twenty-year letter” the year before I went into the IRR.

    Am I eligible for retirement pay? What do I have to do? I am 57 years old now.

    Thanks for any help you can offer.

    • Reply
      Doug Nordman April 6, 2013 at 4:10 PM

      Thanks for your comment!

      Yes, you’re eligible for an Army National Guard retirement, because you received your Notice of Eligibility before you separated from the IRR.

      If you elected for “discharge” from the Guard instead of “retired awaiting pay” then your pension will be based on the pay tables that were in effect during your discharge, and at your discharged rank’s longevity. In other words your pension benefits were frozen instead of keeping up with inflation. Once you start drawing your pension, however, it’ll have a cost-of-living adjustment.

      If you deployed to Iraq after 28 January 2008 then it’s possible that your pension may start a little before age 60. It starts one day earlier for each of at least 90 days that you were deployed in a combat zone after that date. Your Tricare benefits will still start at age 60.

      I’ve e-mailed you more information (with links) to get you started. I’m also going to post your question (anonymously) and the answers on the blog. Please let us know how it goes!

  49. […] The Army Human Resources Command website goes into more details of how to estimate your Reserve retired pay. It also has a page on computing your length of service for pay purposes and another page of links for special situations. All of these factors are taken into account by the retirement calculator, but it’s just an estimate. Your individual service record has to be reviewed for exceptions to the typical Reserve career, and you may even be eligible to start receiving your pension a few months earlier. […]

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  51. Reply
    A R B January 10, 2013 at 6:44 AM

    I am an Air Force reservist with 18 good years of service. I have been trying to get back in for over four years, but to no avail. Per two recruiters, I have had to retake the ASVAB (which I passed), only to be told that they lost my results and have to take the ASVAB a third time. I was also told that my blood pressure is too high (140/90) and that my BP has to be below 140/90 without medication. I am at a loss here and do not know where to go from here. I deserve to retire as I am in “sanctuary”. Any assistance you can provide is greatly appreciated.

    • Reply
      Doug Nordman January 21, 2013 at 5:53 AM

      A R B, here’s the link to a new post that gives more answers to your questions:
      http://the-military-guide.com/2013/01/21/sanctuary-and-military-retirement-during-a-reserve-career/

    • Reply
      Doug Nordman January 11, 2013 at 4:07 AM

      A R B, it seems as if the only thing you could do differently for your third ASVAB would be to try a different recruiter who’ll take better care of the paperwork.

      I don’t have a good answer for the blood pressure numbers. You’ve probably already tried weight loss & exercise. Some people are affected by “white coat syndrome”, where your blood pressure rises whenever a medical technician (in a white coat) takes your BP. That’s a very real effect, but the only way to counteract it is through stress-reduction techniques (during the measurement) like relaxation or meditation. They work, but like losing weight & exercising they also take some practice to pay off. You could ask the medical staff if you could wear a 24-hour BP monitor to show that your BP jumps from white coat syndrome.

      Sanctuary is a different situation. It applies to reaching at least 18 years of active duty service (point count) during a Reserve career and being entitled to serve for 20 years of active duty to qualify for an active-duty retirement. Sanctuary does not apply to years of Reserve duty (“good years”). While you have 18 good years of Reserve service, you’d need at least 20 good years to qualify for a Reserve retirement. There are no guarantees that permit you to obtain those last two good years.

      To be in sanctuary, you would need to have over 18 years of active-duty service (nearly 6600 points) to be eligible for an active-duty retirement. If you were in sanctuary, you should not have been able to be demobilized from your last active-duty orders. The personnel system software would have flagged your impending sanctuary months before you reached it. (Personnel systems can make mistakes, but from DoD’s perspective this is a hugely expensive oversight and it gets a lot of attention.) If you have over 6500 points then it’s worth discussing sanctuary with your local Air Force Reserve unit.

      One possible solution to all of these issues would be to talk with a recruiter for your local Air National Guard or National Guard. Their recruiters might take better care with your ASVAB and they might have different standards for blood pressure. Other Reservists have used the NG/ANG to get to 20 good years, so I know that option works.

      Sanctuary has been a very confusing issue among the Reserves during the drawdown, and it’s even more important when Reservists are mobilized for a combat deployment. I’ll write up a new post with the DoD & service references and link it to this post. Thanks for asking about it!

  52. Reply
    george November 10, 2012 at 11:08 AM

    Two questions: 1. Can I still earn points as a grey area “retired awaiting pay” using the distance education programs of the various military branches like the Marine Corps Institute?
    2. In the article it states to use the maximime time in service/grade to calulate the base pay. I will have 30 years of qualifying service. Looking at the DOD pay chart on the DFAS web site the pay in my grade goes up to 40 years of service. Do I use the 30 years of qualifying service that I actually completed or the 40 years of service according to the pay chart?

    • Reply
      Doug Nordman November 11, 2012 at 3:40 AM

      Those are darn good questions.

      1. I haven’t found an answer on earning points while gray-area “retired awaiting pay”. (I suspect that nobody’s asked the question before, either.) I would expect the answer to be “No”, because the military gains nothing from you by giving you points– you’re already retired and you’re not coming back unless the President mobilizes you. The service Reserve/Guard bureaucracy would have to keep re-opening your retiree record to add more points, and I know that the computer networks of most services lock the electronic files of retiree records to avoid mistakes in data entries. There’s no reason to let you earn a few more dollars in your pension, either. However there are differences among the services’ Reserve and National Guard programs, and there could be some niche provision for this situation.

