[August 2015 update: The Defense Finance and Accounting Service has started issuing letters to Reserve retirees who have claimed credit for ROTC summer training. According to the comments on this post and some Facebook posts, it appears that DFAS is re-calculating pensions for revisions of as few as 90 points. More information is at the Naval Personnel Command Midshipman Points FAQ page. ]
[October 2014 note: The Navy Reserve appears to be taking a new, narrower interpretation of 10 U.S.C. section 971. Two Reservists have reported that they were recently denied this credit, although one of them was able to receive points without credit toward a good year. Please read those comments at the end of this post, and contact me if you’ve had the same issue. ]
Today’s post answers a question from a Navy Reserve reader. I try to balance out the topics, questions, and reader stories in The Military Guide to apply to all the services.
However, this is a niche topic that I’ve seen cause a lot of unhappy faces in Navy Reserve units all over the country. So if you’re in the Army, Air Force, or Coast Guard then feel free to move on to other financial independence projects and ignore this post. If your service has a similar problem with their Reserve/Guard point credit toward retirement, please leave a comment. If you’re in the Marine Corps then I don’t think this applies to you either– but you’re painfully familiar with oddball Navy requirements and you’re probably smiling already. Enjoy.
If you’re Navy enlisted (active-duty or Reserve) then you might want to stick around for this information in case you someday decide to earn your own commission.
Here’s the background. Active-duty enlisted servicemembers (of all services) start earning their pay & benefits from the day they show up at recruit training. All of their service also counts toward retirement, although for the vast majority that time “cliff vests” only when they reach 20 years. There are exceptions for medical retirements and the Temporary Early Retirement Authority (TERA), but they’re relatively rare.
Even military retirement is not the norm: today only about 17% of the officers & enlisted who join the military stick around long enough to earn a pension.
Enlisted servicemembers can join the Reserve or National Guard and earn credit toward retirement for their drills and active duty. (They can get retirement points for other activities, too, but drills & active duty are the main categories.) If they attend a service academy or an ROTC program while enlisted in the Reserve, but do not complete it, then that time also counts toward Reserve retirement points. However, they’re not earning year-round pay & benefits like active-duty servicemembers– only when they’re on drills or orders.
Officer candidates are treated according to their commissioning program. Service academy students (of all services) are considered to be on active duty from the day they show up, but it doesn’t count toward retirement. (Several generations ago, officers who graduated from a service academy could eventually count that incarceration academy time as part of their years toward retirement. It’s literally been over 60 years since that benefit was in effect.) Today’s U.S. Naval Academy midshipmen earn pay & benefits since Induction Day, almost like anyone else on active duty, but no retirement credit. They suck up a lot of training & supervisory effort from the chain of command– perhaps some more than others. They’re considered to be adequately compensated for their time at Annapolis, so nothing they’ve done there is credited toward a retirement. (Unless they were one of the very small handful of prior enlisted who drop out before graduation.) Officers from USNA only begin earning time toward retirement on the day they’re commissioned, and for the vast majority of officers that time “cliff vests” to a pension only after 20 years of service.
Today’s topic, Navy Reserve Officer Training Corps (NROTC) midshipmen, are in a different niche. They’re not on continuous active duty like USNA midshipmen, and they certainly don’t have all the active-duty benefits like health insurance. Their college tuition & fees are paid by the Navy, and they also earn a tax-free stipend for up to 10 months of the year. Unfortunately, they still have to pay for their own room & board, and some NROTC students aren’t even on a four-year scholarship. However, NROTC midshipmen are considered to be on active duty when they’re ordered to summer training.
It turns out that NROTC summer training can be counted for credit toward a Navy Reserve retirement. (I have no idea how this benefit got started, let alone why, and I’d love to learn the history behind it.) Unfortunately, this time has to be officially documented day by day, and most Reservists only learn about the program years afterward when they leave active duty for drills with a Reserve unit. Even then it only applies to those commissioned through NROTC, so not every Reservist can tap into the benefit.
