A reader writes:
I have been digging for answers and am just getting more confused. Could you help me understand or steer me in the right direction to determine if I have earned the ‘ability’ to retire? Here is my circumstance:
– Resigned from active duty in December 1992
– Accepted an appointment in the Inactive Reserve USAF
I have maintained that status to this date. The Reserve system website shows I have over 5841 total retirement points. Am I “eligible” to retire under this situation? I often find that these websites seem to answer every question other than the one I seek. Can you help?
There’s confusion among servicemembers about the acronym “IRR” and the term “inactive”. The first one stands for “Individual Ready Reserve” but is sometimes mistakenly known as “Inactive Ready Reserve” or even “inactive Reserve”. Members of the IRR do not have a drill billet and do not drill for pay, so they’re occasionally considered to be “inactive”.
However, the term “inactive” technically refers to Reserve members who are not in the Ready Reserve but rather the “Inactive Standby” status of the Standby Reserve List. (The diagram shown here is on page 12 of that PDF link.)
They’ve usually been released from active duty without any Reserve service obligation. Other Reservists ended up on the Inactive Status List because they have specialized skills that may someday be useful to the service. They’re not drilling or on other duty orders but they’re considered too valuable to just be discharged. They may be working in a civilian occupation that’s tied to the military (like aircraft maintenance or civil affairs) or they may rarely be returned to duty for special situations.
A very few may be in that status because they’re living in foreign countries where American Ready Reservists are not permitted by the Status of Forces Agreement. (They’re not counted against U.S. military numbers.) This usually happens with dual-military couples where the active-duty spouse is stationed overseas and the Reserve spouse transfers to inactive status to comply with host country treaty requirements.
It can even apply to key employees in state or federal civil service, or elected officials who want to continue to maintain their Reserve affiliation but are not able to leave their position to participate in Reserve duties.
Reservists on the Inactive Status List are not Ready Reservists, so they don’t drill or go on duty. Because Reservists on the Inactive Status List are not participating in some sort of drill program or other activities that earn retirement points, they will not achieve retirement eligibility. They would have to change their status (at a minimum) back to the IRR or return to drilling in a billet.
(I can already hear the next question: where does he learn this arcane trivia? Well, it’s all in the pubs and websites if you have the time & motivation to dig it out. We financially independent military retirees can do that all day when the surf is flat. I also got lucky: my Reserve spouse drilled in a Pacific Command Reserve unit here on Oahu, where it’s big and joint and full of special situations. She saw at least one of just about everything.)
But Individual Ready Reserve is a different situation.
The vast majority of servicemembers (in any status) need at least 20 years of service to be eligible to retire. The exceptions to that 20 years involve retiring under temporary early retirement programs or medical disability, but again those only apply to a very small percentage of military retirements. That 20 years can be a mix of active duty and Reserve years.
When you join the Reserves, your service is tracked with a “good years” counter as well as your point count. Every year of active duty earned you a good year toward a Reserve retirement. Every year in the Reserves has to meet the minimum requirements to be awarded a “good year” for retirement credit, and this is tracked on your annual summary. When you reach a combination of 20 years of active duty and Reserve “good years”, then your service sends a “Notice of Eligibility” letter to formally notify you that you’re eligible to retire. The number of points affects the amount of your military pension, but only good years affect your retirement eligibility.
When you’re part of the Individual Ready Reserves, “good years” can be difficult. An IRR Reservist might only have been required to do an annual muster, but that’s not enough for a good year. If you wanted to continue to earn “good years” toward retirement then you would have been required to complete a minimum number of points through correspondence courses or other activities. You would not be paid, but you’d get points for those activities. After you reached the minimum requirements for that year then you’d get credit for a good year on your summary.
Your Reserve system website should also display your number of good years of active duty and Reserves. If you left active duty with 10 years of service (which counts for 10 good years), then between 1992 and 2013 you would have needed to achieve another 10 “good years” in the inactive Reserve. If your record shows a total of at least 20 good years then you’re ready to contact your service’s Reserve personnel center to confirm that you’re eligible to retire. They’ll issue your NOE and help you file for “retired awaiting pay” status.
If your record shows less than 20 good years then you need to talk to the Reserve personnel center to figure out if any of those years were not properly credited to your record. I don’t know each service’s requirements for a “good year” during those years, but you might only have needed 35-50 points each year. You have quite a few points on your record, so hopefully, you earned enough of them each year to be credited for a good year.
Let me know how this works out. Your experience may help other Reservists who could have the same questions.
Military retirement from the Individual Ready Reserve
Retiring from the Reserves and National Guard
Reserve military pension for “discharge” instead of “retired awaiting pay”
Calculating a Reserve retirement
Guard & Reserve handbook