      I’m on travel in Houston right now (and away from all of my bookmarks & files) so I’m going to do more research when I get back home to Hawaii. If you’re a member of the Association of the United States Navy then you could also send your question to them– or to your service’s Reserve association. I’ll let you know if I learn anything new.

      A cynical financial advisor would suggest that your time could be better spent earning money some other way, or just enjoying your life. And if you were going to use these distance-education programs anyway, then the military would have no reason to motivate you with retirement points.

      2. When your pension starts, its base pay scale is the longevity in the pay tables “as though you had been on active duty the entire time while retired awaiting pay”. Now that the pay tables go to 40 years, everyone uses the 40-year pay tables. If your pension starts next month, then for your 30 years of qualifying service you’d also use the “Over 40” column for your retirement rank include the years in which you’ve been retired awaiting pay. That means your pay column would be at least >30, and might be as much as >40. For the vast majority of Reserve/Guard ranks it’s the same dollar figure in those columns. The only pay raises after the >30 column are for E-9, W-5, and O-8->10.

      Keep in mind that the pay table you’ll actually use when your pension starts is the pay table in effect for that year, not today’s pay table. If your pension starts in 2020 then you’ll use the 2020 pay table to determine your base pay amount to use in calculating your pension. By the rules currently in effect, you’ll use the longevity for your retirement rank at the age you start your pension (usually age 60). That’s 40 at least >30 years.

      Regardless of the rule, it may not make a difference. The only ranks that see pay increases after 30 years are the paygrades of E-9, W-5, and flag officer. If you’re in one of these ranks then congratulations! You’ve earned the pension boost. If you’re not in one of these ranks then your pension’s base pay amount is the same whether you have 30 years of service or 40.

      The 40-year pay tables only started in 2007, so not very many servicemembers have retired under them. The Reserve retirement system is affected by the change to 40-year tables, but I think that this is an unintended consequence of the change. (The reason for the change was to encourage senior active-duty ranks to stay to 40 years.) It’s possible that the rules will change again before you begin receiving pay, so it’s worth keeping an eye on the military news.

      • Reply
        Jeff June 30, 2014 at 3:02 AM

        Doug – Concerning the 40 year pay tables, from how I read the rules you use the pay tables in effect at your last 36 months of pay before retirement. This 36 month average determines your pay level. If you joined the military, for instance, at age 24, you would only be able to reach 36 years of service by age 60 when you draw the pension. You would never be able to reach the 40 year table. This could affect George and your answer to him above?

        • Doug Nordman July 1, 2014 at 6:30 AM

          That’s correct, Jeff. The federal law says “as though the servicemember had been on active duty the entire time” until their pension starts. Reserve/Guard officers (commissioned at age 21 or older) would never reach the 40-year column. Some Reserve/Guard with combat deployments after 27 Jan 2008 are also eligible to start their pensions a little earlier than age 60. Not many would actually use the 40-year column on the pay tables.

          As of the 2014 pay tables, the only ranks that see pay raises after 30 years are E-9s, W-5s, and O-8->10. However O-6s and E-8s now see pay raises at 30 years, and their pay used to top out at 26 years.

          Any column between 30-40 years will give the correct result for the vast majority of Reserve/Guard retirees. I’ve corrected my answer to George to reflect the actual numbers.

          Thanks for your feedback! We have to educate an entire generation of Reserve/Guard members who entered “retired awaiting pay” status before the pay tables extended out to 40 years.

      • Reply
        Doug Nordman November 26, 2012 at 3:55 AM

        George, it looks like the answer to your first question is definitely “No”.
        You’d have to check your service-specific instruction, but both the Army and the Navy Reserve instructions specifically will not award points while in retirement status.
        Page 8 of the Army Reserve instruction (“Army Reserve Non-Regular Retirement Information Guide”, chapter 3-1 c.2.b, http://www.armyg1.army.mil/rso/docs/ARReserveRetirementGuide.doc) says:
        “2. Transfer to the Retired Reserve. A member in this category may participate in inactive duty training provided:
        a) Such training is at no expense to the Government.
        b) Members are not entitled to pay or retirement points.
        c) No official record of such participation is maintained.”

        The Navy Reserve instruction is being revised, but page 1-2 of the Navy Reserve instruction (BUPERSINST 1001.39F , “Administrative Procedures for Navy Reservists”) archived on the AUSN.org website, chapter 1 section 102.2.b, says:
        “3. Retired Status. Members in the Retired Reserve are in a retired status. Unless recalled to Active Duty, they may not receive retirement point credit. They may not be advanced or promoted. See section 103 of this chapter; chapter 5, section 507; and chapter 10, section 1008 for further information.”

        Section 103 says “Retired Reservists may not receive retirement point credit for the performance of any duty (except while authorized to serve on Active Duty) after the
        effective date of their transfer to retired status.”

        If anyone has the references to the Marine, Air Force, and Coast Guard instructions then I’ll put them here, too.

        Good question, and it flexed my research muscles– thanks!

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  59. Reply
    Doug Nordman December 6, 2010 at 10:21 AM

    Thanks! The next three posts are on Reserve/NG healthcare, pension comparisons, and handling those multiple streams…

  60. Reply
    Deserat December 6, 2010 at 10:08 AM

    Great job, Nords – really summarizes the situation nicely – the key being the streams of income. One other aspect is that while in the Reserves, you get training in areas that may complement or enhance your civilian skills and help you progress more rapidly in that career. Juggling can get difficult and you may end up sacrificing in one or both of your careers, but it does expand the opportunities available to you and as in this posting, provide another pre-and retirement stream of income.

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