How To Calculate A Reserve Retirement


In response to a question from a reader, Doug originally created and published this post in 2012. The sender was seeking a Reserve Retirement Calculator, specifically for the National Guard or Reserve. Instead of referring him to one of the many Military Retirement Calculators online, Doug dedicated the time, to write a very detailed post to educate any of our readers looking for assistance with the . As of 16 August, this post has been updated using the 2016 pay scale.


How To Calculate A Reserve Retirement

I recently answered a couple of questions on calculating the amount of a Reserve retirement for both Final Pay and High Three pay systems.

If you’re eligible for a Guard – Reserve retirement, then let me repeat the questions & answers so that you can confirm your math. If you’ve had a different experience, please post about it in the comments!

I’ve read the references and checked them with an expert, but I haven’t personally gone through the process.


Guard & Reserve Retirement Points

When you’re in the Reserves or Guard, your time toward a retirement is credited on two factors:

  • the number of points you build up
  • the number of “good years” you’ve completed

Each service is a little different in their point calculations, points accumulate from both active duty and the Reserve/Guard system.

Earning Annual Participation Points

15 retirement points are awarded to Guard and Reserve members for each year of service. This includes times spent as a drilling participant or while serving in the Inactive Ready Reserve (IRR).

A drilling participant is a member of a Reserve component who regularly serves a minimum of one weekend per month and approximately 14 days a year during annual training (AT). While their IRR counterparts, serve in an inactive status after completion of active duty or electing to transfer into the component.

Earning Points For Service

You accumulate points for drill weekends, active duty periods, and under some special circumstances:

  • completion of online or correspondence courses
  • serving on funeral honors detail
  • providing support to recruiting personnel

Each day of active duty counts as one point. Each drill counts as one point (a typical weekend has four drills), as do the days of active duty in the Reserve/Guard for training or mobilizations.

You’re also limited by the number of points you can get in a category — you can’t do 52 drill weekends in one year and get points for every one.

Of course, you can certainly be mobilized during a leap year and receive 366 points of active duty.

Here’s a minimum breakdown of points earned during a normal year:

  • Annual Participation – 15
  • Monthly Drills – 48 (12 months x 4 drills)
  • Annual Training – 14
  • Total points +/- 77

Note: It’s possible to get points for other purposes, but they’re limited. (It’s also possible for officers commissioned from NROTC to receive points for the days they were on active duty for midshipman summer training, but they’ll need to supply the documentation.)   Update:  this niche benefit has been revoked– see the September 2017 comment and its link at the end of this post.’s.aspx


The Four Hour Rule

During Inactive Duty Training (IDT), one point will be awarded for each 4-hour period of IDT performed.

Maximum of two points per calendar day applies to IDT Duty. Duty must be 8 hours in duration to receive two points per day.

Meetings (Seminars, Symposia, Professional Development). Per DoD Instruction 1215.07, members will only be allowed one point per day. Each training periods must be a minimum of 4 hours in length.

Two-Hour Rule

Per DoDI Instruction 1215.07, the Funeral Honors requires a minimum of two hours duty. Members receive one point for each day and the duty must be a minimum 2 hours, including travel.

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.

  1. […] made the mental bandwidth to analyze my options then I would’ve eventually realized that Reserve pensions are based on the pay tables in effect when the pension starts. (They’re not based on the pay tables in effect when you apply for retirement.) By federal […]

  2. […] The Military Guide is a wealth of knowledge for military families, including those who are Reserve and NG. The site is broken into a number of financial topics, and while you won’t find Reserve/National Guard as a heading, there are subcategories for those families like Guard & Reserve Retirement, where you can find the Reserve Retirement Calculator, a popular post for the site. […]

  3. Reply
    nldekker January 28, 2018 at 7:15 PM

    You say there are ‘many military retirement calculators online’. Where? The only one that works, sometimes, is the USA’s HRC portal. However, whenever I try to access it, my computer lights up with security warnings reference hackers, regardless of the web browser used. How about putting a working retirement calculator on your webpage?

    • Reply
      Doug Nordman January 29, 2018 at 8:35 AM

      Thanks for the question, NLDekker, but the whole point of the sentence (in the intro to the post) is that most of the Reserve calculators aren’t accurate. (Even when they’re available. *) This post goes into all the details necessary to determine an accurate estimate, and (more importantly) to understand how the rules affect your pension.

      [* I think you’re referring to the DoD calculators at . We at The-Military-Guide are never going to try to fix that problem. You might find a service-specific calculator behind a CAC login, at a Reserve center, or at a Guard armory– but of course a lot of Reserve/Guard servicemembers don’t have CACs and might not have convenient base access. Yet everyone can do a manual calculation.]

      Good retirement calculators are hard to create. (I share your frustration. I’ve been using them for over 30 years.) Accurate Reserve/Guard retirement calculators are even more difficult because of the incredibly varied and highly individual career parameters. That’s why this post shows you how to make sure that your estimate is accurate.

      This has been the blog’s most popular post nearly every day for almost six years, and it’s because the manual method works better than any existing calculator.

      If you want help verifying your numbers then feel free to comment here, use the “Contact me” form, or e-mail NordsNords at Gmail.

  4. Reply
    Charles Gramaglia September 5, 2017 at 9:20 AM

    The parenthetical in your note is obsolete. You wrote: “Note … (It’s also possible for officers commissioned from NROTC to receive points for the days they were on active duty for midshipman summer training… )”

    It is no longer possible to get reserve retirement credit for NROTC cruises. As a matter of fact, DoD concluded that it was NEVER legally permissible to grant such credit and DFAS is recovering pension $$$ from retirees who were granted NROTC cruise credit. Some retirees in their 60s and 70s were recently informed that the credit for service in their late teens/early 20s has been rescinded and they owe a portion of their back pension to the USG.

    Take a look at the FAQs that Navy Bureau of Personnel posted in Sept 2016:'s.aspx

    • Reply
      Doug Nordman September 9, 2017 at 3:39 PM

      Thanks for the update, Charles. We’d heard about the appeals but I missed that final announcement.

      In case BUPERS changes that link, here’s an excerpt of the text from the FAQ:
      1. How did the policy for Midshipman cruise credit for retirement pay change?

      In 2009, after a legal review by both Navy Personnel Command and Defense Finance and Accounting Services (DFAS), it was determined that Title 10 U.S.C. § 2107(g) actually prohibits the awarding of any credit for NROTC midshipman time, including summer training cruises for those officers who entered the NROTC Program after the enactment of the 1964 Reserve Officers Training Corps Vitalization Act (ROTCVA).

      3. How will I know if I am personally affected?

      All personnel affected by this change will receive individual letters from Navy Personnel Command notifying them that their official record has been modified to indicate the correct retirement credit and/or points, as applicable. In addition, DFAS will notify each individual by separate letter of how much their retirement pay will be affected.

      4. How much credit is being taken away from my retired pay calculation?

      The amount of time deducted from your total active duty creditable service or retirement point credit will be equal to the time you served on active duty for training during midshipman cruise periods. The average time credited was approximately 30 days each summer.

      7. What do I need to do to not have to pay the money back? I owe less than $10,000.00.

      The Secretary of the Navy has requested, on your behalf, a waiver of indebtedness if less than $10,000.00.

  5. Reply
    LTC Barter June 15, 2017 at 10:14 AM

    Excellent article… much appreciated. I’m a reserve member with about 10 years active duty and 10 years reserve. I was just selected for 0-5 and expect the promotion in the next 10 months. The jump in pay (at the current pay tables) is pretty significant, so I want to make sure I stick around for the promotion. My only question is if there is a time period required to stay in the reserve to retire as an 0-5 once pinning it on? I believe on active duty you have to have two years time in grade?

    • Reply
      Doug Nordman June 16, 2017 at 7:31 AM

      Good question, LTC!

      Federal law requires three years’ time in grade above the rank of O-4. The service secretaries can waive that requirement down to two years. ( It’s not clear whether that law requires a Reserve/Guard member to earn good years for their time in grade, but the specific answer seems elusive. Do your best to complete good years for your time in grade, and avoid the IRR if possible (because it’s so hard to get a good year in the IRR).

      Once you’ve served at least two years’ time in grade (ideally two good years) then you could apply for “retired awaiting pay” status. When your retirement request is approved for the higher rank then your longevity will continue to accrue in that rank while you’re in gray area (just as if you were on active duty) until you begin drawing your pension. Even though you could apply for retirement when you’re around 23 years of service, your pension would be calculated from the maximum longevity column of the future pay tables in effect when you start drawing your pension

  6. Reply
    Steve June 6, 2017 at 10:11 AM

    Greetings Doug, I read several comments in your blog about calculating final basic pay.
    I intend to apply for reserve retirement instead of active based on the following:
    I will have approximately 11,313 retirement points when I retire based 40 good years, 29 of which are active duty in the Army Reserve AGR program.
    I understand the formula for calculating the percent based on points 11,313 points divided by 360 days based on 30 day months = 31.24 years x 2.5% 0 = 78.5%

    The calculator on the My Army Benefits Website reflects my “final basic pay” as 7,845 a month, E-9 over 39 years. This is the amount that the retirement pay is based on, not the pay rates at 32 years, is that correct?

    • Reply
      Doug Nordman June 6, 2017 at 11:56 AM

      Outstanding question, Steve, and an impressive service record! That’s the most points I’ve ever seen.

      I think you’re correct: your Guard pension is a better deal than your active-duty pension. Let’s check a few parameters from your e-mail.

