[August 2015 update: The Defense Finance and Accounting Service has started issuing letters to Reserve retirees who have claimed credit for ROTC summer training. According to the comments on this post and some Facebook posts, it appears that DFAS is re-calculating pensions for revisions of as few as 90 points. More information is at the Naval Personnel Command Midshipman Points FAQ page. ]
[October 2014 note: The Navy Reserve appears to be taking a new, narrower interpretation of 10 U.S.C. section 971. Two Reservists have reported that they were recently denied this credit, although one of them was able to receive points without credit toward a good year. Please read those comments at the end of this post, and contact me if you’ve had the same issue. ]
Today’s post answers a question from a Navy Reserve reader. I try to balance out the topics, questions, and reader stories in The Military Guide to apply to all the services.
However, this is a niche topic that I’ve seen cause a lot of unhappy faces in Navy Reserve units all over the country. So if you’re in the Army, Air Force, or Coast Guard then feel free to move on to other financial independence projects and ignore this post. If your service has a similar problem with their Reserve/Guard point credit toward retirement, please leave a comment. If you’re in the Marine Corps then I don’t think this applies to you either– but you’re painfully familiar with oddball Navy requirements and you’re probably smiling already. Enjoy.
If you’re Navy enlisted (active-duty or Reserve) then you might want to stick around for this information in case you someday decide to earn your own commission.
Here’s the background. Active-duty enlisted servicemembers (of all services) start earning their pay & benefits from the day they show up at recruit training. All of their service also counts toward retirement, although for the vast majority that time “cliff vests” only when they reach 20 years. There are exceptions for medical retirements and the Temporary Early Retirement Authority (TERA), but they’re relatively rare.
Even military retirement is not the norm: today only about 17% of the officers & enlisted who join the military stick around long enough to earn a pension.
Enlisted servicemembers can join the Reserve or National Guard and earn credit toward retirement for their drills and active duty. (They can get retirement points for other activities, too, but drills & active duty are the main categories.) If they attend a service academy or an ROTC program while enlisted in the Reserve, but do not complete it, then that time also counts toward Reserve retirement points. However, they’re not earning year-round pay & benefits like active-duty servicemembers– only when they’re on drills or orders.
Officer candidates are treated according to their commissioning program. Service academy students (of all services) are considered to be on active duty from the day they show up, but it doesn’t count toward retirement. (Several generations ago, officers who graduated from a service academy could eventually count that incarceration academy time as part of their years toward retirement. It’s literally been over 60 years since that benefit was in effect.) Today’s U.S. Naval Academy midshipmen earn pay & benefits since Induction Day, almost like anyone else on active duty, but no retirement credit. They suck up a lot of training & supervisory effort from the chain of command– perhaps some more than others. They’re considered to be adequately compensated for their time at Annapolis, so nothing they’ve done there is credited toward a retirement. (Unless they were one of the very small handful of prior enlisted who drop out before graduation.) Officers from USNA only begin earning time toward retirement on the day they’re commissioned, and for the vast majority of officers that time “cliff vests” to a pension only after 20 years of service.
Today’s topic, Navy Reserve Officer Training Corps (NROTC) midshipmen, are in a different niche. They’re not on continuous active duty like USNA midshipmen, and they certainly don’t have all the active-duty benefits like health insurance. Their college tuition & fees are paid by the Navy, and they also earn a tax-free stipend for up to 10 months of the year. Unfortunately, they still have to pay for their own room & board, and some NROTC students aren’t even on a four-year scholarship. However, NROTC midshipmen are considered to be on active duty when they’re ordered to summer training.
It turns out that NROTC summer training can be counted for credit toward a Navy Reserve retirement. (I have no idea how this benefit got started, let alone why, and I’d love to learn the history behind it.) Unfortunately, this time has to be officially documented day by day, and most Reservists only learn about the program years afterward when they leave active duty for drills with a Reserve unit. Even then it only applies to those commissioned through NROTC, so not every Reservist can tap into the benefit.