This post was inspired by a reader comment on the Reserve retirement post:
Can anyone show me in writing where it says you can or cannot get credit for your midshipman summer cruise? You are on active duty orders, wearing a uniform, and getting paid. So unless there is something specific that says you can’t get credit, I don’t see why you can’t? Thanks!
You’re absolutely right, there is something specific that says you can get credit. But it’s buried in BUPERSINST 1001.39F of 17 Sep 07, “Administrative Procedures for Navy Reservists“. I’m looking this up on the website of the Association of the U.S. Navy, which is an excellent advocacy group for Navy Reserve servicemembers. According to the Navy Personnel Command website, 1001.39F is undergoing major revision. If you’re on active duty or in the Reserves then you’ll probably have a better chance than me of figuring out when .39G will be released. (Or an alert reader will let us know here on the blog.) What I’m about to describe is from .39F, and I sincerely hope it’s fixed in .39G.
The “problem” is that most officers are given an active duty service date (the date that they actually started active duty as an officer) of the day they’re commissioned. Since this date doesn’t count ROTC midshipman training that happened before their commissioning, officers have to submit a record of that earlier training.
Article 2600.3 (Chapter 20, page 20-8), says:
3. ROTC Summer Training Credit. Per 10 U.S.C., section 971, graduates of the U.S. Naval Academy (or other service academies) are not eligible for summer training credit. Members that participate in ROTC Midshipman/Cadet summer training are eligible for retirement point credit (one point per day under orders). Because the actual number of days served on summer training can vary, it is necessary that training be properly documented as a prerequisite to awarding retirement point credit. Proper documentation consists of one or more of the following and should be submitted to NAVPERSCOM (PERS-911):
a. Standard ROTC Summer Cruise/Training Orders (NAVEDTRA 1320/1) issued for each period of a midshipman summer training and endorsed upon the member’s arrival and departure.
b. Leave and Earning Statements (LES) or NAVCOMPT 2120, Pay Voucher.
c. Ship’s Deck Logs or Ship’s Diaries, which show the dates the member (by name) embarked and debarked.
d. A letter from the ROTC Unit CO certifying the actual dates of summer training.
e. A letter from DFAS Cleveland, OH, certifying the actual dates of summer training.
f. NAVPERS 1070/613 (Administrative Remarks) prepared by the ROTC unit, which states that the member is being discharged to accept a commission. These standard Administrative Remarks usually list the summer training completed while enrolled at that particular ROTC unit.
Most officers find out about this opportunity years (even decades) after their NROTC summer training. They may no longer have their midshipman orders or their LESs, and there’s just no easy way to get a certification letter from an old CO or DFAS. It’s remotely possible that they still have their page 13 admin remarks. After those options are exhausted, though, the only remaining opportunity to obtain credit is the ship’s deck log. By this point, you’re praying that the command recorded your report/detach dates in the deck log, and that the deck log is legibly filed at the Naval Archives.
So what’s your call to action after reading this post? If you received your commission through NROTC, then find all three sets of your summer training orders. Be ready to document your service in accordance with the Article 2600.3 paragraph. Even if you’re still an NROTC midshipman, please make sure you have this– or submit a draft of a page 13 for your unit to place in your record. You may never need it, but if you need it later then it may be impossible to reconstruct.
This is a hassle and it only pays off if you join a Reserve unit for long enough to earn a Reserve retirement. However, if you someday do that, every point counts toward your pension calculation. Three months of NROTC midshipman summer training could be over 90 points– well over a year’s worth of Reserve work! I’ve heard this from dozens of Reserve officers: the “person you’ll be someday” will be very happy that the “person you are today” took the time now to find the paperwork and have it on file.
I sure hope that electronic service records and BUPERSINST 1001.39 revisions will someday eliminate this burdensome requirement. I’m not holding my breath, and you shouldn’t either. Take care of yourself now, and save that documentation.
Calculating a Reserve retirement
Should you join the Reserves or National Guard?
