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Active Duty Military Deployments and Retirement

This installment of NATCA’s “Know Your Rights” series will explain the basic information bargaining unit employees need to understand about Active Duty military deployments and retirement. Specifically, the most important thing for BUEs to know is that they need to submit a timely application in order to “buy back” their active duty service time without interest. This guidance is specifically for FAA employees who are National Guard or reserve members called to active duty during their employment with the FAA.

Many employees of the FAA are former members of the military, and some continue their service through the Guard or Reserve components while working for the FAA. Some of these employees may be called to active duty for extended periods of time. In these circumstances, employees must “buy back” their civilian time in order to receive full credit for that time towards their retirement.


Both the OPM and military branches have websites devoted to supporting returning military servicemen and women.

Employment Rights and Benefits Guide

This document covers a broad range of rights for federal civilian employees who perform active military duty. In particular, it provides the following guidance regarding retirement:

Deposit to retirement system. Upon eventual retirement from civilian service, the period of military service is creditable under either CSRS or FERS, subject to the rules for crediting military service. To avoid interest payments, it is generally in the employee’s best interest to inquire about making a deposit to CSRS or FERS immediately upon return to duty in the civilian position. If the military deposit is paid before the interest accrual date (within 3 years of returning to a position covered by CSRS or FERS) no interest is charged on the military deposit. The deposit would equal the lesser of 1) 7 percent for CSRS or 3 percent for FERS of the military basic pay OR 2) 7 percent for CSRS or .8 percent for FERS of the civilian pay.

In sum, federal civilian employees are entitled to:

  • Buy back their time spent on active duty, based on CSRS or FERS status;
  • Avoid interest by making the deposit within three years of their return;
  • Pay the lesser of the two amounts listed to buy back their time for retirement.

In order to make a deposit to buy back your military time, you need an estimate of your military income. You must send a copy of form RI20-97 and your DD-214 forms (or orders if DD-214 are unavailable) for the periods of active duty service.

Form R120-97

You must then mail the form to the appropriate branch of service. Mailing addresses are based on the branch of service, found here.

After processing your request, the branch of service should return the income information to you. Upon receipt of this income information, submit it to your local HR department. They will then make the calculation according to the rules above, and you can make the deposit to buy back your service time for retirement.

In sum, you need to:

  • Request an estimate of military earnings by submitting the RI20-97 and DD-214 to your branch of service
  • Submit the estimate of military earnings to your local HR department.
  • Pay the deposit to buy back your retirement time.

Again, if this process is followed within three years of your return from active duty service, you will not need to pay interest on your deposit and can potentially save yourself a great deal of money. NATCA hopes that this installment of “Know Your Rights” will save bargaining unit employees a great deal of time, trouble, and money when faced with active duty deployment during their FAA service.

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