      You’ve used the phrase “final basic pay”. The term “Final Pay” has a specific meaning for those who’ve entered the military before 8 September 1980. Since you also say that you have 40 good years, it would imply that your Date of Initial Entry on Military Service (the date you first received a military ID card) is in the 1970s. If that’s correct then your Reserve/Guard pension is indeed calculated from your final base pay.

      You might have to educate a few pay clerks in NGB and at DFAS. If they’re struggling to calculate your pension then you’d direct their attention to the DoD Financial Management Regulation (DoD 7400.14-R, volume 7B, You’d refer to paragraph 010102.A.1 (Final Pay) and .B (the pay tables in effect immediately before starting the pension).

      Paragraph 030501 entitles you to the most favorable pay formula. This means that the calculation has to be done for both active-duty (regular) and Reserve/Guard (non-regular) retirements, and you’d get the higher amount.

      030501 also means that DFAS might have to do a Tower Amendment verification. I don’t think the Tower Amendment will affect you but I’ll describe it in case someone mentions it. It requires DFAS to check the pay table increases against retiree COLAs for the years after you made E-9. The calculation verifies that (if you’d filed for retirement at the moment you made E-9 on active duty) you’re still getting the highest pension to which you may have been entitled, especially if retiree COLAs were higher than active-duty pay raises.

      Finally, check Table 3-1 Rule 13 on the FMR’s page 3-28. That describes the non-regular retirement formula (including a bunch of footnotes) for your rank and years of service. This is also the table that DFAS will use to check the amount of active-duty pension you might be eligible for, as well as any differences under the Tower Amendment.

      If your Guard pension is based on Final Pay at age 60, then you have another bit of flexibility that I’ve only seen in a few people during the last decade: the base pay at which you start your pension.

      A Final Pay Reserve/Guard pension uses the pay tables in effect when you reach age 60. If you’ve deployed to a combat zone since 28 Jan 2008, or mobilized for some national emergencies, then your pension could start a few months earlier. See paragraph 010208.F of the DoD FMR and read Ryan Guina’s summary here:

      If your pension starts in late 2018 then it’d be based on the 2018 pay tables. However if you elected to delay your pension by a few months then it could start at the pay in effect on the 2019 pay tables. If you’re turning age 60 in November or December 2018 then it might make sense to start your pension in January 2019, when the pay tables are (hopefully) 1%-2% higher. You’d lose a month or two of pension deposit but you’d make it up over the next 50-100 months of your life at a higher pension. The law which lets you do this is reflected in FMR 010801.D

      And if you’re eligible to start your pension in late 2017 (because of mobilizations for an earlier retirement), then you might want to wait until January 2018 when that pay raise kicks in.

      Note that this delay is only worth doing for Final Pay retirees. High Three retirees won’t notice a difference in their 36-month average. Even for Final Pay retirees, this is running up the score after winning the game. You’d need good longevity and a healthy lifestyle to make sure the delay pays off.

      With those possible changes in mind, your Guard Final Pay pension is based on your longevity (40 good years) at your final rank (E-9) as though you’ve been on duty the entire time (which, in your case, you have actually done). The 2017 pay table tops out at E9>38 for $7844.70/month. An estimate of your 2017 pension is:
      11,313 / 360 x 2.5% x $7844.70 = $6165/month.
      Your 2018 pension may be 1%-2% higher, depending on the FY18 budget legislation.

      Regardless of the age that you’re eligible to retire or when you choose to start your pension, your Tricare benefits start at age 60.

      You also need to make a decision about the Survivor Benefit Program. Let me know if you have any questions, but for most Reserve/Guard members at age 60 the premiums are more expensive than the coverage is worth.

  7. Reply
    Dennis G Allison June 5, 2017 at 12:34 PM

    I have tried for years to get an answer and no one and I mean no one has been able to answer my question and I have tried military personnel and former military and still after 16 yrs and 6 months working for the U S Postal Service can not get anyone to calculate/ convert my 12 years in the Marine Corps Reserve military points to actual days, that I may be able to buy back from the federal government/ USPS for retirement.
    To buy back the time I need the points to be converted into actual months/years. If there is anyone with the actual knowledge and not just a thought, would you please email me at: or even call me at
    901-496-8092 I am a former SSGT with 4.5 Years time in grade. I was actually discharged in 1988 and with to work for the Postal Service in December 2000.

    • Reply
      Doug Nordman June 5, 2017 at 4:42 PM

      Great question, Dennis, and I understand why you seem a little frustrated by the lack of information from people who should know how the system works. I’m not an expert on the federal law of the civil service, and if you need an expert legal opinion then you should hire a lawyer for a few hours of advice. However I can get you (and perhaps your lawyer) started with the references.

      I’d suggest you begin with a current copy of the OPM FERS Handbook. Here’s a link to a sample which might be the current chapter, although it’s from 1998. You’d want to make sure you have the latest edition:
      For example, section 22A2.1-2.E on page 8 of that document goes into the detail you seek, and it essentially says that only the active-duty time of your Reserve career counts… but not every period of active duty.
      Way back on page 31 of that PDF, the FERS section says that the CSRS rules in section 22A2 also apply to FERS.

      I realize that you’re trying to convert points into years/months. In the Reserves, every month has 30 days. That comes from the DoD Financial Management Regulation (the FMR) which has detailed procedures for calculating the Reserve/Guard pension. Once you know your total points of active duty then you can divide by 360 and 30 to get the years & months.

      For more general reading on your military service credit deposit, I recommend Ryan Guina’s interview of Eddie Wills:
      Eddie also has an extremely detailed guide to the process of obtaining your military service credit deposit. Since you’ve been at USPS for so long, you may have some interest to pay on your deposit. Eddie’s post on the process can help you walk through the paperwork and decide whether it’s still a good deal:

      If you haven’t already seen the DFAS part of the process for making your payments, here’s their page:

      After you’ve read through these references, if you still have questions then I’d suggest you contact Eddie through Once he’s answered your questions, then you could either take the USPS’ word for their numbers (which you’d help them calculate) or have a lawyer advise you on any details of the federal law.

      I realize that you might not have enough good years to receive a Marine Reserve pension, but federal law has a specific exception to allow you to receive both a civil service (FERS) pension and a Reserve/Guard pension:

      This advice has worked for other veterans with similar questions. Please let me know if you have more questions.

  8. […] How To Calculate The Value Of A Guard & Reserve Retirement – In response to a question from a reader, Doug originally created and published this post in 2012. The sender was seeking a Reserve Retirement Calculator, specifically … […]

  9. […] How To Calculate The Value Of A Guard & Reserve Retirement – Are you a member of the Reserves and need A Military retirement calculator? Click here for help calculating a reserve retirement. […]

  10. […] How To Calculate The Value Of A Guard & Reserve Retirement – In response to a question from a reader, Doug originally created and published this post in 2012. The sender was seeking a Reserve Retirement Calculator, specifically … […]

  11. […] How To Calculate The Value Of A Guard & Reserve Retirement – In response to a question from a reader, Doug originally created and published this post in 2012. The sender was seeking a Reserve Retirement Calculator, specifically … […]

  12. […] How To Calculate The Value Of A Guard & Reserve Retirement – In response to a question from a reader, Doug originally created and published this post in 2012. The sender was seeking a Reserve Retirement Calculator, specifically … […]

  13. […] How To Calculate The Value Of A Guard & Reserve Retirement – In response to a question from a reader, Doug originally created and published this post in 2012. The sender was seeking a Reserve Retirement Calculator, specifically … […]

  14. […] How To Calculate the Value of A Guard Reserve Retirement – In response to a question from a reader, Doug originally created and published this post in 2012. The sender was seeking a Reserve Retirement Calculator, specifically … […]

  15. Reply
    Arthur Thomas October 24, 2016 at 10:08 AM

    Thank you so much your article helped me a lot. I should have applied for my retirement pay a long about 7 months ago but I live in a foreign country with no bank account here. I have been living here for the passed three years. Is there anyway I can apply from here to obtain my retirement pay?

  16. […] How To Calculate the Value of A Guard Reserve Retirement – Are you a member of the Reserves and need A Military retirement calculator? Click here for help calculating a reserve retirement. […]

  17. Reply
    Matthew September 23, 2016 at 8:09 AM

    Is there a maximum number of reserve point that can be earned in a career? Someone told me that 7500 was the maximum number of reserve points that could be earned. I can not find any references. I’ll have roughly 7600 points with 38 years of service in the National Guard at grade of W5. Just wondering.

    • Reply
      Doug Nordman September 29, 2016 at 11:54 PM

      I’m not aware of any limits. You could drill in the National Guard or Reserves for up to 40 years (depending on making rank) and could even get an age waiver as old as 62 years.

      If you reach over 18 years of active-duty points (AT, ADSW) while mobilized on active-duty orders of at least 30 days, then you could reach sanctuary and be eligible for an active-duty pension at 20 years of service. That would hypothetically cap your point count at about 7300 points because you’d retire and immediately start an active-duty pension. The reality is that most Guard/Reserve servicemembers never reach sanctuary and continue to earn points.

  18. Reply
    Brenda September 20, 2016 at 8:57 AM

    Thank you so much. This was extremely helpful as I feel my time is getting close that I’ll decide to retire. Awesome article!

    • Reply
      Doug Nordman September 21, 2016 at 1:36 PM

      You’re welcome, Brenda, glad to help!