Comparing an E-7 active-duty pension to an E-7 Reserve pension
Retiring from the Reserves and National Guard
For what it’s worth, I received 15 ‘participation points’ towards my USMCR retirement for each year at USNA, but none for OCS or time in the FMF. I was on a YP for Youngster cruise.
All officers that are leaving active duty should check their anniversary dates before choosing a separation date. For example, if your anniversary date is 20 Oct and you separate on 1 Nov 2012*, you’ll only have 11 active duty points (plus 15 participation points) for your 2012-2013 anniversary year, not enough for a sat year (26 50) for 2012-2013.
That is one whole year less of Reserve time you’ll need down the road for retirement for one month now. On top of that you theoretically could put off working with the Reserves until September 2014 as long as you got orders for 35 days active duty before 19 October.
Let me emphasize ‘theoretically’; due to the vagaries of paperwork and bureaucracy I wouldn’t cut it that close.
(* officer separation dates are always on the first of the month)
Excellent points, thanks.
I bet it’s tough to negotiate command flexibility on separation dates, especially if the assignment officer is breathing down your neck. I still feel lucky for retiring from a training command instead of from sea duty.
An important additional caveat is to be sure to take or carry over any leave that has been accumulated. I earned and used 7 days for ~ 3 months this summer. That’s seven more points that I would not have gotten if I sold it back.
The carry over option is relatively new for Reservists, so you may have problems explaining your desire to do this to your payroll person who might even ask you if you want to “sell back.”
Great, thanks, sounds like that option was long overdue…
Great info, but can someone tell me if I can count my NROTC summer cruise time towards active duty time? Short story is if I don’t make O4 I will be forced out at 17 years and 10 months. So those extra months would put me over 18 and in sanctuary. Thank you!
Sean, I’ve never ever heard of active-duty credit for that time. However there are many caveats and exceptions to the rules, and the federal law on the subject goes back nearly 70 years.
The “rules” are in DoD 7000.14-R, Financial Management Regulation Volume 7B, Chapter 1 (http://comptroller.defense.gov/fmr/current/07b/Volume_07b.pdf ). They start in section 0102 (page 1-7) by listing the type of service that counts for retirement eligibility. For example, section 010202 gives retirement credit for enlisted members who served as a cadet or midshipman at a service academy.
I’d suggest that you read through pages 1-7 through 1-18 to see if anything applies to the details of your service.
I realize that you’ve already documented everything for the O-4 selection board and checked that your record has no mistakes or omissions. You could also check with the Association of the U.S. Navy (AUSN.org) about their record-review services. While you’re waiting for the board results it’s worth exploring your “Plan B” options in the Reserve, National Guard, and civil service. As painful as involuntary separation can be, others have turned this into lemonade.
All of your active duty counts toward a Reserve/Guard retirement, and you can use it to buy into the civil service retirement system. My spouse left active duty with similar numbers (very close to sanctuary), so we can discuss your Navy Reserve options.
You may also want to read these posts and links:
“My road to a Reserve retirement”
and this GubMints post on buying civil service pension time:
“Military service credit deposit guide”
“The GubMints Gouge for Maximizing your Service Computation Date”
Let me know how it works out with the FMR details and the selection board.
I am a retired Reserve Officer who went through the NROTC Regular Program and got retirement points for my three summerc ruises after petitioning the BCNR. I am also a lawyer who did some research on the subject in light of the recent change in position by the Navy. I think the Navy discovered an old Comptroller General opinion which states that 10 USC 2107(g) precludes retirement point credit. I argued to the Navy that the provision only precludes “longevity” (i.e. PBED type credit) credit and the points should count as part of the total even though they should not be allowed to establish a “good year” for the 20 required for reserve retirement. I do not think they are going after people who already got the credit and are drawing pay but I think they will take the credit away if you are under 60. If anybody is interested I would be happy to share my research with any Reservist.
Thanks, Ford– good information!
Ford, I am interested in how you got thepoints now that they have changed BUPERSINST 1001.39F. I put off doing it earlier thinking I had plenty of time. Never thinking it all would change. For that is 70+ points I am out.
