Buying Your Military Service Credit In The Federal Civil Service

Reminder: This week the blog ThreeForFreeCollege is running a three-part series on going to college without paying for tuition.  Monday’s post was the proposed Oregon model, followed by Wednesday’s post on the various small schools that don’t charge tuition.  I’m going to wrap up the series with Friday’s guest post on the military academies and ROTC scholarships.  When you’re done here, click on over and support a new blog!)

A reader writes:

I served 12 years in the Marine Reserves and got out in 1988. I worked a non-government job until I was hired at the United States Postal Service on 1 December 2000. No one anywhere can tell me how or who can help me calculate my retirement points into time so that I can buy back this time towards my federal retirement. I am only intending to work six more years and retire and the time served in the military can make a difference. I had all good years and never missed any drills and also pulled extra duty as well.

The first step for these situations is your point count. If you still have a paper copy after 25 years then that will get you started, but you can also contact the MARFORRES staff to figure out how to retrieve one from their archives. I consulted Certified Financial Planner Rob Aeschbach, a Marine Reserve retiree and blogger who’s an expert on their Reserve personnel systems:

It sounds like you need an accurate count of your Reserve points as recorded by HQMC. Have you tried to set up an account at Marine Online? It’s only been working since 1999 or so, but you still might be in the system. Once you get on there you should be able to see your points totals, and maybe your drill history. If that doesn’t get you anywhere, go to Manpower to see what you find there, and get back to me. It was only a year ago that I was dealing with them. It might just take a call to the Separations Branch to get what you need. Once you have documentation of service and points, you can ask Eddie at about converting it.

The second step is to learn about your military service credit deposit (“military buyback”). Eddie at offers both a comprehensive guide on the military service credit deposit and an eBook on maximizing your service computation date. Your USPS personnel staff will want to consult Chapter 22 of the FERS Handbook.

You may still have to go back through your old records. USPS staff may ask for a DD-214 (which is used with active-duty veterans buying their military service credit deposit), so you might want a copy of your final one to help them understand why Reservists use point counts instead of DD-214s. You may also need to document your base pay at each of your ranks, which you could do from a Leave and Earnings Statement or a stack of W-2s.

I’m not familiar with the civil service rules, but the GubMints post linked above mentions that there will be additional interest penalties if you buy your military time after you’ve been employed for more than two years of civil service. You should analyze the numbers or consult with a financial advisor to make sure the credit is still worth the expense of the penalties, but over the next six years that may still work out in your favor.

I hope this helps– and please keep us posted!

Related articles:
Military benefits after one enlistment
Should you start a civil service bridge career after the military?
Guest Post Wednesday: “My Road to a Reserve Retirement”
Starting your bridge career after the military

WHAT I DO: I help you reach financial independence. For free. 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, veterans, and families. All of my writing revenue is donated to military-friendly charities.

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