      Let us know if you have any questions about the decision…

  19. Reply
    Tony More August 26, 2016 at 4:56 PM

    Hi Doug, fantastic and informative article- thank you! So just to make sure I’m clear I am RET 2 awaiting RET 1 beginning Dec 01 2016. My pay base date is 6/87 so at that point I will have 29.5 years for pay purposes which at my current pay grade of O3E has me maxed out at $6880. My total career points are 6050. I had a lot of active duty. So in calculating my retirement is my service percentile totally dependant on my total points or do I get any thing extra % for the years I have over 20 i.e. my 29 years of service ?? Thanks Tony

    • Reply
      Doug Nordman August 28, 2016 at 1:14 PM

      Thanks, Tony, and you’ve asked a good question.

      I’m not clear on the RET1 and RET2 acronyms, but let me answer the rest. Your pension amount at age 60 will be based on your total points and on High-Three average of the pay tables in effect when you’re 60 years old.

      Reserve and Guard members have to get at least 20 good years to receive a Notice Of Eligibility letter certifying that they’re qualified to retire, but the extra years just give you an opportunity to rack up more points (and more promotions). Unlike the active-duty retirement formula, the extra Reserve/Guard years themselves are not part of the calculation. The multiplier is fixed and is only applied to your total points.

      Because you’ll be using the newest set of pay tables at age 60, you’ll still benefit from the pay increases between now and your 60th birthday– as well as any possible longevity increases in the O-3E row. Right now you’ve maxed out that longevity, but it’s remotely possible that DoD could change the pay tables as they did in 2007.

      For now, I’d calculate your pension based on your total points and today’s pay tables. I’d assume that your pension (if you started it today) will keep pace with inflation until age 60. That assumption is unpredictable (and imprecise) but it’s a reasonable approximation.

  20. […]  How To Calculate a Reserve Retirement  This Doug Nordman article was originally written in 2012, but has been updated to reflect the 2016 pay scales.  TBT, I have zero idea how to calculate a reserve retirement, and I’m glad that Doug took the time to explain it here. […]

  21. […] You Need To Know For The FY 2016 Army MAVNI Program 190 comments How To Calculate A Reserve Retirement 111 comments Retiring From The Reserves & […]

  22. […] You Need To Know For The FY 2016 Army MAVNI Program 190 comments Calculating A Reserve Retirement 110 comments Retiring From The Reserves & […]

  23. Reply
    harold f. deason August 5, 2016 at 12:55 PM

    Retired from army reserve with 22 yrs .was asked to volunteer for Army inactive duty with hip pocket orders to go to McDill AFB Tampa to open a reception station in case of a emergency conflict,Had to keep a military duffel bag maintained for the 13 years should my retirement pay be recomputed for that time?

    • Reply
      Doug Nordman August 7, 2016 at 2:24 AM

      Harold, I’m a little unclear on some of the jargon like “inactive duty”, “hip pocket orders”, and “duffel bag”. However if you were issued written orders for this duty then you could have been eligible to receive points which would be added to your total point count. That would raise your pension. The question is whether your duty status was actually earning you points or whether it was just putting you in a position to be quickly mobilized if necessary (no points until mobilized).

      I’d suggest that you contact an Army Reserve center (phone or e-mail), give them a copy of your orders and your personal info (so that they can research your records), and see what they know.

  24. Reply
    Jeffery Deleva April 1, 2016 at 6:53 PM

    I Served in the Navy from 1989 to 1994 (Just over 5yrs total). I was honorably discharged medically and currently have 20% disability status. I was informed several years ago that I could rejoin the Navy with up to a 30% disability rating and even confirmed it in person downtown. I then spent an entire day downtown going through their test and the recruiter never contacted me and over a month later said that I was denied the next day and he did not feel the need to inform me. To a Navy guy that took great pride, had perfect Evals, and even won Sailor of the Quarter before getting out. That was a slap in the face. (The recruiter later apologized and admitted he really fouled up and simply did not care about his job back then). This was years ago.

    I have a customer that just got out of the military that said I can still join because I have the ability to still serve 15yrs. (I am 45). My question is there any reserves that I can go to. If you type in Madproaudio BBB reviews online (I own this company). You can read reviews and see how exceptional my customers are treated to give you an idea of the man behind those reviews. I have always wanted to rejoin, or work with the government, etc. just difficult to figure out who can help make that happen.

    • Reply
      Doug Nordman April 2, 2016 at 12:25 PM

      Jeffery, it’s true that federal law requires military servicemembers to retire at age 60 (unless Congress grants an extension). However most services will only grant age waivers up to the late 30s, and they may be reluctant to grant both an age and a disability waiver. Trauma surgeons and linguists may be in demand, but unless you have a critical skill then the military will be more interested in younger and healthier vets.

      The path is indeed difficult, but it still starts with the recruiter. You may have better luck with a Reserve or National Guard recruiter, but keep searching until you find one who’s willing to work with you.

  25. […] Reserve duty has given them a very high point count and a High-Three Reserve pension at age 60. (In her case, it’s at least 53% of her High Three pay base.) This means that they could reach financial independence by saving and investing enough in their […]

  26. Reply
    Doug Nordman January 9, 2016 at 6:55 AM

    Glad to help, Jeffrey!

    You can do points in the IRR, but before you make that leap you should make absolutely sure that you’ll earn a good year. The services have all been clamping down on the courses that qualify for IRR points, and it’s getting more difficult to access them without a valid CAC. It takes a certain amount of discipline (and free time) to keep up with the pace of correspondence courses to reach a good years’ worth of points, and if you can only access the website from a distant Reserve Center then you’re not going to be happy.

    I know people in the IRR who have come up one point short of a good year, and you don’t want to experience that feeling. Of course you already have enough good years for your Notice of Eligibility and your retirement, so it’s not critical in your case.

    Another option (if you haven’t already considered it) is to drill ahead over the next few months or do an extra AT (if available) to get your good year. Confirm your point count (and for those who are at 20 good years, make sure you’ll get your Notice of Eligibility) and then take a six-month Authorized Absence from drill weekends before retiring.

    • Reply
      trish July 22, 2016 at 10:50 AM

      Spoke with HRC for USAR just yesterday, 21 July, re: IRR earning retirement points [RPs] for correspondence courses. That option is no longer available as of spring of this year (2016) – the only way to get a ‘good year’ of 50 RPs or more this year and beyond is to become an active USAR member via acceptance of a TPU position or find an IMA/DIMA slot & affiliate with some organization and make the Unit Training Assemblies [UTAs] and/or perform Annual Training [AT]/Additional Duty/’split train’, etc. Good luck!

      • Reply
        Doug Nordman July 22, 2016 at 11:39 PM

        Thanks, Trish– looks like all the services are cutting back on correspondence courses. IRR may now be a very difficult place to get a good year.

  27. Reply
    Jeffrey January 7, 2016 at 6:10 PM

    Thank you Doug for the timely response in my matter, I really appreciate the info you provided for me. Regarding my situation it looks like for me to go on active duty orders will take an act of Congress (literally).
    Unless I sign a wavier for my right to apply for sanctuary seems like the only way to deploy again for my farewell tour.

    One question I have is if I decide to go to IRR a year before my HYT. Can I still accumulate points in the IRR beside the annual 15 membership points through correspondence course and college courses and then retire from the IRR. Would that be another option to consider?

  28. Reply
    Doug Nordman December 26, 2015 at 6:11 AM

    Jeffrey, there might be some confusion on the sanctuary requirements. In order to qualify you have to be on active duty (mobilization or other orders >29 days) at the date you go over the 18-year point. Then you’re continued on active duty (in a different personnel category) until you reach 20 years of service.

    When sanctuary is granted then DoD makes the services pay for the pension difference out of their own personnel funds. The services track servicemembers who have at least 16 years of points and aggressively restrict them from reaching sanctuary status. With your 6405 points, you’re probably already on their database warnings. You’d be able to continue to do drill weekends and ATs but the only way to get orders of more than 29 days (let alone mobilization) would be with a three-star general’s approval from AF personnel HQ (the active-duty HQ, not the Reserve HQ). I’ve seen a handful approved before the drawdown, but I haven’t heard of any sanctuary approvals in the last four years.

    However you could keep accumulating points on drills and shorter orders, even if you go over 18 years of points. I know of two Reservists with over 7400 points, although they’ll never be approved for any orders over 29 days.

    Here’s more info plus the AF sanctuary instruction:
    I’m not sure whether the 2011 edition is the latest version and I don’t have access to the .mil instruction databases, so you should check that with a Reserve center.

    This post links to all of the military’s sanctuary instructions that are on public sites:
    But again they may have been updated in the last year.

    So in your case you’ll remain “retired awaiting pay” (gray area) until your Reserve pension starts. If you were mobilized for at least 90 days to a combat zone (or, for National Guard, some domestic emergencies) then you might qualify for an earlier pension start date. Since you were mobilized in 2012, your combat zone deployment’s 90-day periods would have to be within a fiscal year to count for an earlier pension start. If you have 180 days in a combat zone in one FY (or 90 days in one FY and 90 days in another FY), then your Reserve pension would start six months earlier. But if you have less than 90 days in a FY then that does not count. 120 days in one FY and 60 days in another FY would only start your pension three months sooner.

    Keep in mind that while your Reserve pension may start sooner, your Tricare healthcare will still start at age 60.

    You probably already know that you should have your VA status reviewed now to see whether you’re still at a 30% rating (or higher) before you retire in Nov ’17. When your Reserve pension starts, it’ll be reduced (“offset”) by your VA disability compensation. If your disability rating is at least 50% (and combat related) then you may be able to receive both your full Reserve pension and your VA disability compensation.

    Let me know if the “90 days in a FY” or a higher VA disability rating might be an issue and I’ll go into the gory details.

