If you’re preparing for your federal retirement, you’re likely looking into all of the options available to you regarding benefits and increasing your annuity to get the maximum payout possible.
One program that many FERS employees overlook, however, is the Military Buyback Program.
The Military Buyback Program was created to serve as a method for all veterans with active federal duty service military time, including reservists, USPHS, NOAA, ANG, and ARNG service members, to increase their retirement pension using their military service time.
However, many aren’t even aware of this program’s existence. Could using this program to increase your annuity make sense for your retirement?
This article will detail all of the information you need to know to help you determine if the Military Buyback Program is right for you.
What is the Military Buyback Program?
The Military Buyback Program allows qualified veterans who have had past or present active duty military service time to use that time as a military service credit toward their total number of years spent in FERS service. As a result, the amount of retirement annuity they may receive can be greater.
There is, however, a process you must adhere to receive the proper amount of compensation. You must first complete the buyback process, and the deposit must be paid before you file for retirement.
Understand that the entire process for military buyback to be accepted and applied to your FERS service total can stretch for up to six months, so allow yourself plenty of time to complete the process before you apply for retirement.
Initially, you can apply for up to two years with no additional interest or penalties. After that, though, you will have to pay a small interest charge per year to have that time added to your civil service time. Currently, this fee is 3% for Federal Employee Retirement System (FERS).
Now that you know what military buyback is, let’s discuss when it’s appropriate to use.
When is Military Buyback a Good Idea (And When is It Not)?
As with anything, there will be times when military buyback is beneficial, and there will be times when it isn’t.
For the most part, buying back your military time is an excellent benefit and can result in thousands of dollars being paid out throughout your retirement.
We recommend that anyone considering buying back military time do so as soon as possible, and here’s why:
Once you are hired as a federal employee, you need to make your buyback deposit prior to retirement. We do recommend you begin the process as soon as you are able to.
Your planner will be happy to calculate your buyback deposit amount.
What Happens to My Military Benefits After a Buyback?
If you make a deposit to have your military time transferred to your FERS time, your military benefits will not be affected. This includes items such as medical (Tri-Care), VA benefits that you may be receiving, and commissary privileges.
However, you will not receive your military retirement if you go through with buying back your military time. This is because you may not collect multiple retirement annuities in the same period. However, your planning will reveal if you are best advantaged by a military buyback program or not. The greater income will benefit you, regardless of how you plan.
How Do I Buy Back My Military Time?
Buying back your military time is a much easier process than many people expect.
To ensure your military time’s retirement eligibility and receive full credit on your military time, begin by providing your planner with your beginning rank, the dates of your active service, dates of promotion, and final rank.
Once the amount of your deposit is known, your planner will guide you in completing an Estimated Earnings During Military Service Form. However, you must complete separate forms for each branch of service you are buying back.
Once this is finished, attach your DD 214 (or any other certificate of release from active duty) and applicable base pay records and send it off to whichever military pay center applies to your specific service.
If you don’t have a DD 214 or are unsure of how to get one, you can obtain one by sending SF-180, which is the Military Records Request Form, to the National Personnel Records Center in St. Louis, Missouri.
Sending off this information to your military finance center will result in them sending you back an estimate of your total military earnings. Once you have this, we advise you to reach out to your human resource office to receive help in filling out the deposit form that applies to you.
- For FERS employees, this deposit form is SF 3108.
Please note that your human resources office must be involved in this process, as the paperwork must be certified by them. To have this done, simply bring your military earnings sheet and whichever of the above forms applies to you to their office.
Your Federal Benefit Advisory planner will calculate your estimated deposit and you will then know whether the military buyback will benefit you or not. OPM will then certify your paperwork.
These payments can then be made in a single sum or small installments, depending on what is best for your situation. Once it is paid in full, you will receive a paid-in-full notice in the mail. However, if you used the payroll deductions process to pay your deposit, you’ll have to request this notice.
Once you receive this letter, your request will have been fully processed, and military time will be applied!
While transferring your military time over to FERS time can seem daunting at first, the steps you must take to do so are straightforward.
Throughout this article, you’ve read about the pros and cons of partaking in the Military Buyback process, and you now are aware of what steps you must take to do so.
Do you need help with the Military Buyback Program or federal retirement?
If you find that any of the steps listed above confuse you, or if you would simply like help to navigate the process, be sure to connect with one of our planners.
We’re here to help you retire comfortably and securely, so don’t hesitate to reach out!