What You Need To Know About National Guard Retirement

National Guard RetirementRetiring from the Reserves or National Guard is more flexible than retiring from active duty. In the vast majority of cases, your retirement is based on at least 20 good years of service.  (A “good year” requires a certain minimum number of points or days of drill or active duty as well as complying with other readiness requirements.)

You’ll be tracking these years as you complete the minimum annual requirements, and after you reach 20 years, our service will formally notify you with a letter of eligibility.

National Guard Early Retirement

Under the Temporary Early Retirement Authority (TERA), Full-time Guardsmen may become eligible for a retirement earlier than 20 years. In June of 2016, Army Secretary Eric Flannigan signed a directive to expand the TERA program to encompass National Guard Soldiers.

TERA is now available for Guardsmen serving under Title 32. While not an entitlement, early retirement is an option for those officers overlooked for promotion or enlisted personnel being involuntary separated.

TERA allows Guardsmen with at least 15 but fewer than 20 years of active service to receive the same benefits as those who retire with 20 or more years of service. Those who elect the option have their retirement pay reduced accordingly

According to the directive, Army Directive 2016-27, the following soldiers may request TERA in lieu of involuntary separation, involuntary release from active duty, or involuntary release from active service. All affected soldiers must have at least 15 years but less than 20 years of service.

  • Officers who twice were not selected for promotion and whose names are not on a list of officers recommended for promotion.
  • Officers who were selected for continuation on active duty by a selection board but were not subsequently promoted or continued on active duty and who are not on a list of officers recommended for continuation or promotion to the next higher grade.
  • Officers who have been selected for discharge by an Officer Separation Board.
  • Army National Guard and Army Reserve officers serving in the Active Guard and Reserve Program who were selected for continuation on the reserve active-status list but were not subsequently promoted or continued on the reserve active-status list, and are not on a list of officers recommended for continuation or promotion to the next higher reserve grade.
  • Army National Guard and Army Reserve officers in the AGR Program who were twice not selected for promotion and whose names are not on a list of officers recommended for promotion.
  • Army National Guard and Army Reserve officers in the AGR Program who, pursuant to selection by an AGR Release From Active Duty (REFRAD) Board or Active Service Management Board (ASMB), have been selected to be involuntarily released from the AGR Program.
  • Warrant officers who twice were not selected for promotion to the next higher regular warrant officer grade.
  • Warrant officers who were selected for continuation on active duty by a selection board but were not subsequently promoted or continued on active duty, and are not on a list of warrant officers recommended for continuation or promotion to the next higher regular grade.
  • Army National Guard and Army Reserve warrant officers serving in the AGR Program who, pursuant to selection by an AGR REFRAD Board or ASMB, have been selected to be involuntarily released from the AGR Program.
  • Army Reserve warrant officers in the AGR Program in the grades of CW2 and CW3 who have not been selected for promotion for the second time, and whose names are not on a list of officers recommended for promotion.
  • Enlisted soldiers who were selected to be involuntarily separated as a result of a Qualitative Service Program.
  • Enlisted soldiers in the AGR Program who were selected to be involuntarily released from active duty or active service as a result of an AGR REFRAD Board or ASMB.

Reduced Age Retirement

Some members of the Guard may be eligible for a retirement earlier than 20 years. The current legislation (passed in mid-2016) reduces the age 60 retirement requirement by three months for every 90 consecutive days of mobilization for war or national emergency.

In other words, a Reservist volunteering to deploy to the desert for a year would now be eligible to start their Reserve pension at age 59.

A member of the National Guard who deploys with their unit for 24 months of the next five years would be able to draw their pension at age 58.  But this law only applies for deployment time served after Jan. 28, 2008. Several amendments have been proposed to retroactively extend this benefit to September 11, 2001, but none of these modifications have yet been approved by Congress.

Visit HRC’s website for more information about Retirement Early Age Drops

When you’re eligible to retire, you may still prefer to stay as long as you can. You may be successfully balancing the military with your civilian career and your family and you might be able to continue your routine for years.

The money may not be much, but it can greatly boost your tax-deferred savings. Military pay offers another stream of income to serve as insurance against civilian layoffs and may also augment necessary skills in a civilian career.

Some Guardsmen will even work in unpaid billets that only offer retirement points, in hopes of later qualifying for a paid billet or earning a promotion. As your family situation permits you may be able to kickstart your military career with advanced schools, special programs, or extended active-duty mobilizations.

In metropolitan areas with a large military presence, it’s not unusual to serve with many Guard members in their late 40s or even mid-50s.

Of course, you’ll have to balance your interest in staying with the prospect of mobilizing and deploying every few years.

Another issue, perhaps a minor one, is time in rank. The service requirement to retire at your current rank is generally three years (since the date of promotion, not selection!). Keep an eye on your service policies, because when the services are trying to cut their end strength it’s not unusual for this requirement to be reduced to two years.

National Guard Retirement

National Guard Retirement is even simpler than an active duty retirement. The twenty-year letter of eligibility has already certified that the member is eligible to retire, and their retirement request sets the date.

If a retiring Guardsmen is actually on active duty (mobilized) at the time of their retirement then separation procedures are executed just as for any demobilization.

If a Guardsmen is not on active duty then there is no DD-214, no medical/dental examination, and no other paperwork. They’re transferred to “retired awaiting pay” status, they’re issued a “gray” ID card, and they wait for age 60. At age 59½ another round of verification paperwork is completed and the pension begins six months later.

National Guard Retired Awaiting Pay

The Department of Defense wants Guardsmen to request retirement instead of resigning. One difference is that personnel “retired awaiting pay” could hypothetically be mobilized, although that has not happened in decades. (It would require a full mobilization for a Congressionally-approved war, which is broader than the Presidential mobilization declared after 9/11.)

Another difference is that requesting retirement keeps Guardsmen on the pay seniority list. At age 60, the years of annual pay raises and longevity increases will be applied to your first pension check, which will be based on the latest pay tables and the maximum longevity at that rank.

A resigning Guard member will not receive any of those increases, so the cost of avoiding mobilization is a retirement frozen at the pay tables in effect at resignation– which by age 60 may be decades old and without any pay raises or longevity increases.

The Reserve Survivor Benefit Plan

The Survivor Benefit Plan is an important consideration for “retired awaiting pay” status. You may be waiting for the pension benefit for over two decades, and if you don’t make it to age 60 then you may want to ensure that some of your pension is still available to your surviving loved ones.

Retirees can elect SBP coverage during the years between retiring and reaching age 60. No premiums are paid during this time, and if you don’t make it to age 60 then at least your survivors will still receive their SBP payments.

However, if you do celebrate your 60th birthday then you’re required to pay the next two years of SBP premiums (deducted from your pension payment) to recover the cost of your insurance during those years between retiring and reaching age 60. After paying two years of premiums the retiree has the option to decline SBP or to continue with it under the same rules as active-duty retirees.

You can determine the amount of your pension using this retirement calculator or this one.

This article also covers how to determine your Guard or Reserves Pension amount.

Health Insurance While Retired Awaiting Pay

You do not have any subsidized military healthcare when you’re retired awaiting pay. Tricare will start at age 60 and Medicare/Tricare For Life will start at age 65, but Reservists/NG awaiting a pension will need to buy other health insurance. Healthcare benefits may be one reason that some Reserves/NG continue to drill well into their 50s, although that should not be the only reason to continue to serve.

In late 2009 Congress authorized “Tricare Retired Reserve”, which began in fall 2010.  It’s intended to offer a version of Tricare Standard to retired National Guard who are still under age 60.