  29. Reply
    jeffrey December 25, 2015 at 11:48 AM

    I’m currently 52 as a E-7 have 30 years of service (13 active USMC & 17 USAF reserves) with 6405 points as of to date. I already have a disability rating of 30% from my active duty time when I was involuntary separated.

    I was considering applying for sanctuary next year, before my high tenure 11/2017. Wanted to know which scenario would benefit me more financially if I retire as a active duty with 20 years ( if I get sanctuary status) or as a gray area reservist waiting till 59.5 years old (mobilized in 2012 for OEF).

  30. […] Calculating A Reserve Retirement * […]

  31. Reply
    John Duffy September 3, 2015 at 11:09 AM

    I joined the Military in 1974 and am now receiving Reserve Retirement pay. DFAS figured my gross pay by using this long drawn out formula that figures how many years my points convert to, then multiply by 2.5 to get a percentage of active duty pay. I thought my pay was just suppose to be my total points times point value for rank and years. The way they figured it comes up to $19.00 less a month than the way I figured it. What is the proper formula?

    • Reply
      JOHN DUFFY September 8, 2015 at 4:00 PM

      Thanks Doug. That helps a lot. I did not know that the point value was only used for a gauge of actual retirement pay. I don’t know if this is your area of expertise but I have another question. My total points is 6522 but only 6214 for retirement. I understand over the years the way retirement points are calculated has changed. In my case, is the extra 308 points used for anything?

      • Reply
        Doug Nordman September 11, 2015 at 1:28 AM

        Another good question, John, but I’m not sure about the answer. I’m familiar with today’s Reserve retirement rules, but not the changes from earlier years. As far as I know, every point earned at drills or on orders or even through the IRR counts toward a pension. Even if a Reservist didn’t make enough points to earn a good year, those point would still count for pension credit.

        If you have a point-count summary that lists a reason or reference for points that don’t “count” then I could try to research it. Another option would be contacting DFAS to make sure they’re using the correct point count total.

        One recent change has been removing points earned through midshipman summer training. After a legal review of legislation, DFAS is actually recalculating pensions and planning to recoup overpayments. SECNAV has asked that the recoupment be waived for amounts under $10K.

    • Reply
      Doug Nordman September 4, 2015 at 1:44 PM

      Good question, John, and one of the most confusing issues in the Reserves and Guard.

      Since you joined the service before 8 Sep 1980, you’re eligible for the DFAS Final Pay formula:
      Monthly Pension = Points / 360 x 2.5% x Base Pay.

      However the “base pay” part is where most of the confusion comes from.

      The pay table is the one in effect when your pension starts. If you began receiving your Reserve pension in 2015, then you’re using the 2015 pay tables.

      The rank is the rank you retired at, but there’s a catch. When you “retire awaiting pay” instead of discharge or separation, then the longevity column is the years of service that you’d reach as if you’ve been on active duty the entire time up until your pension starts. For the vast majority of Reserve retirements, this is the maximum pay at your retirement rank (usually the >30 column).

      Your “point value for rank and years” number is simply a calculation used by the services to determine roughly how much money a point is worth. It has nothing to do with the actual calculation of your retirement pay. The DFAS number is different from your number because they’re using the proper formula.

      If you want to dig into the nitty-gritty of the calculation then it’s in Chapter 3 of Volume 7b of the DoD Financial Management Regulation:
      starting with paragraph 030205 at the bottom of page 3-9.

  32. Reply
    Jim Cagle August 18, 2015 at 4:22 PM

    Hi Doug–

    You may have missed it ( or maybe I did )
    but could you answer Bob Walter’s question? I’m in a similar situation except enlisted in 1978, was an officer from 1980-1992, 23 year break in service (LOL), now back to finish last few years as enlisted (not elligible for officer because I returned beyond 26 years from commissioning date). I was told before joining that retirement would be at highest rank attained, but that “pre 1980 rule” has me concerned.

    Thank you,
    Jim Cagle

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

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

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

      Great question, Minnie!

      You’re in the window to hear from your service. Forgive me for preaching to the choir about this, but ideally you’ve already received your Notice of Eligibility and filed for retired awaiting pay (gray area) status.

      If you have an online account then log in to check for any notifications. (Not many gray-area retirees have an account.) If you’re near a Reserve or National Guard center then I’d e-mail, call, or visit them to show your ID and check your status. (While you’re there, they may be able to do any additional admin online.) If you’re not near a military site then contact your service’s Reserve/Guard personnel command directly and ask them to update your file.

      At some point you’ll be asked to log in to your MyPay account and verify your contact information. DoD requires that your pension be deposited directly in your financial account, so you’ll also need to check that they enter your account numbers correctly. If the pension payment doesn’t start on the date you were promised then contact DFAS directly about your Retiree Account Statement at

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

    Please explain the rules for retiring from the National Guard with pay commensurate with the highest rank held anytime during military service.
    My situation briefly: Retired from the National Guard in Nov of 2014 with 20 years/6 months of service.
    I was an E – 5 at the time of receiving the 20 year letter and retirement orders. However, prior to my 8 years of service in the National Guard I had attained the rank of 0 – 3 while serving on active duty in the Navy, electing to resign my commission, receiving an Honorable Discharge after holding that rank for @ 2 years.
    Am I eligible to receive retirement pay based on the highest rank I held, which was that of 0 – 3?

    Thank you,
    Bob Waters

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

    I plan to retire as a reservist not as an active duty soldier. I am currently deployed but I am AGR, will this deployment count toward reduced age retirement or must I be a TPU soldier.

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

      Thanks for your question, TC!

      The 2008 National Defense Authorization Act enables early Reserve retirements for combat deployments exceeding 90 days during a fiscal year. The 2015 NDAA fixed a glitch in the 2008 Act and now lets those deployments cross fiscal years.

      Between 28 Jan 2008 and 30 Sep 2014, you had to mobilize and deploy to a combat zone for at least 90 days during the fiscal year. (That could be one deployment or the sum of a series of shorter deployments.) After Sep 2014, those 90 days can accumulate across fiscal years. For every one of those 90 days (or more) that you’re deployed to a combat zone (or mobilized for certain national emergencies) then your Reserve retirement starts the same number of days earlier.

      To qualify for this eligibility, your mobilization orders have to cite federal law– either Title 10 or Title 32 sections 12301(a), 12301(d), 12301(h), 12302, 12304, 12305 or 12306.

      Another issue is “combat zone”. Those designated areas have changed significantly over the last few years so your mobilization may no longer be eligible to qualify for an earlier retirement.

      I’m not sure of the Army meaning of the phrase “TPU soldier”. (In the Navy that acronym means “Transient Personnel Unit”.) However if you’re injured during a mobilization for combat duty under these conditions (either in training or in the combat zone) then your time in a Warrior Transition Unit also counts toward the 90 days. Let me know if “TPU soldier” is a different subject.

      Although your Reserve pension may start earlier, the NDAAs do not address Tricare health insurance. That still starts at age 60 regardless of deployments to combat zones.

  36. Reply
    Luis February 23, 2015 at 6:39 AM

    Hi everyone I join on September 1998 the NG and on April 2000 I went active duty. I’m currently on a MEB procedure can I qualify to request early retirement. Also is there a way to calculate my active years in service.

    • Reply
      Doug Nordman February 24, 2015 at 6:15 AM

      Great question, Luis!

      Although Congress has authorized the Temporary Early Retirement Authority legislation through 2018, each service uses it at their own discretion. Your best option is to contact your service’s personnel branch to determine their policy and to request TERA. However (depending on the nature of your disability) you may also qualify for a medical disability retirement. The medical retirement will not have the pension reduction that’s part of the TERA calculation, so you should see how the MEB process turns out before requesting TERA. You should also review the MEB and the TERA questions with a military lawyer. The JAG can help you verify that you’re getting due process from the MEB and that you’ll receive all the benefits to which you’re entitled.

      Even if you request TERA, your service may still turn you down.

      The fastest way to calculate your days of active duty is to subtract the difference between the present date and the date you were mobilized. You can do that with most spreadsheet software or using a website like

  37. Reply
    jim spencer January 28, 2015 at 5:18 PM

    i have 4 full active army and 10 reserve. i got out in 2000, can i get a civil service job to make up the remaining 6 years ?

  38. Reply
    Andrew January 1, 2015 at 10:26 AM

    If I have 4 years of active duty time and 16 years of reserve time all with “good years,” does that mean that the age to begin receiving retirement pay will still be at age 60 or at 56 due to the years of active time?

    • Reply
      Doug Nordman January 2, 2015 at 6:54 PM

      Thanks for the question, Andrew! The active time (an active-duty obligation or a Reserve mobilization) only reduces the retirement age if it occurred after 28 January 2008 in a combat zone. It reduces the retirement age by 90 days for every 90 days (in the same fiscal year) in that combat zone. There’s a rumor that the “fiscal year” phrase was removed by the 2015 legislation to allow the reduction to be any consecutive 90-day period (whether or not it crosses fiscal years), but I haven’t seen that correction yet.

      The earlier retirement only applies to the Reserve pension and not to Tricare. Tricare starts at age 60 regardless of the start date of the Reserve pension.

      • Reply
        Dave McDonald January 3, 2015 at 4:40 PM

        Here is some helpful info concerning the early drop:
        Early Retirement for National Guard and Reserves. REDUCED AGE RETIREMENT AD, for this purpose, means service pursuant to a call or order to AD on orders specifying, as the authority for such orders, a provision of law referred to in section 101(a) (13)(B), and performed under section 688, 12301 (a), 12302, 12304, 12305, 12406, and chapter 15 (insurrection), or under section 12301 (d) of Title 10 USC.