I’d love a copy of your research, as I’m seeking points only for 3d Class cruise, Airborne School as a midshipman, and OCS. I have documentation for Jump school and will be searching the Archives in Maryland for the USS Preserver (ARS-8) ship’s log for the cruise. I am most likely out of luck for the OCS points, as there’s no documentation I can find.
Chris, take a look at the 19 July comment above where Ford cites Comptroller General opinion, B-195448(4/3/80). That may be all the research you need.
Since you hold a commission, you would hope that the Navy would be able to find your record of attending OCS under a course number or class number.
I recently applied for my NROTC point credit and was denied based on the 1964 ROTC Revitalization Act, 10 USC, Sections 971 and 2107(g). BUPERSINST 1001.39F Ch-1 now reflects that policy and officers commissioned through NROTC are not credited unless they were commissioned prior to the 1964 act. In looking at the code, I agree with Ford’s interpretation, in that the language is focused on the length of service, i.e., credit toward the 20-year retirement. However, the lack of specifics in mentioning credit for retirement points is being implemented as a prohibition for awarding points. This seems odd in comparison to the categories listed in Figure 20-1 of the instruction – Sea Cadet credits, MARS functions, etc. I would be interested to know if Ford or anyone else has found where the 10 USC defines point credit.
Thanks for your comment, CB, and I’m sorry the Navy has reverted to such a narrow interpretation of a 50-year-old law.
I’ve e-mailed your comment to Ford, and I hope we’ll hear from him soon.
Yesterday I received two letters informing me that my Statement of Service for Navy Retirement had been reviewed and previously awarded points for NROTC summer cruises had been removed from my record. The first letter from NPC stated that their “…Legal Office determined that the law, 10 U.S.C., Section 2107 (g), does not allow awarding of retirement credit for NROTC midshipman training cruises….” The second letter from DFAS stated that “…NPC’s determination required DFAS perform an audit of all potentially affected retired pay accounts.” Both letters confirmed that my record had been revised and a new retirement benefit had been calculated. I am to receive the new (lowered) benefit immediately and pay back the difference in what I have previously received over the last eight years and the new benefit.
This seems to indicate that all NROTC sourced officer’s records have been reviewed. Hopefully your appeal was successful in preventing your receipt of these letters. If so I would appreciate any advice that you could share. Thanks for your help!
Bill, according to this FAQ page at the NPC (BUPERS) site, you might be able to appeal the letters.
I got the letter too.
I am still contemplating whether or not to seek BCNR relief.
They are seeking a waiver to avoid having to pay back benefits already received. I am fairly optimistic that will be approved.
do you have a documentation for this …”(Unless they were one of the very small handful of prior enlisted who drop out before graduation.)”?
Sure, Chu, great question!
It’s in DoD 7000.14-R, Financial Management Regulation volume 7B, paragraph 010202.B on page 1-8.
“010202. Service Creditable for Regular Voluntary Retirement – Enlisted Members (Table 1-1)
The following is service creditable for regular voluntary retirement for enlisted members:
A. All active service in the Uniformed Services; and
B. Service as a cadet or midshipman at Service academy.”
It’s online at http://comptroller.defense.gov/Portals/45/documents/fmr/Volume_07b.pdf
Also take a look at a Comptroller General opinion, B-195448(4/3/80), which discusses how academy time may be credited towards an enlisted retirement. I think the language Doug cites is based on this decision.
Fantastic, Ford. Thanks for taking the time to dig up that reference!
Great article. Why does this say to move on to other interests for Air Force? I would think the governing laws would be applicable to all services, and that active duty for ROTC training would uniformly “count”/”not count.” And if it counts as a day towards a reserve retirement, then it should also count as a day towards an active retirement. There doesn’t seem to be much information that is readily available. Many thanks for any insight you can provide.
It’s just a very Navy-specific question (in the Navy section of federal law) and I didn’t want members of the other services to feel that they had to read it.
You’d think that the laws would be evenly applied to all services. Sadly this does not seem to be the case.