The program is not subsidized by the government and fees are quite high compared to other Tricare premiums. $400-$1000 per month may even be higher than some civilian healthcare programs, but this program offers the first “gray area” coverage between retirement and age 60.  Here are some health care options after you leave the military.

Keep in mind that no matter what version of Tricare you choose, it does not include dental insurance.  Most military retirees pay for their own dental insurance and dental care.

Guard Pension Starts At Age 60

One of the biggest advantages of the Guard is having an inflation-adjusted pension by age 60. It’s paid by one of the world’s most credible financial institutions, or at least one with the power to raise revenue by taxation.

A civilian retiree, if they even have a pension, may not only have to wait years– but they may also have to worry that the company won’t survive to pay the “guaranteed” pension. A military pension is even more highly rated than an insurance company’s annuity, and you don’t have to worry whether the insurance company will be able to make good on its future claim.

The future is never certain, but a military pension is as close as you can get to a guaranteed stream of income at a known date.

The key to retirement as a Guardsmen is planning your retirement finances around multiple streams of income. By the time you request retirement (awaiting pay), you’ll have several different forms of savings. In addition to the pension at age 60, you’ll also have your military Thrift Savings Plan account, as well as personal IRAs and taxable investments.

If you’re in the federal civil service then you’ll have a second TSP account. If you’re employed by a corporation then you’ll probably have another tax-deferred savings account (a 401(k)) as well as other forms of deferred compensation. And if you’re self-employed there are several other ways to save through tax-deferred accounts.

When a Guard pension is in your future, your early-retiree challenge is to live off your savings until the tax-deferred accounts are available and until the pension starts. The advantage of the pension is its known starting date, its inflation adjustment, and its high probability of payment.

Your other savings may only have to bridge the gap between your retirement request and the start of your pension. You won’t have to worry about outliving your personal portfolio– only about making it last until the pension begins.

In addition to spending down your taxable accounts, you can also tap your tax-deferred accounts if necessary, and under some conditions even without penalty. If savings won’t stretch to cover the whole gap between retiring and receiving a pension, then annual income can be augmented from part-time work or a civilian bridge career.

The planning and calculations may seem complicated or even overwhelming, but today’s retirement-planning software is tremendously flexible at projecting multiple streams of income over an entire retirement.  We’ll cover more details and a “multiple streams of income” example in a later post.

Related articles:
Reserves and National Guard
Mobilizing with the Reserves and National Guard
The “Military Articles” section of the Recommended reading tab
Reserve Military Pension for “Discharge” Instead of “Retired Awaiting Pay”
Retiring From The Individual Ready Reserve Or National Guard
Guest Post Wednesday: “My Road to a Reserve Retirement”

About Doug Nordman

Author of "The Military Guide to Financial Independence and Retirement" and co-author of "Raising Your Money-Savvy Family For Next Generation Financial Independence."
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135 Responses to What You Need To Know About National Guard Retirement

  1. Doug Nordman says:

    Thanks! The next three posts are on Reserve/NG healthcare, pension comparisons, and handling those multiple streams…

  2. Deserat says:

    Great job, Nords – really summarizes the situation nicely – the key being the streams of income. One other aspect is that while in the Reserves, you get training in areas that may complement or enhance your civilian skills and help you progress more rapidly in that career. Juggling can get difficult and you may end up sacrificing in one or both of your careers, but it does expand the opportunities available to you and as in this posting, provide another pre-and retirement stream of income.

  3. george says:

    Two questions: 1. Can I still earn points as a grey area “retired awaiting pay” using the distance education programs of the various military branches like the Marine Corps Institute?
    2. In the article it states to use the maximime time in service/grade to calulate the base pay. I will have 30 years of qualifying service. Looking at the DOD pay chart on the DFAS web site the pay in my grade goes up to 40 years of service. Do I use the 30 years of qualifying service that I actually completed or the 40 years of service according to the pay chart?

    • Doug Nordman says:

      Those are darn good questions.

      1. I haven’t found an answer on earning points while gray-area “retired awaiting pay”. (I suspect that nobody’s asked the question before, either.) I would expect the answer to be “No”, because the military gains nothing from you by giving you points– you’re already retired and you’re not coming back unless the President mobilizes you. The service Reserve/Guard bureaucracy would have to keep re-opening your retiree record to add more points, and I know that the computer networks of most services lock the electronic files of retiree records to avoid mistakes in data entries. There’s no reason to let you earn a few more dollars in your pension, either. However there are differences among the services’ Reserve and National Guard programs, and there could be some niche provision for this situation.

      I’m on travel in Houston right now (and away from all of my bookmarks & files) so I’m going to do more research when I get back home to Hawaii. If you’re a member of the Association of the United States Navy then you could also send your question to them– or to your service’s Reserve association. I’ll let you know if I learn anything new.

      A cynical financial advisor would suggest that your time could be better spent earning money some other way, or just enjoying your life. And if you were going to use these distance-education programs anyway, then the military would have no reason to motivate you with retirement points.

      2. When your pension starts, its base pay scale is the longevity in the pay tables “as though you had been on active duty the entire time while retired awaiting pay”. Now that the pay tables go to 40 years, everyone uses the 40-year pay tables. If your pension starts next month, then for your 30 years of qualifying service you’d also use the “Over 40” column for your retirement rank include the years in which you’ve been retired awaiting pay. That means your pay column would be at least >30, and might be as much as >40. For the vast majority of Reserve/Guard ranks it’s the same dollar figure in those columns. The only pay raises after the >30 column are for E-9, W-5, and O-8->10.

      Keep in mind that the pay table you’ll actually use when your pension starts is the pay table in effect for that year, not today’s pay table. If your pension starts in 2020 then you’ll use the 2020 pay table to determine your base pay amount to use in calculating your pension. By the rules currently in effect, you’ll use the longevity for your retirement rank at the age you start your pension (usually age 60). That’s 40 at least >30 years.

      Regardless of the rule, it may not make a difference. The only ranks that see pay increases after 30 years are the paygrades of E-9, W-5, and flag officer. If you’re in one of these ranks then congratulations! You’ve earned the pension boost. If you’re not in one of these ranks then your pension’s base pay amount is the same whether you have 30 years of service or 40.

      The 40-year pay tables only started in 2007, so not very many servicemembers have retired under them. The Reserve retirement system is affected by the change to 40-year tables, but I think that this is an unintended consequence of the change. (The reason for the change was to encourage senior active-duty ranks to stay to 40 years.) It’s possible that the rules will change again before you begin receiving pay, so it’s worth keeping an eye on the military news.

      • Doug Nordman says:

        George, it looks like the answer to your first question is definitely “No”.
        You’d have to check your service-specific instruction, but both the Army and the Navy Reserve instructions specifically will not award points while in retirement status.
        Page 8 of the Army Reserve instruction (“Army Reserve Non-Regular Retirement Information Guide”, chapter 3-1 c.2.b, http://www.armyg1.army.mil/rso/docs/ARReserveRetirementGuide.doc) says:
        “2. Transfer to the Retired Reserve. A member in this category may participate in inactive duty training provided:
        a) Such training is at no expense to the Government.
        b) Members are not entitled to pay or retirement points.
        c) No official record of such participation is maintained.”