        WASHINGTON (Army News Service, June 5, 2013) — More reserve-component Soldiers may now be eligible to receive retirement pay before 60, if they meet certain criteria.

        As of January 2013, Congress authorized more categories to the 2008 National Defense Authorization Act, which originally applied only to reserve-component Soldiers serving in overseas contingency operations like Iraq and Afghanistan, said Sheila Dorsey, chief, Reserve Component Retirements.

        The way it works is that Soldiers can count 90 days of their tour toward 90 days earlier retirement for each fiscal year deployed, according to Richard Gray, supervisor of Retired Pay.

        That part is still in effect.

        The new categories include reserve-component Soldiers who are activated to respond to national emergencies such as natural disasters like hurricanes or earthquakes. Another category is for those in warrior transition units who were hurt while mobilized for such responses, Gray said.

        The most important thing Soldiers can do to meet the criteria, Dorsey said, is to check their mobilization orders or their DD-214 discharge document. Those documents need to have any one of the following Title 10 or Title 32 U.S. codes annotated: 12301(a), 12301(d), 12301(h), 12302, 12304, 12305 or 12306.

        If one of those numbers is not there, either the Soldier won’t be eligible or needs to see someone in the personnel office to get the appropriate code amended, she said.

        There are some exceptions to the rule. Soldiers who’ve demonstrated substandard performance are an exception, for instance. Gray said Soldiers can check with Human Resources Command for eligibility information. The HRC can be reached by calling 502-613-8950 or by visiting

        While Soldiers who meet the criteria can receive retirement pay before age 60, they will still need to wait until their 60th birthday before they are eligible for Tricare, Dorsey said. Other than that, they will receive the normal retirement benefits such as exchange and commissary benefits.

        Despite deferred medical, Dorsey said she’s already seen a number of Soldiers taking advantage of the early-age retirement option.


        Those Soldiers with the eligible U.S. codes can accrue reduced-age retirement as follows:

        During any fiscal year, Soldiers can accrue 90 days of early retirement. Fewer days will not count or be carried over to the next fiscal year and more days past 90 will not count and will not be carried over to the next fiscal year.

        That 90-day period does not have to be contiguous. It could be the sum of more than one mobilization, so long as it meets the U.S. codes within that fiscal year.

        For instance, a Soldier might have three 30-day mobilizations in one fiscal year. That would meet the 90-day criteria. Or, there might be six 15-day mobilizations. That too would meet the criteria. Any number of combinations that add to 90 days would count.

        If a Soldier is mobilized on Sept. 1 for just 90 days, that would not count because the fiscal year begins on Oct. 1, and only 30 days would accrue for the first fiscal year and 60 the next, assuming that no other mobilizations take place.

        Another rule is that the 90 days can accumulate over fiscal years.

        For example, if a Soldier gets 90 days credit this fiscal year, he or she would be able to retire 90 days before age 60. Then, if a Soldier also gets 90 days credit next fiscal year, he or she would be able to retire at age 59.5, or 180 days before age 60.

        The accumulative effect can continue for a number of years in 90-day blocks, with the only stipulation being that a Soldier cannot retire before age 50.

        Link for computing time between two dates:

        • Doug Nordman January 31, 2015 at 8:55 PM

          Thanks for the detailed summary, Dave!

          I’ve edited your comment to reflect that the fiscal year requirement has been canceled by the 2015 NDAA. Servicemembers can earn day-for-day credit for earlier retirement without having to count across fiscal years. The rest of the legislation remains in effect.

  39. Reply
    todd December 20, 2014 at 5:20 PM

    hi i wonder how long would i have to be in to retire and i have 5 years of active duty airforce and 1 year or army reserves so far ? can i apply my active duty points ?

    • Reply
      Doug Nordman December 21, 2014 at 7:51 PM

      Good question, Todd!

      You’ll have to earn a total of at least 20 good years in order to be eligible to retire from the Reserves or National Guard.

      You’ll get a good year when you earn 50 points (or whatever minimum your service requires that year), but you’ll also have to perform sufficient drills and remain current on your readiness for mobilization: medical, dental, physical fitness, and online training.

      Your active-duty service counts toward good years. If you review your point count summary online, you’ll probably see a good year for every year of active duty plus another good year for your Army Reserve time. If that’s the case then you only have 14 good years remaining until you’re eligible for retirement. Your active-duty time also accrues a point for each day, so you probably received over 1800 points for those five years.

  40. Reply
    Mark December 12, 2014 at 4:22 AM

    Thanks for the most informative retirement article I’ve ever read! A question for you: I’m sitting at 18 years of reserve time with around 3500 points (5 years of active duty for training and 2 years of deployments.). I’m looking at taking an AGR position. How will they calculate the reserve points in the active system? How soon will I be eligible for active retirement?

    • Reply
      Doug Nordman December 15, 2014 at 5:27 PM

      Mark, I’m having a little trouble sorting out your terminology, but I’ll give it a shot and you let me know if I’m interpreting it correctly.

      It sounds as though you’re in the Reserves now, with 3500 points on your record and credit for 18 good years. All of your five years of active duty for training and your two years of deployments should already be included in that 3500 points. You can verify that by going to your service’s online record of your good years and your point count.

      I’m not sure what type of duty your AGR position may be, but whether it’s mobilization or some other form of active duty for training then you’ll get one point for each day of duty. (If the orders are for more than 29 days then other benefits kick in, like Tricare.) For every year that you achieve 50 points (or your service’s requirements for that year) and meet all of the other readiness requirements, you’ll get another good year of Reserve credit.

      When you reach 20 good years then you’re eligible for a Reserve (“non-regular”) pension. If you’re on active duty every day of the next two years, then at the end of that time you’ll have earned another 731 points and you’ll have 20 good years. Your point total would be 4231 and your pension would be 4231 / 360 * 2.5% = 29.38% of the High-Three average of the base pay for your rank and your longevity of the pay tables in effect when your pension starts.

      Depending on the dates and locations of your deployment, your pension may start before age 60. (See the last paragraph of the post.) If you think this may apply to you then you could e-mail me the dates of your deployments and we could confirm all of the details. However first I think you’ll want to check your online records to make sure the good years and point count are accurate.

    • Reply
      David L. McDonald December 13, 2014 at 8:58 AM

      I am three years deep into retirement on 01MAR15 and HRC still is unable to get my retirement correct. I have an active duty retirement, and have been ping pronged all over the retirement services community: RSO, HRC,G-1, NGB, to name a few. My retirement is the story of Everybody, Somebody, Anybody, and Nobody. Google everybody,somebody, anybody and nobody of the story. I expected more of a “Message to Garcia” retirement, one where people who deal with this for their job would actually do their job. Have knowledge of Title 10 USC concerning retirement, DOD FMR vol 7b, and the AR’s. Instead, I have had to educate a broken system, a scloretic bureaucracy. Don’t suggest the politician route, the service organization route both major failures. I am making progress on my own, as of Sep 2014, I have three retirement certificates and am finally going in the right direction. I am now the correct rank from SSG to CPT, but still at the wrong retirement percentages for years of service and wrong retirement. The subject matter experts went from my 20 yr AFS, non disability retirement to a reserve early drop.
      All of my time was active, with over ten years as a commissioned officer. They all had access to this info before I retired.

  41. […] Reader “Moondoggie” commented on the Reserve retirement post: […]

  42. […] Click here to learn how to calculate a reserve retirement. […]

  43. Reply
    An E-7 Active-Duty Pension Vs. An E-7 Reserve Pension - Military Guide November 11, 2014 at 12:58 PM

    […] Click here to learn how to calculate a reserve retirement. […]

  44. […] servicemembers can join the Reserve or National Guard and earn credit toward retirement for their drills and active du…. (They can get retirement points for other activities, too, but drills & active duty are the […]

  45. Reply
    Doug Nordman August 25, 2014 at 7:01 PM

    Stephen, you’d have to spreadsheet the math to decide whether finishing 20 for an enlisted active-duty pension is better than going to the Reserves for an officer’s pension. Some of the math depends on your age at retirement and when you’d start a Reserve pension.

    Regardless of rank or the size of the pension, I think the most significant factors in a military pension are the cost-of-living adjustment and the cheap Tricare premiums. Without crunching all of the numbers, it’s probably better to take an active-duty pension sooner at a lower rank.

    Of course the key is whether you’re able to stay on active duty to finish 20 years.

    The above paragraphs assume that you’re still enjoying your time in uniform. If you’re miserable on active duty then it’s probably better to transfer to the Reserves, enjoy the improvement in quality of life, and know that your pension will pick up at age 60. The cliché “It’s only money” certainly applies here.

  46. Reply
    Stephen P. August 24, 2014 at 2:27 PM


    Once again thanks for the insight.

    It sounds like for those few that are in my situation (involuntarily separated at 17.5 and prior enlisted) the best chance at an active duty retirement is to take the revert back to enlisted option and finish off my time as a chief.

  47. Reply
    Doug Nordman August 24, 2014 at 1:49 PM


    Not quite. See this post:

    Here’s a summary: the services discourage sanctuary because they have to pay big bucks for it. When a Reservist reaches sanctuary (and is retained on active duty for an active-duty retirement) then that pension funding is not supported by DoD. Each service has to pay sanctuary active-duty retirements out of their own personnel funds until the servicemember reaches age 60 (the Reserve pension start date) and the funding obligation reverts to DoD.