This post was inspired by a reader comment on the Reserve retirement post:
Can anyone show me in writing where it says you can or cannot get credit for your midshipman summer cruise? You are on active duty orders, wearing a uniform, and getting paid. So unless there is something specific that says you can’t get credit, I don’t see why you can’t? Thanks!
You’re absolutely right, there is something specific that says you can get credit. But it’s buried in BUPERSINST 1001.39F of 17 Sep 07, “Administrative Procedures for Navy Reservists“. I’m looking this up on the website of the Association of the U.S. Navy, which is an excellent advocacy group for Navy Reserve servicemembers. According to the Navy Personnel Command website, 1001.39F is undergoing major revision. If you’re on active duty or in the Reserves then you’ll probably have a better chance than me of figuring out when .39G will be released. (Or an alert reader will let us know here on the blog.) What I’m about to describe is from .39F, and I sincerely hope it’s fixed in .39G.
The “problem” is that most officers are given an active duty service date (the date that they actually started active duty as an officer) of the day they’re commissioned. Since this date doesn’t count ROTC midshipman training that happened before their commissioning, officers have to submit a record of that earlier training.
Article 2600.3 (Chapter 20, page 20-8), says:
3. ROTC Summer Training Credit. Per 10 U.S.C., section 971, graduates of the U.S. Naval Academy (or other service academies) are not eligible for summer training credit. Members that participate in ROTC Midshipman/Cadet summer training are eligible for retirement point credit (one point per day under orders). Because the actual number of days served on summer training can vary, it is necessary that training be properly documented as a prerequisite to awarding retirement point credit. Proper documentation consists of one or more of the following and should be submitted to NAVPERSCOM (PERS-911):
a. Standard ROTC Summer Cruise/Training Orders (NAVEDTRA 1320/1) issued for each period of a midshipman summer training and endorsed upon the member’s arrival and departure.
b. Leave and Earning Statements (LES) or NAVCOMPT 2120, Pay Voucher.
c. Ship’s Deck Logs or Ship’s Diaries, which show the dates the member (by name) embarked and debarked.
d. A letter from the ROTC Unit CO certifying the actual dates of summer training.
e. A letter from DFAS Cleveland, OH, certifying the actual dates of summer training.
f. NAVPERS 1070/613 (Administrative Remarks) prepared by the ROTC unit, which states that the member is being discharged to accept a commission. These standard Administrative Remarks usually list the summer training completed while enrolled at that particular ROTC unit.
Most officers find out about this opportunity years (even decades) after their NROTC summer training. They may no longer have their midshipman orders or their LESs, and there’s just no easy way to get a certification letter from an old CO or DFAS. It’s remotely possible that they still have their page 13 admin remarks. After those options are exhausted, though, the only remaining opportunity to obtain credit is the ship’s deck log. By this point, you’re praying that the command recorded your report/detach dates in the deck log, and that the deck log is legibly filed at the Naval Archives.
So what’s your call to action after reading this post? If you received your commission through NROTC, then find all three sets of your summer training orders. Be ready to document your service in accordance with the Article 2600.3 paragraph. Even if you’re still an NROTC midshipman, please make sure you have this– or submit a draft of a page 13 for your unit to place in your record. You may never need it, but if you need it later then it may be impossible to reconstruct.
This is a hassle and it only pays off if you join a Reserve unit for long enough to earn a Reserve retirement. However, if you someday do that, every point counts toward your pension calculation. Three months of NROTC midshipman summer training could be over 90 points– well over a year’s worth of Reserve work! I’ve heard this from dozens of Reserve officers: the “person you’ll be someday” will be very happy that the “person you are today” took the time now to find the paperwork and have it on file.
I sure hope that electronic service records and BUPERSINST 1001.39 revisions will someday eliminate this burdensome requirement. I’m not holding my breath, and you shouldn’t either. Take care of yourself now, and save that documentation.
Calculating a Reserve retirement
Should you join the Reserves or National Guard?
Comparing an E-7 active-duty pension to an E-7 Reserve pension
Retiring from the Reserves and National Guard