        The Navy Reserve instruction is being revised, but page 1-2 of the Navy Reserve instruction (BUPERSINST 1001.39F , “Administrative Procedures for Navy Reservists”) archived on the AUSN.org website, chapter 1 section 102.2.b, says:
        “3. Retired Status. Members in the Retired Reserve are in a retired status. Unless recalled to Active Duty, they may not receive retirement point credit. They may not be advanced or promoted. See section 103 of this chapter; chapter 5, section 507; and chapter 10, section 1008 for further information.”

        Section 103 says “Retired Reservists may not receive retirement point credit for the performance of any duty (except while authorized to serve on Active Duty) after the
        effective date of their transfer to retired status.”

        If anyone has the references to the Marine, Air Force, and Coast Guard instructions then I’ll put them here, too.

        Good question, and it flexed my research muscles– thanks!

      • Jeff says:

        Doug – Concerning the 40 year pay tables, from how I read the rules you use the pay tables in effect at your last 36 months of pay before retirement. This 36 month average determines your pay level. If you joined the military, for instance, at age 24, you would only be able to reach 36 years of service by age 60 when you draw the pension. You would never be able to reach the 40 year table. This could affect George and your answer to him above?

      • Doug Nordman says:

        That’s correct, Jeff. The federal law says “as though the servicemember had been on active duty the entire time” until their pension starts. Reserve/Guard officers (commissioned at age 21 or older) would never reach the 40-year column. Some Reserve/Guard with combat deployments after 27 Jan 2008 are also eligible to start their pensions a little earlier than age 60. Not many would actually use the 40-year column on the pay tables.

        As of the 2014 pay tables, the only ranks that see pay raises after 30 years are E-9s, W-5s, and O-8->10. However O-6s and E-8s now see pay raises at 30 years, and their pay used to top out at 26 years.

        Any column between 30-40 years will give the correct result for the vast majority of Reserve/Guard retirees. I’ve corrected my answer to George to reflect the actual numbers.

        Thanks for your feedback! We have to educate an entire generation of Reserve/Guard members who entered “retired awaiting pay” status before the pay tables extended out to 40 years.

  4. A R B says:

    I am an Air Force reservist with 18 good years of service. I have been trying to get back in for over four years, but to no avail. Per two recruiters, I have had to retake the ASVAB (which I passed), only to be told that they lost my results and have to take the ASVAB a third time. I was also told that my blood pressure is too high (140/90) and that my BP has to be below 140/90 without medication. I am at a loss here and do not know where to go from here. I deserve to retire as I am in “sanctuary”. Any assistance you can provide is greatly appreciated.

    • Doug Nordman says:

      A R B, it seems as if the only thing you could do differently for your third ASVAB would be to try a different recruiter who’ll take better care of the paperwork.

      I don’t have a good answer for the blood pressure numbers. You’ve probably already tried weight loss & exercise. Some people are affected by “white coat syndrome”, where your blood pressure rises whenever a medical technician (in a white coat) takes your BP. That’s a very real effect, but the only way to counteract it is through stress-reduction techniques (during the measurement) like relaxation or meditation. They work, but like losing weight & exercising they also take some practice to pay off. You could ask the medical staff if you could wear a 24-hour BP monitor to show that your BP jumps from white coat syndrome.

      Sanctuary is a different situation. It applies to reaching at least 18 years of active duty service (point count) during a Reserve career and being entitled to serve for 20 years of active duty to qualify for an active-duty retirement. Sanctuary does not apply to years of Reserve duty (“good years”). While you have 18 good years of Reserve service, you’d need at least 20 good years to qualify for a Reserve retirement. There are no guarantees that permit you to obtain those last two good years.

      To be in sanctuary, you would need to have over 18 years of active-duty service (nearly 6600 points) to be eligible for an active-duty retirement. If you were in sanctuary, you should not have been able to be demobilized from your last active-duty orders. The personnel system software would have flagged your impending sanctuary months before you reached it. (Personnel systems can make mistakes, but from DoD’s perspective this is a hugely expensive oversight and it gets a lot of attention.) If you have over 6500 points then it’s worth discussing sanctuary with your local Air Force Reserve unit.

      One possible solution to all of these issues would be to talk with a recruiter for your local Air National Guard or National Guard. Their recruiters might take better care with your ASVAB and they might have different standards for blood pressure. Other Reservists have used the NG/ANG to get to 20 good years, so I know that option works.

      Sanctuary has been a very confusing issue among the Reserves during the drawdown, and it’s even more important when Reservists are mobilized for a combat deployment. I’ll write up a new post with the DoD & service references and link it to this post. Thanks for asking about it!

    • Doug Nordman says:

      A R B, here’s the link to a new post that gives more answers to your questions:

  5. R. Scougal says:

    I hope you can answer my question, or point me to more information. After 21 years in the Army NG, including a year of deployment in Iraq and numerous temporary home-station full-time orders, I went into the IRR – I was caring for my elderly father at home, and could no longer serve. I had originally thought I might return to the Guard, but that turned out not to be possible, and I ETS’ed from the IRR. I received my “twenty-year letter” the year before I went into the IRR.

    Am I eligible for retirement pay? What do I have to do? I am 57 years old now.

    Thanks for any help you can offer.

    • Doug Nordman says:

      Thanks for your comment!

      Yes, you’re eligible for an Army National Guard retirement, because you received your Notice of Eligibility before you separated from the IRR.

      If you elected for “discharge” from the Guard instead of “retired awaiting pay” then your pension will be based on the pay tables that were in effect during your discharge, and at your discharged rank’s longevity. In other words your pension benefits were frozen instead of keeping up with inflation. Once you start drawing your pension, however, it’ll have a cost-of-living adjustment.

      If you deployed to Iraq after 28 January 2008 then it’s possible that your pension may start a little before age 60. It starts one day earlier for each of at least 90 days that you were deployed in a combat zone after that date. Your Tricare benefits will still start at age 60.

      I’ve e-mailed you more information (with links) to get you started. I’m also going to post your question (anonymously) and the answers on the blog. Please let us know how it goes!

  6. Nathaniel Emery says:

    Are there still two retirement options when you retire from the Air National Guard? Is so, how do I proceed with the correct version? I am 53 and what the retirement pay to reflect my rank in 7 years time.

  7. David V Grass says:

    I will be retiring this year Oct 2013, I turn 60 on Nov 2013 . I live in Missouri with 32 plus years of service. Which tricare will I be under? Will it cost me anything? Iam still employed with a city that offers blue cross insurance, I have the HSA plan, will this work with tricare when I retire. Please reply back the my Emil. Dave.grass@yahoo.com

    • Gary Waters says:

      Once you turn 60, how long does it take for your retired pay to begin?

      • Doug Nordman says:

        Thanks for the question, Gary!

        Retiree pay is on the first day of the month, so you’ll see your first pension deposit on the first month after you turn age 60. Your service should send you a package about 6-9 months before then for you to submit updated personal contact data and to set up the deposit. If you have not heard from then by that time then contact your service’s local Reserve/Guard center or DFAS.

        Here’s a link to the source: https://www.dfas.mil/retiredmilitary/apply/receive-pay.html

  8. Tamla says:

    I am looking for information on national guard reserves. My dad served 2 years back in teh 50s. What benefits if any is he entiltled to?

  9. OGF says:

    Great info, Nords. Quick question: How does a reservist’s pension differ from an active duty pension, in terms of length of the pension? In other words, if I serve 20 yrs in the reserves, and draw the pension at age 60, does the annuity stream last 20 yrs (till age 80), or until death? If I lived to age 90, would the pension continue to pay that stream from age 80-90? Active duty? Thanks a bunch.