    If a servicemember has over 5840 points (over 16 years of points) then they’re still allowed to keep drilling and doing AT and even multiple ADTs of up to 29 days each. That’s considered training, not active duty, and that’s all approved by the local Reserve Center and the gaining command. However BUPERS N9 (and CNO N13) screen orders when the servicemember is ordered to active duty (30 days or more) via ADT, ADSW, or even mobilization. That’s considered operational active duty, and that’s only approved by OPNAV.

    Servicemembers are also required to track their point counts and ensure that they don’t exceed sanctuary without OPNAV approval. If they “somehow” reach sanctuary without that approval then they could be involuntarily released from active duty and sent back to Reserve status. See paragraph 6 of OPNAVINST 1001.27 (

    I have seen a Reservist mobilized by a PACOM flag officer even though the servicemember was very close to sanctuary (17.9 years of points). The next morning BUPERS overrode the flag officer and canceled the orders, then told PACOM to submit a sanctuary request. (It was disapproved.) The Reservist was allowed to continue to do drills and ATs, and one 29-day ADT per fiscal year. They eventually retired with over 7400 points (over 20 years of points, and 25 good years) but for a Reserve pension.

  48. Reply
    Stephen P. August 23, 2014 at 8:40 AM


    Thanks for the info, and the quick response!
    If I am understanding you correctly, while it isn’t common and the military doesn’t enable it, if an individual were able to somehow put together 3 years of active points they would be eligible for active retirement? I’ve been through the Navy’s MILPERSMAN, but the language used isn’t exactly straightforward. Although, I believe there is a section that seems to indicate that if a Sailor is on active orders and reaches sanctuary, they can remain on active orders? Is there any truth to that?

  49. Reply
    Doug Nordman August 22, 2014 at 6:09 AM

    Good question, Stephen!

    Federal law includes a section called “sanctuary”: any servicemember, active or Reserve/Guard, who reaches 18 years of active duty must be continued on active duty to 20 years (and an active-duty retirement). The Reserve/Guard services want to avoid inadvertently letting their members reach sanctuary (and an active-duty retirement), so they track everyone with more than 16 years of points and restrict their mobilization opportunities.

    If a servicemember left active duty at 17 years for a Reserve/National Guard career, they’d already be on sanctuary tracking. They would be permitted to do drill and AT (for up to 29 days) but longer stints of active duty would require approval by the service’s personnel HQ. It was rarely approved during the last 13 years of war, and in a drawdown it would be extremely unlikely.

    Instead a Reserve/Guard member would drill (and do AT) for at least three more years to reach 20 “good years” of service, and then would be eligible for a Reserve/Guard (“non-regular”) pension. They would start that pension at age 60 or (depending on combat deployments) possibly a few months earlier.

  50. Reply
    Stephen P. August 21, 2014 at 3:02 PM


    How does it work in situations that are effectively opposite the situations mentioned in the previous comments? For example, if someone was forced out of active duty with 17 years in (after perhaps being passed over for promotion) and then switched over to the reserves and accumulated 3 years worth of active points (1095 points). Would they be eligible for active duty retirement (i.e., receive their retirement pay immediately)? Thanks in advance.

  51. […] end of 2014, reach age 60 in eight years, and start your Reserve pension on 1 January 2023. You can calculate your Reserve pension with this post (the most popular post on the blog). We’ll assume that your 14 years of enlisted Reserve […]

  52. […] up is Lisa’s question about going back on active duty to qualify for a Reserve […]

  53. Reply
    Gail Mollere June 7, 2014 at 9:43 AM

    Do you get paid for 30 days per month or does the retirement pay vary according to the number of days per month? Thank you.

    • Reply
      Doug Nordman June 8, 2014 at 5:37 AM

      That’s absolutely right, Gail, the pension is paid as a 30-day month. You’ll get the same payment each month for the calendar year.

      The new calendar year’s first payment is boosted by its cost of living adjustment– which continues at the new level for the rest of the year until the following year’s COLA. Over my 12 years of retirement, the COLA has raised my pension by a total of 27%.

      • Reply
        serg June 15, 2014 at 4:35 PM

        What is your recommendation between early retirement from AD or a Reserve retirement? I qualify for TERA if I get passed over for Major. I have about a total of 16 years of active duty (10 USA commissioned, 6 enlisted) and about 14 enlisted reserve years from the Navy. I’m 51 years old.

        • Doug Nordman July 10, 2014 at 5:12 AM

          Serg, here’s a more detailed answer (with dollar figures) at this post:

        • Doug Nordman June 16, 2014 at 3:22 PM

          Congratulations, Serg, it looks like you’re already eligible for a Reserve retirement!

          Please check the requirements at this link:

          and make sure you have your Reserve Notice of Eligibility letter (confirming 20 good years) as well as an accurate Reserve point count. The Navy Reserve may not have tracked your active-duty Army time, and you may need to update their records to obtain your NOE.

          If you received your first military ID card before 8 September 1980 (Navy Reserve) then your retirement system may be Final Pay. It depends on what was entered as your Date of Initial Entry on Military Service:

          If your first military ID was issued after 7 September 1980 then your retirement pay base will be High Three.

          Then check your service’s TERA message. If you’re passed over you may still have to apply for TERA, and there’s no guarantee that you’ll be accepted. If you meet the TERA criteria then calculate your pension using the FMR TERA tables at this link:

          and consider the issues at this link:

          Next, calculate your Reserve pension (assuming it starts at age 60 as an O-3) and compare it to your TERA pension. Your TERA pension may start at a smaller number but it will have an eight-year head start on your Reserve pension. I feel that the most important factor in either pension is its COLA, and your TERA pension may grow at an annual rate of 1%-2%. By the time you’re 60 years old, the COLA could make your TERA pension higher than your Reserve pension.

          Finally, talk to a military lawyer who’s familiar with Title X U.S. Code for military retirement law. You want to make sure that your retirement occurs as an O-3. It’s also possible (but doubtful) that your deployments after 28 January 2008 may make you eligible to start a Reserve retirement earlier than age 60. You need solid legal advice on both of these criteria before you can count on the numbers. The Army has retired at least one other servicemember as an enlisted, despite their service at a commissioned rank, and you want to verify that your retirement references the appropriate sections of federal law.

          Let me know if you want any help with the numbers, and please tell us how your selection board goes!

  54. Reply
    Louise May 12, 2014 at 1:12 AM

    Thanks for giving a thorough explanation on reserve retirement. You shared some points that I don’t usually find in retirement blogs. Will look forward to your future posts. Thanks for sharing!

    • Reply
      Doug Nordman May 12, 2014 at 6:42 AM

      You’re welcome, Louise, it’s consistently one of the most popular posts on the blog!

  55. […] articles: The FMR for calculating an active-duty pension Calculating A Reserve Retirement National Guard and Reserve retirement at the maximum […]

  56. Reply
    Navy Reserve Benefits | Sidi of Chicago December 28, 2013 at 5:25 AM

    […] Very basically, if you reach e-7 over those 20 years, at today’s rates you’d collect $695/month as your pension. […]

  57. […] Should you join the Reserves or National Guard? Retiring from the Reserves and National Guard Calculating a Reserve retirement Military Reserve and National Guard retirement calculators Guest Post Wednesday: “My Road to a […]

  58. Reply
    delphinide November 4, 2013 at 11:33 AM

    Great article! Thanks. You just convinced me to get out of the reserves and sell my points to a federal job. As an 0-4 with 7 years active and 13 projected reserve years, I’ll only have 3205 points after 20 years. My multiplier is only 22.3%, which means my projected High-3 monthly retirement pay is only $2388 a month. That is only slightly more than Social Security. Thank you for saving me from 2-3 more long deployments away from my family. Anyone would do better with TSP invested into moderate stocks.

  59. Reply
    David L. McDonald October 21, 2013 at 10:00 AM

    Any thoughts on how to get my officer retirement? I was on active duty for over 16 years Navy, RIF’ed after Gulf War One. Joined the MN Army National Guard, as an enlisted man, deployed to Iraq for 2 years, entered Sanctuary Program, and retired from Army with over 20 years of active federal service. I have been retired for 2 years now and still cannot get anyone to explain to me why title 10 Sections: 1370, 3926 and 3911 do not apply to my situation. I held my commission for 10 years and 08 months in the Navy.
    The Army retired me under 3914 and 3964 of title 10.

    I don’t get it.


    • Reply
      Doug Nordman October 22, 2013 at 3:34 PM

      Good to hear from you again, Dave! I just re-sent you my response to your 4 July “Contact me”; please check your e-mail (and perhaps your spam folder) for my NordsNords at Gmail address.

      I’m not sure how the Army arrived at their determination of your retirement rank, and you made good points in your 4 July message. If you have not already seen a military lawyer at a local military base then that still seems to be your best option. If no military base is nearby then the next choice would be to consult a civilian lawyer (preferably a military veteran) with experience at having retirement records corrected by military review boards. You already seem familiar with the DoD Financial Management Regulation so the lawyer might be willing to offer a free hour to review your FMR references and your service record. Please let us know what you’ve learned from that and what other assistance we can offer.

      • Reply
        David L. McDonald February 19, 2014 at 6:05 AM

        Unfortunately I have hired a lawyer to sue the government for my benefits. Both of the elected officials I have contacted about my retirement have been dead ends. I will keep you posted on the results.


        • Doug Nordman February 20, 2014 at 6:19 AM

          Thanks for the update, Dave. Please let us know how the lawyer interprets the differing Title 10 sections.

  60. Reply
    chris colombo October 18, 2013 at 11:24 PM

    I have a friend who is trying to straighten out his Active Federal Service (AFS) time as an Army Reserve AGR officer. He’s looking for the regulation that defines AFS and specifies what the calculation includes. As this deals with pay and thousands of folks have gone through this process (and the DOD being a bureaucratic beast) I’d imagine this is spelled out in detail. At stake is whether he’s forced to a mandatory retirement date or gets to retire. Could use some help! Thanks,

    • Reply
      Doug Nordman October 20, 2013 at 2:56 AM

      Thanks for your comment, Chris!

      The definition of active federal service is in federal law. I’ll start by disclaiming that I’m not a lawyer, and your friend definitely needs the services of one. The lawyers know how to page through the federal law’s revisions, amendments, updates, and other minor changes. They also have the tools to research previous cases for legal precedents that might not be reflected in the actual text of the law. As you say, I’m sure that there have been many lawsuits in this area over the last few decades, but I’m not sure how to find them. As for finding the lawyer: they should contact their unit’s lawyer or base legal officer or even see if they can find someone in their unit who has a civilian practice. Just about any lawyer or paralegal should have the tools to research the law and the case history, although a military lawyer will be more familiar with recent precedents.

      The definition of active federal service starts in Title 10 of the U.S. Code, parts 101(d)(6) and (7). In the “Notes” tab of the Cornell law website ( it says “In clause (22), the definition of “active duty” is based on the definition of “active Federal service” in the source statute, since it is believed to be closer to general usage than the definition in 50:901(b), which excludes active duty for training from the general concept of active duty.” That’s generally the contentious issue: ADT and AT (or anything else with the word “training” in it) does not count as active duty. Even if it involved a mission supporting active-duty forces (for example, flying fuel tankers for refueling jets flown by active-duty pilots) it’s still “training”. This is how Reserve servicemembers can still conduct drills and AT/ADT (for points and credit toward “good years”) without exceeding 18 years of active duty service and reaching sanctuary.

      Army National Guard active duty could also occur under Title 32 of the U.S. Code, which allows states to mobilize their Guard members with federal funds. It’s generally used to for homeland security missions but may have different definitions of “active federal service”. I’m going to immediately defer to the lawyers on this one.

      To further confuse the issue, your friend could have had their orders citing the wrong federal law codes. If personnel branches cite the wrong clause in your friend’s orders then that error can’t be held against the military for pay or retirement purposes. In general, under Title 10 anything less than 30 days is considered “training” and anything 30 days or more (when a new ID card is issued) would be considered “active duty” no matter what federal law is cited in the orders. I’m not sure about Title 32 limits.

      I hope this clarifies the situation without adding to the confusion. Please e-mail me more details if it would help refine the answer. I’ll also add this to a future “ask the readers” post where we might hear from others who have been in this situation.

  61. Reply
    lisa October 13, 2013 at 6:20 AM

    I have 10 years of just Reserve time. I’m planning on going back on active duty to complete another 10 years. If I do that, will I get my retirement when I complete my 10 years of active duty time or will I have to do more time to get my retirement right when I retire?

    • Reply
      Doug Nordman October 14, 2013 at 4:44 AM

      Excellent question, Lisa! The answer is “Yes”– you can get either one.

      For the vast majority of servicemembers, 10 “good years” of Reserve duty is halfway to a retirement. When you add another 10 years of active duty to that Reserve record, you’ll reach 20 good years and have over 4000 points. At that point you’ll be eligible for a Reserve retirement.

      Your Reserve retirement doesn’t start right away, but it will start no later than age 60. (For every 90 days that you deploy to a combat zone during a fiscal year then your retirement age will be reduced by 90 days.) The active-duty services may not know to send you a Notice of Eligibility, so you may have to query your Reserve force headquarters to produce one before you leave active duty for “retired awaiting pay” status. You can read more about leaving active duty for a Reserve retirement at this post:

      If you want an active-duty retirement then you’ll have to stick around for 20 years of active duty or a Temporary Early Retirement Authorization at 15-20 years (these are generally only used during drawdowns). Medical or disability retirements are another possibility but way beyond the scope of your question. You could also separate anytime between 10-20 years of active duty and still enjoy the extra points on your Reserve retirement, but if you take any separation incentive payments then you’ll have to repay them once you start receiving your pension.

  62. […] need some clarification regarding your article that describes the calculation of a Reserve/Guard retired pay benefit. I’ve relied on this description in the past, but am troubled by one aspect of the […]

  63. […] Tom Philpott) Military Reserve retirement overview Retiring from the Reserves and National Guard Calculating a Reserve retirement Reserves and National Guard Should you join the Reserves or National Guard? Reserves and National […]

  64. […] as an O-5 he had roughly 2935 points. (Most Reserve officers retire with between 2500-4000 points.) Under the rules in effect in 1995, his service multiplier is […]

  65. […] of the amount of his pension. You (and maybe your lawyer) will want to see that estimate and the Reserve retirement pension calculations as well. If he’s already age 60 (or if he’s going to turn 60 during 2013) then I can […]

  66. Reply
    Dennis G. Allison August 7, 2013 at 5:24 PM

    My name is Dennis and I served 12 years in the Marine Reserves and I got out with 4.5 years time in grade as a E-6 Staff-SGT back in 1988. I worked a non-goverment job until I was hired at the United States Postal Service on Dec. 1st,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 6 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.

  67. […] articles: Calculating a Reserve retirement Military retirement from the Individual Ready Reserve Should you join the Reserves or National […]

  68. Reply
    czinkie July 23, 2013 at 3:12 AM

    Thank you so much for all the useful and interesting information! I’m 2 years away from age 60 and trying to calculate whether I can retire from my civilian job (high school teacher at a private school – no pension) a little earlier so I can spend my time volunteering to teach adults to read. Your blog helps enormously!!!!

    • Reply
      Doug Nordman July 23, 2013 at 7:04 AM

      Glad we could help, Czinkie! Please let us know how it works out– it’d be great to tell your story as a guest post!

  69. Reply
    Moondoggie July 16, 2013 at 12:29 PM

    Great article! Plain English is very appreciated. Perhaps you can help with this issue… I heard a Reservist’s “grey period” could be reduced (start receiving retirement pay before age 60) by becoming a Civil Servant employee after separating from Active Duty (but transitioning into the Reserves with no break in service). Is there any truth to this? Thanks!

    • Reply
      Doug Nordman July 17, 2013 at 2:40 PM

      Thanks, gotta love a comment from anyone named “Moondoggie”!

      I’ve never heard of the program you describe, but I know that there are some “critical skill” civil-service or contractor jobs which require the employee to also hold a billet in the Reserve or National Guard.

      Right now the only way that I’m aware of to receive a Reserve pension before age 60 is to deploy to a combat zone for at least 90 days in a fiscal year.

      I’m going to forward your comment to He’s also a Reservist in a civil-service billet, and if he doesn’t immediately know then answer then he’ll know where to find out. I’ll let you know the word either way.

  70. Reply
    ChaplainG July 11, 2013 at 5:17 PM

    So I have gotten conflicting information. I commissioned in 1994. I spent three years as a designation 1305 in the Chaplain Candidate program. All three years were 50-point years. In April 1998, I had to raise my hand again. I served 4.5 years on active duty. I left active duty, had one bad year in the reserve, and have since had all good years. I am over 18 for seniority and pay. One person says that my three years as a chaplain candidate count towards pay and seniority, but not towards retirement. Another says that a good year is a good year. Both know policy inside and out. Both are very senior reservists.

    Your thoughts? Chapter and verse would be helpful.


    • Reply
      Doug Nordman July 14, 2013 at 7:27 PM

      Thanks for your comment, ChaplainG! My response is turning into a complete blog post, so please check your e-mail for a message from NordsNords [at] Gmail.

  71. […] Rate Questions on the 4% “safe” withdrawal rate Is the 4% withdrawal rate really safe? Calculating a Reserve retirement The regulation for calculating an active-duty pension Military Reserve and National Guard […]

  72. Reply
    Cliff Coburn May 22, 2013 at 11:06 AM

    Excellent article, thank you. It cleared up my retired pay questions One thing I didn’t see mentioned was that about 4 months before a gray area naval reservist turns 60 they should receive a package to be completed and returned to NPC. These can be obtained (if they don’t get them like I didn’t) from One should look for the DD108, W4, 1059 2656 and the instruction NAVPERS 1800.

    I have another question. Is a remarried ex-spouse entitled to any of my USNR retired pay.

    • Reply
      Doug Nordman May 23, 2013 at 6:17 AM

      Thanks, Cliff!

      Good point about the deadlines and the packages. Each service has their own procedures on their Reserve/National Guard websites, and they’re all just different enough (and changing frequently enough) to be extremely confusing.

      The answer regarding remarried ex-spouses is “It depends”. The Uniformed Servicemembers Former Spouse Protection Act provides guidance on when an ex-spouse is entitled to a portion of a military pension, even if they (and you) have to wait until you turn 60 years old. However that’s just guidance for the state courts, and your specific situation depends on your divorce agreement.

      It’s not “just” your retired pay. It’s also whether the ex-spouse is entitled to any of your other military benefits (like Tricare and base access) and whether they’re entitled to be covered by your Survivor Benefits Plan.

      I recommend that you start with this post:
      and follow up on all of the links. Most important of all, check your analysis with a lawyer who’s familiar with military divorce.