  10. Michelle says:

    Hi, I am currently in the process of a MEB and expect to be discharged medically within the next six months. I have my 20 year retirement letter and understand that I will be a grey-area retiree. Assuming that my disability is rated at least a 30%, is there any difference between a medical retirement and a regular retirement.?

    • Doug Nordman says:


      Thanks for a great question, and I’m sorry that you’re facing a MEB. This is a very tough question and worthy of an entire post, which I’ll summarize here.

      I’m describing the different systems with caveats because each medical retirement is a highly individual situation with dramatically different payments under the various laws. I’m also reaching the limits of my circle of competence– I have little experience with medical and disability retirements and I’m weak on the criteria.

      You’re either going to have a Reserve retirement (at age 60) with a disability rating, or a medical (disability) pension (possibly starting immediately upon retirement).

      Your disability rating will determine how much of your Reserve retirement is awarded as tax-free compensation by the VA instead of as a DoD pension payment. In addition, if your disability rating is 50% or higher and related to combat then you may receive VA compensation (also tax-free) in addition to your Reserve pension (instead of the more typical VA offset).

      If you receive a medical (disability) retirement then your pension is handled by Chapter 61 of federal law instead of the Reserve retirement legislation, and your pension amount is tied directly to your disability rating. You may be able to receive your pension immediately (instead of at age 60) but the total amount of your pension would be limited to 75% of your High-Three pay base (and could possibly be 50% of your pay base).

      My first suggestion would be for you to read the PEBForum.com and post your situation there for a more detailed analysis. My second suggestion is finding a local VSO (from a local chapter of the DAV, American Legion, IAVA, or MOAA) to have them do a detailed record review. They can advise you of the various issues and results that the MEB may determine.

      Another excellent resource is veteran Ryan Guina’s TheMilitaryWallet.com. Read all of his posts under the “VA Disability” tab, like this one:

      Depending on the results of your MEB, you may also want to seek legal advice for an appeal. Again you may want to have a VSO rep assist you with the MEB process as well as any prospective appeal.

      The MEB system is difficult to understand, and it’s almost impossible when you’re coping with health and disability issues. Find a VSO right away, and consider having a rep attend your meetings with the MEB and the VA. I know at least one servicemember who used a digital recorder (with permission) and a note-taking friend to make sure that they understood (and followed up on) everything they heard during meetings.

  11. Russ says:

    Hi Doug,

    In general, once I have submitted my paperwork for retired pay do I receive anything in writing prior to seeing my first payment show up in my bank account? I turn 60 in October 2015, have 3 90-day drop periods from a deployment and believe I should start receiving payments on 1 March for a partial month in February. I submitted my paperwork in early January of 2015 an am not sure if I should call to bug anybody or just wait.


    • Doug Nordman says:

      Thanks for asking, Russ!

      You should have received confirmation by now. I think you need to bug DFAS and your service’s Reserve/Guard HQ. This late in February there might not be enough time to add you to the system for a March payment, although DFAS will eventually pay you everything that you’re owed.

      You could start by making sure that your myPay account is accessible and your direct-deposit info on there is correct, and then e-mail/call DFAS. If they need more help then you’d go back to your service’s Reserve/Guard center to send over the data.

      One issue is that the 90-day early retirement legislation initially required the 90 days to be all during one fiscal year. (This was corrected by the 2015 National Defense Authorization Act, but not retroactively.) This verification may be one reason for the delay.

  12. Howard D. Amos says:

    I am presently drawing VA disability (30%), I was told by someone back in 2007, that I could not draw VA disability and retired National Guard pay at the same time. So I kept the VA disability and not retire from the guard. I have a military retired ID card and Tricare for Life. Someone else told me that I can no longer apply for national guard retirement because 7 years has passed, since I turned age 60. Is this true?

    • Doug Nordman says:

      Howard, you definitely need to contact the personnel branch of your nearest National Guard Army to discuss your pension and your VA benefits. You should also contact DFAS to make sure they have a complete record, and to verify that you’re receiving everything you’ve earned.

      It’s never too late. Contact them now to make up for the lost income.

  13. Shawn Whyte says:


    I joined the National Guard after 16 years of active service. When I retire at 20 years will I receive any pay or do I have to wait until I am 60?

    • Doug Nordman says:

      Thanks for your question, Shawn!

      Your 16 years of points and 16 “good years” have earned you credit toward a Guard “non-regular” (Reserve) retirement. You would only be eligible for an immediate active-duty pension if you retired via the Temporary Early Retirement Authority (TERA) program (or via a medical disability retirement).

      Now that you’re in the Guard, you’ll have to earn at least four more good years to be eligible for a Guard/Reserve pension. Once you receive your Notice of Eligibility (your “20-year letter”) then you’re eligible for a pension that begins at age 60.

      As noted in the second paragraph of this post, if you deployed to a combat zone for at least 90 days during a fiscal year after 28 January 2008, then you’re eligible to start your pension 90 days earlier. The 2015 National Defense Authorization Act modified that “fiscal year” legislation to stretch across fiscal years after 30 September 2014. Even if your combat deployments qualify you to receive your pension earlier, your Tricare benefits will still start at age 60.

      Drilling in the Guard for four more years may seem like a colossal pain. However I frequently hear from veterans in their 50s who wish that their younger selves had invested the time and sacrifice in getting the minimum number of points for the minimum number of years required to receive that pension.

      I think that it’s worth sticking around for four years of drills (and perhaps a deployment) just to earn the benefit of all the time & effort that you put into the first 16 years.

  14. Jim peters says:

    National guard Chapter 61 retiree at age 45. Question. at 60 does my disability change from retiree based on rank to retiree based on points?

    • Doug Nordman says:

      Great question, Jim, and a very confusing issue.

      The short answer is “No.” Once you’re medically retired under Chapter 61, you stay medically retired under Chapter 61 for the rest of your life. You do not “switch over” to a Guard/Reserve retirement at age 60.

      For example, see the response by Jason Perry, former Army JAG officer and the founder of PEB Forum, at this link:

      What does change at age 60 is your potential eligibility for Concurrent Retirement and Disability Pay (CRDP). The first requirement for CRDP is that you’ve reached Guard/Reserve retirement age. The full paragraph says “… retiree with 20 qualifying years of service, who has a VA disability rating of 50 percent or greater and who has reached retirement age. (In most cases the retirement age for reservists is 60, but certain reserve retirees may be eligible before they turn 60. If you are a member of the Ready Reserve, your retirement age can be reduced below age 60 by three months for each 90 days of active service you have performed during a fiscal year.)”

      So at age 60, if your VA disability rating is at least 50%, then you can also start receiving CRDP. But you’re still medically retired under Chapter 61 (for rank).

      I’m not sure which calculation is used for CRDP, but I would suspect that it’d be the points system. If you’re facing a VA disability rating of at least 50% then you should confirm the CRDP calculation with Jason Perry at PEBForum.com and with DFAS.

      Finally, note that there’s a difference between CRDP and CRSC:

      • Michael says:

        Quick question Doug…I am a chapter 61 retiree with a 20 year letter…if I start receiving my army reserve pay at age 60…would this change my tricare insurance coverage…I pay $45 for tricare now…reserve tricare is over $900 a month…what is your thoughts

      • Doug Nordman says:

        Thanks for your question, Michael!

        There shouldn’t be any changes to your Tricare insurance coverage.

        When you reach age 60, you’ll continue on your Chapter 61 medical coverage. You’d have the option to switch to Tricare (Prime or Standard) but you’ll want to keep your current Tricare insurance. When you turn age 65 then you’ll sign up for Medicare and Tricare For Life.