  73. Reply
    Margie Wilson May 2, 2013 at 6:20 PM

    I forgot to mention his rank he is an O-6

    • Reply
      Doug Nordman May 3, 2013 at 5:50 AM

      Sorry about the divorce, Margie, but the amount of the pension is a complicated and confusing question for many people. State divorce decrees and federal law (for military pensions) make it even more complicated. I’m sending you an e-mail and I’ll follow up with a full post on your question. I should have the e-mail headed your way later today.

      • Reply
        Margie May 3, 2013 at 6:13 AM

        Thank you, I look forward to hearing from you.

        • Doug Nordman May 6, 2013 at 5:16 AM

          The post is up at:

          Please let me know if you have any questions.

          I recommend that you review your divorce agreement with a lawyer to make sure you’re covered for your ex-spouse’s military disability, Survivor Benefit Plan, Tricare, and Social Security. A little time and expense now can save you thousands of dollars of frustration and litigation later.

          If he has a significant degree of disability then he’ll receive a portion of his pension from the Veteran’s Administration, and your divorce agreement may not cover that situation. If that happens then you’ll get less than $1975/month. He may be able to make changes to his SBP beneficiary, too, unless that’s covered in the divorce agreement. It’s possible that you’ll be eligible for Tricare healthcare when he turns age 60, and Tricare For Life at age 65. And finally, you’ll need to check whether it makes sense for you to eventually draw Social Security benefits based on your own earnings record or his. I cover these issues in more detail in the post.

          Please let me know how this works out. Thanks for asking the question– I think it’ll help a lot of readers.

  74. Reply
    Margie Wilson May 2, 2013 at 5:28 PM

    If my ex husband was active duty for 10 years and 20 years reserve and he has 5300 retirement points how much will he receive, I will receive 50%

  75. Reply
    CWOK April 16, 2013 at 9:30 AM

    Nice article. Just oficially hit “Retired awaiting pay” this 1Apr. Whata PITA to calculate. I’d just like my reduced pension rate now please, instead of at 60. Ahh well. Last deployment was in 05, so I missed the ‘early pay’ too. A couple years is a big deal. The Green Weenie strikes again.

    • Reply
      Doug Nordman April 17, 2013 at 3:28 AM

      Thanks, CWOK, and congratulations on your retirement!

  76. […] “forceful backup”. The Reserve and National Guard retirement system is complex, and figuring out your retirement pay can be even more difficult. A calculator helps you make sure that you understand your military […]

  77. […] other source. In fact, if you Google the phrase “Navy Reserve retirement calculator”, my post on calculating a Reserve retirement is the #2 result of over 32,500 hits. ( is still #1.) Even “Air Force Reserve […]

  78. Reply
    Sean October 4, 2012 at 9:55 AM

    Can anyone show me in writing where it says you can or cannot get credit for your Midshipmen 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?

    • Reply
      Doug Nordman October 4, 2012 at 8:41 PM


      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 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. (If they’re in ROTC then that date may be even later– the day that they start their first active duty.) Since this date doesn’t count ROTC midshipman training that happened before their starting date, 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 (prior to 1978 – NAVPERS 2500, after 1978 – 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.

      Hope this helps. I’ve been around the block a few laps and I have the spare time to research this information. However if any of you other readers have an update, I’d appreciate it!

      September 2017 update: Here’s the link where the Navy has canceled credit for midshipman summer training:'s.aspx

  79. Reply
    Steve Tyahla September 6, 2012 at 4:11 AM

    Thanks for putting this in English, but I do have one particular question:
    If you enter the retired reserve well before 60 (“gray area”) but have not achieved the minimum time in grade at your retirement rank in order to qualify for that retirement pay, do you actually lose the rank you were promoted to? I’m guessing not-seems illogical, but…never know. Basically, I want my ID card to still show the rank I reached even though I realize I’ll receive retired pay based on the next lower rank at which I did meet TIG.

    • Reply
      Doug Nordman September 8, 2012 at 1:33 AM

      Steve, thanks for your question and my apologies for my delayed response. FINCON12 is sucking up all my brainpower this week.

      I don’t know the answer to the ID card, but it depends on whether that decision is made by the DEERS staff (who furnish the info for the ID card) or the DFAS pay system (which decides what rank is used for your retired pay).

      My guess is that if you retire before time in rank that you’d have a gray-area ID with your final rank, but when you reached age 60 then your new ID card would reflect the lower rank.

      Reaching TIG may be easier than you think. In a drawdown, the services will frequently waive their TIG requirements from three years down to two or even one. Keep an eye on your service’s Reserve personnel website or ask them about it.

      If you’re Navy then I’d join the Association of the U.S. Navy ( and e-mail their staff with the ID card question. Or maybe one of the other readers will chime in with the answer!

  80. Reply
    Bimmerbill August 20, 2012 at 9:44 AM

    Nords, don’t forget the “APPROXIMATE Point Value For Retirement Benefits” charts (

    For instance, I have 1826 points and have point value of .426 (O3 with 22 years). So1826* .426 = $777 a month (estimated- before tax, SBP, RCSPB, etc). If I recall correctly, a point was valued at .38 when I retired in 2007 so you can see the yearly COLA raise we enjoy as gray area retirees.

    • Reply
      Doug Nordman August 21, 2012 at 10:13 AM

      Excellent website, thanks! I’ve heard those numbers being thrown about at drill weekends, but they’re a great way to project your benefits out 5-10 years…

  81. Reply
    Tara July 31, 2012 at 3:45 AM

    Great article. I think you did a much better job of explaining these issues than the actual Navy Reserves! So, maybe you can assist me with a couple problems. 1. Where can I get my calculations for points earned (14 Active/14 Reserve). Also, I need to get a copy of my DD214 for my Active time (2001-2002) but only have a Member’s copy and my Federal job won’t accept this for credit. Any ideas? Thanks again. Tara

  82. […] Retire at 17 years of service or 20? Military drawdown brings new career, pay, and benefits changes Calculating a Reserve retirement Military pay & benefits cuts Congress changes military careers and retirements Military careers […]

  83. Reply
    Deserat March 1, 2012 at 1:46 PM

    Excellent article – one of the best explanations I’ve seen…I never knew how they came up with that multiplier – thanks!

    • Reply
      Doug Nordman March 1, 2012 at 5:30 PM

      Thanks, Deserat!

      It’s amazing what retirement gives you the time to research…

      • Reply
        jon robinson February 18, 2014 at 5:36 PM

        Hi Doug,

        Thanks for your article, it is very informative! I enlisted in AD USMC in 1977, completing 3 years of honorable service in 1980. In 1985, I entered AD USAF as an officer and served 7.5 years – again I was honorably discharged in 1992.

        In 2001, I joined the USAF reserves, again as an officer. Later I was passed over twice for promotion to Major (04) and was discharged in 2006. The absence of USAF OPRs between 1992 to 2001 (inactive USAF reserves) hindered my chances for promotion to Major. Anyway, I was honorably discharged from the USAF Reserves in 2006, and I joined the US Army reserves as an E5. I was promoted to E6, have obtained my 20 year letter and I am still serving as an IMA reservist in Korea.

        My question: I have approximately 26 good years for reserve retirement, with 13 good years as an officer, 9 years as an O3. I fall under the Final Pay retirement plan (I enlisted before 6 Sept 80). Do I qualify to retire at my highest grade (O3) held, or do I retire as an E6 (that’s if I don’t get promoted in my present reserve position)?

        Ok, thanks for your help.


        • Doug Nordman February 19, 2014 at 3:43 PM


          Congratulations on your service– there’s not many Final Pay members still on duty!

          You’re wise to consider this question before you apply for retirement. My first piece of advice is: consult a military lawyer from a base legal service office. They’re familiar with both federal law and DoD retirement rules and can figure out the details. By enlisting before 6 Sep 1980, your retirement comes under legacy rules that today’s personnel staffs may not see very often.

          As I understand the DoD Financial Management Regulation (, you’re eligible to retire as an O-3. Sections 010501(E) and 030105 include the phrase “of the highest grade held satisfactorily at any time in the Armed Forces.” You’re over 10 years of commissioned service, so the key question will be whether your broken service affects the rules which apply to your officer or enlisted status.

          The problem is that Title 10 U.S. Code sections 3914 and 3963 apply to Army Reserve enlisted who were “previously administratively reduced in grade not as a result of the member’s own misconduct” and refer to retirement in an enlisted paygrade. You’ll be retiring through the Army’s HRC, and they may not be familiar with your USAF service. It’s critical that your USAF records be reflected in the Army’s electronic database (not just your paper service record) or else the Army computers won’t recognize your commissioned service.

          As you go through the determination process (which I recommend you start now), make sure the HRC staff refer you to the applicable regulations. If an Army regulation (or federal law) supersedes the FMR and Title 10 paragraphs that I’ve mentioned above, then you’ll want a lawyer to help you figure out which takes precedence. Even if HRC agrees that you’re retiring as an O-3, you still should ensure that they can quote the applicable regulation– and avoid a later unpleasant surprise. It’s absolutely essential that you resolve these questions now, before you apply for retirement, in order to avoid having to resolve them through a corrections board after retirement.

          Hopefully another reader can chime in on these regulations. I’m going to check with a few other servicemembers & veterans who may be able to help with this question. If you get an answer first, please let us know!

        • Terese LeFrancois, Ret USAFR April 2, 2014 at 10:09 AM

          Before deciding which rank (O or E) to retire, recommend you do the calculations for each and consider the final numbers. If O-3 for 10 years gets you more/less than E6/7 for 26 years or the opposite, then take that into account. One must also consider personal values – is it more important for you to retire as an officer with perhaps less retiree pay than a senior enlisted with more pay? Definitely check with a good attorney first!

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