        Tricare Reserve Select is intended for drilling Reservists who have no other access to health insurance, although the ACA has put more competition into the healthcare market than COBRA.

        Tricare Reserve Retired is intended for Reservists in the “gray area” (retired awaiting pay) who would otherwise be paying higher rates for health insurance. But again the ACA has hopefully reduced the price of buying insurance on the exchange marketplace.

  15. Alex Egan says:

    I have a question, my brother has been in the reserves for 15 plus years (enlisted in 1999). He was injured in a motor vehicle accident 5 years ago and was able to stay in despite brief periods out for a surgery. He now may need another minor surgery that may impact his ability to pass the annual physical exam, he wants to stay in at least another 5 years. If he can’t pass the exam – will he lose 100% of any pension he might have 5 years from now if he passes the medical exam?

    • Doug Nordman says:

      Good question, Alex, and I get it a lot!

      No, his retirement is safe. However he may be retired with a disability pension, and it may happen sooner than 20 years.

      Federal law says that once you reach 18 years of service, you can only be retired– not separated. That includes 18 “good years” as well as 18 years of active duty.

      If his injury results in a permanent disability then he could be retired now. The medical board could recommend an early retirement (based on his point count) or a disability retirement (based on the disability rating percentage). A military disability retirement is also known as a Chapter 61 retirement for the governing section of federal law. His pension would be based on the calculation that produces the higher amount.

      Of course the medical board may also recommend that he stay on duty, continue treatment, and continue as a drilling Reservist.

      He needs to make sure his diagnosis and treatment are thoroughly documented. Even if he recovers, the injury could be considered a lifetime disability (especially if it could get worse as he gets older). He should talk to a VA Veteran Services Officer to get started on a VA disability claim. He won’t need to file a claim now, but they’ll make sure that he knows what to document and how to file a claim when he does retire. Ideally he’d process the VA claim at the same time as retiring from the service, and that way he’ll maximize his VA benefits.

      If the injury was related to combat, or to training for combat, then he may also be eligible for Combat Related Special Compensation.

      As he works through the recovery from the injury, he may also want to read the PEBForum website for more advice from vets who’ve dealt with similar issues.

      Please follow the blog on Facebook or Twitter– in a couple weeks I’ll have another post on this subject from another reader’s similar question.

  16. Army wife says:

    My husband has 15 good years in the army between the ARNG and active duty. He was just placed into the IRR. He receives VA disability for a back injury that only seems to be getting worse as he gets older. He went into the IRR because he doesn’t feel that his back can hold up to the stresses of the military and even his civilian job is becoming difficult for him. He was considering trying to get a medical retirement due to the circumstances but wasn’t sure if that was an option anymore or even an option at all with only 15 years and now being placed into the IRR. What are his options? Thanks.

    • Doug Nordman says:

      First, I hope he’s seeing a VA doctor or his primary care doc (through his civilian employer’s health insurance). A few servicemembers try to downplay (or even hide) the severity of their injury, and any delays in exams/treatments usually make things that much worse. Get healthy before you start working on the career questions.

      Once he’s updated his diagnosis and treatment plan, he should re-apply to the VA for an update on his disability. This may not only raise his disability rating but may also open the prospect of a Physical Evaluation Board. The board decides among three main options:
      – continue in the ARNG (active, drilling, or IRR) with treatment and eventually a Reserve/Guard retirement, or
      – disability retirement (Chapter 61) instead of a Reserve/Guard retirement, which would start his pension payments now instead of “retired awaiting pay”, or
      – Temporary Disability Retired List (TDRL) with periodic reassessments for either retirement or a return to duty.
      Here’s a summary of the PEB choices:

      Even when your spouse ends up with a Reserve/Guard pension (not a disability retirement), if the back injury is related to combat (or training for combat) then he may also be eligible for Concurrent Retirement Disability Pay. However the Reserve/Guard pension and the CRDP will not start until he reaches his eligibility age for the pension, which is age 60 for most Reserve/Guard retirees.

      He can read much more about his VA and disability retirement options at PEBForum.com.

  17. Pat Butler says:

    I requested my military records from the Military Personnel Records center and believe that when I was transferred to the IRR in 1994 I had 20+ years of service. I have had several others, who are knowledgeable in this area, look at my paper work and they agree. How can I get someone to review then officially and make a determination?

    • Doug Nordman says:

      Pat, after 20+ years I think that your best bet is forwarding copies of the documentation to your service’s Reserve/Guard personnel HQ. (They may have your record online, but it may not be complete.) Your goal is to verify that you not only have 20+ years of service, but 20 “good years” eligible for retirement.

      The confirmation of that will be a Notice of Eligibility letter (and their copy of your records) followed by your retirement request.

      If you’re near a Reserve/Guard center for your service, you could contact them for more in-person advice. That would at least get you a solid e-mail address and phone number for the personnel HQ.

  18. sfchoosier says:

    What is the difference between “good” years for retirement and years for pay ? I have just over 20 verified “good” years and my 20 yr letter, but they keep telling me I have 25 years for pay, obviously I am curious if this will affect my pay when it begins in a couple years. Thanks for your help

    • Doug Nordman says:


      When you reached 20 good years and retired awaiting pay, your service longevity continues to accrue on the pay tables as if you’ve been on active duty until your pension starts.

      This means that your retired pay will be calculated using the pay tables in effect when you reach the starting age for your Reserve/Guard pension (typically age 60) and at the service longevity as if you’d been on active duty up through that age.

      In your case, in 2015 you’re already considered to be over 25 years of service for pay purposes and you’ll go over 26 years of service next year. If your pension starts in 2017 and your retired rank is SFC, then DFAS will calculate your High Three pension’s pay base from the 2017 pay tables for the rank of E-7>26. That High Three average will be the average of the highest 36 months of pay for the pay tables of E-7>26 in 2017, E-7>26 in 2016, E-7>24 in 2015, and E-7>24 in 2014.

      Then your pension will be calculated from the formula:
      [High Three base pay average] x [# points] / 360 x 2.5%.

  19. Drillbit says:

    I’m an active USAR officer (meaning I’m drilling once a month) who is working on his 19th ‘good year’. I have 18 confirmed good years. I have one chance left to get promoted to the next rank next year after I’ll have completed my 19th good year. If I don’t get promoted I could get forced out for being passed over twice for promotion. Would I lose my reserve retirement at that point? If I was kicked out I would have 19 and 20 good years, but not the magic 20 good years.


    • Doug Nordman says:

      Great poster name, Drillbit!

      I share your concern about selection– when I was on active duty, I was passed over twice and continued until 20 years.

      First, you should ask your personnel branch for the latest policy by your service secretary and chief of staff. (You’ll be working with personnel anyway to make sure your service record is complete and up-to-date.) I’m not familiar with every individual service change, especially those affecting the Reserves during the drawdown. There may already be a letter or instruction for the promotion board with guidance regarding those who fail to select.

      Second, if you’re not happy with the answers from your personnel branch, then consult a JAG for a review of federal law and Army policies.

      However I think you can depend on the Army to do the right thing and let you get to 20 for your Notice Of Eligibility… after a record review and possibly a continuation board.

      When the enlisted ranks reach 18 good years, they’re protected from discharge until reaching 20 years. (https://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/10/1176) Active-duty officers are also protected by federal law. (https://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/10/637) Until at least 2018, all of the services have the authority to use TERA to retire their active-duty members after 15 years.

      If you fail to promote for the second time then it’s likely that the Army will continue you to 20 good years, as long as you meet all of your unit’s drill and other performance requirements. It’s possible that you might be required to vacate your drill billet and transfer to the Individual Ready Reserve, but in the IRR you could continue with correspondence courses and other events to obtain enough points for a good year. To be safe, though, after the anniversary date for the end of your 19th year you should try to get your next batch of points as quickly as possible at the start of your 20th year.

      Please let us know what other instructions and policy you hear about!

  20. casper says:

    I am not sure how to start my retirement payments. I got my 20yr letter and filled out some paper work before I retired in 05. I will be 60 in OCT. 2015. I have not heard or gotten anything since then. Can you give some info on where to start.

    • Doug Nordman says:


      The first place you could try is the personnel branch at your old Reserve/Guard unit. They’ll be able to look you up in the system and track the status.

      If you’re not near a military base (or a Reserve/Guard drill site) then you could e-mail or phone your service’s personnel HQ. You may need to send them a copy of your 20-year letter or your retirement application.

      Another option would be to contact the Defense Finance and Accounting Service. If your branch of the Reserve/Guard has already processed the paperwork correctly then DFAS will be able to check on your start date. The easiest way to check that (or to contact DFAS) is through a myPay account. If you don’t have a myPay account (or it won’t let you log in) then try contacting DFAS through these phone numbers:

  21. Deena Stanley says:

    I did 2 yrs as a Reservist prior to going Active, only one is a “good year”, followed by 6 years active. After a break in svc I reentered as a Reservist. I currently have 4 years of good reserve years after active duty. As I calculate it, I will turn 60 in Dec 2023 but will not have 20 yrs until Feb 2024. Will I be kicked out when I turn 60 or can I choose to stay an extra 2 months and retire after 60?

    • Doug Nordman says:

      Thanks, Deena, great question!

      I’m not familiar with the age-limit rules for each service, but you’ll probably need a waiver from your service to do any drills or other point-earning activities after you turn age 60.

      A better option would be for you to complete all of your drills and AT before you turn 60 so that you qualify for a good year in 2023, even though the good year would not be awarded until after February 2024.

      You’d receive your Notice of Eligibility after February 2024 and immediately file for retirement. You’ll almost certainly have to work closely with your Reserve chain of command to make sure that there are no delays in determining your retirement eligibility and executing the process.

  22. Ralph Butera says:

    I have two questions- the first is about receipt of your first retirement check– if your birthday is the 10th, will you receive your first check on that date- or is it a prorated check received at the end of the month, then the next check on the FIRST.
    Second question- if there is an error on the direct deposit, how do you correct it

    • Doug Nordman says:

      Thanks for your questions, Ralph! Everybody wonders about this.

      Military pensions (like military salaries) are paid in arrears. You’ll receive your first pension deposit on the 1st of the next month after your 60th birthday. As you suspect, it’ll be pro-rated. Subsequent pension payments will be deposited to your account on the 1st of the month. The reason that some of these deposits show up at the end of the previous month is because some financial institutions will credit your account a day or even two days sooner.

      Some Reserve/Guard servicemembers deployed to a combat zone after 28 January 2008 (or, in the Guard, for certain national emergencies). Their pension starts three months sooner for every 90 days in the combat zone during a fiscal year, and it’s paid under the same terms. However Tricare coverage still starts at age 60.

      Direct deposit information goes to the Defense Finance and Accounting Service through either your myPay account or by mailing in a form:

      • Sherry says:

        I am an Army National Guard retiree with a total of 32 years, 6 months and 25 days service. I retired on 1 Aug 2012, not due to disability.
        I have an issue regarding my first retired payment. I turned 60 on 2 July 17 and received my first retired pay on 1 Aug 17. The problem is I also receive 90% VA Disability and my retired check was MINUS nearly all my VA Disability.
        I contacted DFAS Retired Pay and was told that, “I know this doesn’t make sense…” but that since my first payment was not for an entire month (SHORT ONE DAY!!!), that my retired pay was adjusted according to my disability pay and I would not receive the over $1800 difference. WHAT?!?
        I thought it was because I had a debt (drill pay received after I had applied for VA Disability) that was collected in December 2016 by the VA and maybe the debt hadn’t been cleared on their records. I explained that to the DFAS rep and he said that wasn’t the case – that the money was not a prior debt collection – it was the difference in my VA Disability and my retirement pay. Again, “I know this doesn’t make sense…” He said I could get a written explanation from DFAS but I haven’t been able to find ANYTHING about this particular issue!
        I also asked him if this would happen each month and he said no, that I would receive my entire retired pay AND VA disability from this point on.
        Can you help??

      • Doug Nordman says:

        Sherry, I’ve never heard of this before.

        If you’d retired from active duty with a 90% VA disability rating then you’d probably be eligible for Concurrent Retirement and Disability Pay. (My friend Ryan Guina has an excellent post on the details: https://themilitarywallet.com/concurrent-receipt-military-retirement-pay/) Since you’re now receiving your Guard retirement, you’d expect to be under the same CRDP rules that would add your VA disability compensation to your pension. In other words, as DFAS said about your future pension payments, you’d not only get your pension but you’d get the VA compensation on top of that.

        It’s possible that DFAS doesn’t have you properly entered in the system for CRDP. If that’s the cause of the problem then when they fix it they should be able to credit you back to 2 July. You could apply for CRDP (so that you’re paid back to 2 July) but if they’re going to do the right payment on 1 September then it seems that they already have you assigned to CRDP.

        I can think of one other place where someone might know the cause (and the solution). You could try posting your question on PEBForum.com. It was founded by a JAG and lots of the members have both VA disability compensation and Reserve/Guard careers. Someone may have run into this situation before.

        Other readers on this blog post, any help?

        I’ll keep asking a few other bloggers and people I know with high disability ratings. I’ll let you know when I learn more, and please let me know what you hear from PEBForum or DFAS– and what advice you’d want me to pass on to other servicemembers & vets.

      • Sherry says:

        Thanks, Doug! I will check out the article and site you recommended and let you know what I find out. Funny that the rep from DFAS kept saying, “I know this doesn’t make sense…” He was sure correct about that!

  23. Kelli Eddings says:

    I was in the Air National Guard for 22 years, the last two years were inactive due to medical issues. My CAC card was deactivated and I was not able to fill out the retirement paperwork, I was given an Honorable discharge. How can I get the paperwork filled out so I can take advantage of commissary and BX privileges.

    • Doug Nordman says:

      Thanks for your comment, Kelli. I’m a little confused about your military status– and that might be a problem.

      If you were discharged from the Air National Guard before reaching retirement eligibility then you’re a military veteran, but without commissary or BX privileges. Congress has proposed awarding commissary and exchange privileges to veterans, but no laws have been passed.

      If you completed 20 good years with the ANG and have a Notice Of Eligibility letter that you’re eligible for retirement, then you may have retired from the ANG. However there are two types of Reserve/Guard retirements: retired awaiting pay (also known as “gray area”), and resigned (or separated or discharged).

      If you’re retired awaiting pay then you could talk to your local ANG unit or to the personnel office at your nearest military base. With your retirement orders and your DD-214, they should be able to issue you an ID card for base access (and commissary/BX access).

      If you were retired by being discharged then you will not be eligible for commissary/BX access until your pension starts, which for most Guard retirees is age 60.

  24. Kelly Conflicted says:

    Hi Doug,

    I want to go into the service and go the full twenty, if possible. I’m looking at Active Duty Officer or an Air NG Dual Status Technician position. I’ve read a lot on both, and I’m most confused about the retirement… Techs get Federal Employee Retirement AND military retirement through ANG? Would that be a better move stability-wise in today’s world rather than trying to make twenty in Active Duty with the downsizing? Seems to good to be true….what am I missing? Your thoughts and opinions are greatly appreciated, sir.

    • Doug Nordman says:

      Great questions, Kelly!

      First I’d suggest finding a career field that interests you and signing up for one obligation. When you approach the end of your first active-duty obligation, that’s a much better time to decide whether you want to stay on active duty for 20 years. Your experience will help you decide whether to shift to the Reserves or the ANG.

      I would not make a career choice based on the pension options. Join the military for the personal challenge, to achieve your potential, to be a part of something bigger than yourself, and to work with incredible people. If you’re having fun and feeling fulfilled then you’ll reach 20 years and a pension as the icing on a well-earned cake. But if you join the military to spend 20 years earning the pension and realize that you don’t enjoy the daily experience, then you’re holding yourself to an unreasonable commitment which will affect your physical, mental, and emotional health.

      It’s possible to earn both a federal civil-service pension and a Reserve/Guard pension. I’m not familiar with the details of the dual status technician career, but it’s a very small program compared to all of the other ways to earn those pensions. You may find yourself competing for limited opportunities with very few options in location or type of work. However many military retirees find bridge careers with federal or state civil service (while collecting a military pension) and even more go on to do the same in civilian careers (when the corporation has a pension plan). Again, find careers that fulfill and interest you. Don’t make yourself a hostage to a pension plan– you can save enough assets to fund your own financial independence.

      Don’t base your choices on the downsizing, either. The media focuses on the 10%-15% of servicemembers who are leaving (or who are asked to leave) but the other 85%-90% are still on the job. The best way to stay in a military career is to find a challenging field that interests you and has room for you. Learn all you can and do the best job you can do. The military will always need people who are good at their jobs, good with a team, and good at leading teams. You’ll practice those skills every day when you’re enjoying the work.

      The real value of a federal pension is in its inflation-fighting COLA and cheap healthcare. But instead of depending on a federal pension to fund your retirement, make it part of a diversified plan. In addition to the COLA and longevity insurance offered by a federal pension, you can also reach a high savings rate. Build your own investments in passively-managed equity index funds (in your Roth TSP, your Roth IRA, and taxable accounts). When you can maintain a savings rate of 40% for about 16-20 years, then you’ll reach financial independence even without a federal pension.

      • Kelly Conflicted says:

        Thanks, Doug! My passion is definitely in Public Health and disease research. I have a Master’s in Public Health (3.85 GPA) and am all but dissertation for my PhD, but keep getting mixed messages from recruiters. I did my last 14 years as a police officer and loved the uniform nature of the job, but I want to apply my skillset to serve a broader population. I have passed the MEPS physical and have a current SECRET clearance, but still can’t seem to find an available active duty position other than going in enlisted, which is why I broadened my search to the NG. Am I talking to the wrong people, or is the military just that hard to get into nowadays?

        Thanks again for your time and assistance!!

  25. Doug Nordman says:

    Kelly, responding to your 28 Nov comment below:

    The recruiters have quotas, and they’re trying to find people for the biggest career fields with the lowest retention. If you’re qualified for (and interested in) a mainstream warfighting community like infantry, artillery, ships, submarines, flying, or missile officer then there maybe be openings. The smaller, more specialized support communities may already be fully staffed.

    Another key could be signing up during off-peak times like January-March instead of the huge graduation season in June and the smaller one in December.

    It’s quite possible that you’re talking with the wrong people. However if they’re focused on filling the urgent openings (and you’re not) then they may not be interested in talking with you. You could try another recruiter in another district or even another service. Another option would be finding someone on active duty in the field you’re seeking who could advise you on finding a position.

  26. steve says:

    I have a buddy who was in the Navy for just below 4 years. He got out and joined the ANG. He retired from the ANG and was placed in the “RAP” system. During his time in the ANG he went to sand land and got injured. It was documented in the paperwork and in his medical file. It’s been 2.5 years since he retired and now his old injury is acting up and he is in pain. He went to the VA and because he does not have a DD214 or any letter or paper work from his unit they told him he was wasting his time and they will not help him. He has his medical records and showed it to them but because he is “RAP”, no DD or other they will not touch him. Is there any thing that he can do?

  27. Derrick says:

    I am a Gray Area Retiree, as of Apr 15. Is it possible for me to unretire and become a drilling reservist or m-day soldier again?

  28. Doug Nordman says:

    Derrick, it’s generally permitted by law (if you meet the requirements) and you can always ask for waivers, but the military is in a drawdown and there may only be limited opportunities.

    I’d recommend contacting a recruiter to see what’s available.

  29. Valerie says:

    I retired from the Navy Reserve on my 60th birthday in November 2015. I received my Retirement Order and Transfer Authorization To Retired Reserve Status With Pay For Non-Regular Service on my 60th birthday. Along with that paperwork I received retirement certificates from Chief Naval Personnel and POTUS, along with a flag. Very nice and much appreciated. However, as of today, 01/04/16, I have not received my first pension paycheck. I called DFAS and they said the Navy had sent them some paperwork the end of November, but the Navy did not send it electronically (as is often the custom). Therefore, someone has to enter all the information into the document DFAS requires by hand, which is apparently time-consuming. DFAS said I could call back in 2 – 3 weeks to check on the progress. From speaking to the DFAS person, the onus is on the Navy to complete the processing of my paperwork and get it to DFAS.

    Question: Is there somebody else whom I should contact to get some information on my retirement pay, other than DFAS? I did try to call BUPERS this morning but the best they could do was redirect me to someone’s voice mail, which indicated that I probably wouldn’t hear back before the next 48 hours.

    I only want to know exactly how much I will receive in retirement (I do have an estimate), and when I can expect to receive it.

  30. Doug Nordman says:

    I’m sorry to hear about DFAS’ slow processing, Valerie.

    I don’t have any other points of contact for you. From what I’ve seen before, I think DFAS is moving as fast as usual. Most Reservists retire years short of their 60th birthday and DFAS has rarely needed to move quickly in their retirement processing.

    If DFAS finishes their processing by 15 January then you could receive your first pension deposit on 1 February. However it’s more likely that they’ll use the rest of January and your first deposit will come on 1 March. The “good” news is that you’ll be paid all the way back to the amount that you were originally supposed to receive after your 60th birthday (on 1 December). The other news is that you may end up with a corrected 1099-R for 2015 before DFAS is finished with your pension processing.

    If you haven’t already read this post, it helps you with the pension calculation:

  31. Valerie says:

    Doug, thanks so much for your reply and for the website for the pension calculation. This is very helpful. BUPERS did call me back and they explained that the ball is in DFAS’s court. I figured I may not see the pension before 1 March and understand that unfortunately this is not out of the norm. I’m satisfied that I have done all that I can, but will call them in a week or so as BUPERS suggested to get an update on the processing. Again, I appreciate your guidance!

  32. Doug Nordman says:

    You’re welcome– I’m happy to help!

  33. Bill says:

    I retired in February 2013 after 31 years of service, I’m in a non pay retired status. I miss serving. I’m 50 years old how can I reenter the Air Natiobal Guard

  34. Doug Nordman says:

    Thanks for asking the question, Bill!

    The best answer is “Call your local recruiter.” The issue is that you’re considering this during a military drawdown, and you’d also need an age waiver. The recruiter might be able to suggest ANG duties or projects that you could join. That depends on what type of service & camaraderie you’re seeking, and what openings they have.

  35. Stephanie says:

    My husband retired from the USMC with 20 years active duty (LtCol) and is receiving his retirement. He misses it so much. He is 48. Is there a way for him to get back in? I know he would be happier serving than just receiving a check every month.

  36. Doug Nordman says:

    Thanks for your question, Stephanie. This conversation goes a lot better when it’s started by the person who misses the military, although I appreciate that spouses are concerned– or even tired of being driven nuts by the problem.

    The short answer is “No, you can’t return to active duty.” In this case it’s due to age, although all the services have experimented with waivers up through the late 30s. Some retirees have returned to active duty for short stints of 30-90 days for unusual skills like trauma surgeon or electrical utility grid operation in a battle zone. Other times it could be for a few months developing a special program or research project. Although the answer is usually “No”, if he has a unique skill then he can always ask the command or person who needs that skill and let that sponsor help with the waivers.

    Another idea is serving the military in another capacity. Contact your local base’s Retired Activities Office, volunteer with a JROTC program at a high school, volunteer as a candidate guidance officer for students considering a service academy, or work with a veteran’s organization like MOAA.

    Another idea is volunteer service. Look into disaster recovery with Team Rubicon, or helping with a local wounded warrior program, or volunteering with almost any other community non-profit organization. The key is to figure out what he really misses (leading a group? military camaraderie? mentoring and training?) and then find a way to do it without the military uniform.

    A final suggestion is Ernie Zelinski’s Get-A-Life Tree. You can find the form at this link: http://bestretirementquotes.blogspot.com/2009/10/get-life-tree-great-retirement-planning.html (and Mr. Zelinski wrote an outstanding book about it, too). Use it to jumpstart your thoughts and find creative answers that are way better than doing what you’ve always done before. This can also be used by couples and families to come up with shared activities.

    I’ve had a copy of the Get-A-Life Tree on my desk for nearly 14 years, but frankly I’ve been too busy to make the time to fill it out. I don’t want to get back in to the military, but I’ve found my own way to continue to pay it forward and mentor while I enjoy the camaraderie. When I’m not writing or talking with military & families, then I surf a lot, too!

  37. Ruth says:

    I was in the Army National Guard, have 22 good years of military service and received my 20 year letter. Then I transferred to the Army Reserves. Due to inactivity I was transferred to the Inactive Ready Reserve. I am approaching age 60 this year and want to apply for my military retirement. To date I have not received any information regarding my retirement at age 60. I have attempted to contact the Reserves to get help with this process but so far nothing. Where should I start to get help with this?

    • Doug Nordman says:

      Congratulations on your retirement, Ruth!

      A frequent cause of this problem could be that the Army Reserve is not aware of your National Guard pension eligibility. The Guard may have transferred all of their responsibilities for your pay record over to the Reserve HQ, who may not realize that you’re ready to start your pension.

      Start by forwarding your Guard “Notice of Eligibility” (20-year letter) to Reserve HRC headquarters. (https://www.hrc.army.mil/TAGD/Reserve%20Component%20Retirements) Use that website’s mailing address and phone number to make sure they have your current address and bank info to do the paperwork and start the deposits.

  38. Thomas Jazdzewski says:

    I am currently 50 y/o and I am awaiting to receive my military pension after serving in the Michigan Army National Guard for 21 years. My question is…..How and where do i obtain a copy of the National Guard Retirement Pay calculator? Can I have a hardcopy one sent to my home address; as everytime I attempt to open a Retirement Calculator link on different military websites, it indicates “No Access” to the site? Frustrating.

    Another question I have is, how do I find out if my records are on file with the National Guard-Lansing, Michigan, and who do I contact to find this information out? I don’t want to get to age 58-59 submit my Eligibility to Receive Retirement Pay forms, and I’m then told, there’s no record on file for me???

    Where do you recommend I start? Thanks

  39. vicki henderson says:

    I served 14 years active duty and 6 years in the national guard. I received my 20 year letter. I began working for the postal service and “bought back” my 14 years of active duty towards my postal service retirement. For example have 12 years actual with the postal service but 26 years on the books due to the buy back option. My question is, how does this affect my retirement through the national guard when I reach age 60? Will I received retirement pay for only my 6 years served in national guard or for the full 20 years of military service.

    • Doug Nordman says:

      Great question, Vicki– the good news is that you’ll receive your full National Guard pension at age 60.

      You’ve paid for your military service credit deposit for your years of active duty. The law which allows you to do that also makes an exception for Reserve/Guard retirements, because you’ve earned that on your own and haven’t bought it as a credit. The details are in Chapter 22 of the FERS Handbook:

      • Vicki Henderson says:

        I guess what I am asking is it “beneficial” for me to buy back my military time. I have 14 YEARS ACTIVE DUTY and 6 YEARS NATIONAL GUARD time for a total of 20 YEARS OF MILITARY SERVICE. Do I lose the 6 years of national guard time if I buy back my 14 years of active duty time. I suppose I am a little confused as to what happens to the 6 years for national guard time since the time spent in the guard after the buy back would be less than 20 years.

      • Doug Nordman says:

        I understand what you’re asking, and I realize that it looks too good to be true. But this is one of those rare times when you get both benefits. Your question has been asked before, and it’s not easy to find the answer, but the answer is that you get both your full civil-service pension and your full Guard pension.

        The reason you get both is because you paid a lot of money to the civil-service system to buy additional retirement credit. Because you spent your own money for that, you still retain your military retirement credit. You still have 20 good years of National Guard service, and your Notice of Eligibility letter (your 20 year letter) is still valid. If you haven’t already, you can still apply for “retired awaiting pay” for your Guard pension.

        The civil-service pension buyback rules are different for military active-duty retirements and Guard/Reserve retirements. If you had retired from active duty (not the Guard) and then bought back your military service credit toward your USPS pension, then you would have been required to give up your active duty pension. (This is generally a bad deal.) However you’re qualified for a Guard pension, and when you buy your military service credit the civil-service rules do not require you to give up your Guard pension.

        Your Guard retirement is under Chapter 1223 of federal law (10 U.S.C. 12731). The specific rule from the civil-service handbook (that link in my last response) is section 22A4.1-1 (Receipt of Military Retired Pay) in the text set off by the carats: “In determining eligibility for CSRS retirement or in estimating the amount of annuity for an employee (special rules for survivors of employees who die in service are covered in Chapter 70), who receives military retired or retainer pay, do not give credit for any military service at the date of separation for civilian retirement unless one of the following is true.
        2. The employee is receiving military retired pay that was awarded:
        • On account of a service-connected disability incurred in combat with an enemy of the United States; or
        • On account of a service-connected disability caused by an instrumentality of war and incurred in the line of duty during a period of war; or
        > • Under the provisions of 10 U.S.C. 12731-12739 (Chapter 1223) which grants retired pay to members of reserve components of the armed forces on the basis of age and service (active and reserve).

  40. Les Hinton says:

    I will be 60 next year and will only have 18 years and 2 months combined active duty and reserve time. I have paperwork being processed to stay past 60 but have not yet heard back on that. My question is will I be able to draw a partial retirement of I am not able to get my good 20 years in.

    • Doug Nordman says:

      Great question, Les.

      The good news is that you’ll have 18+ years by the time you reach age 60, and federal law does not allow separating servicemembers with more than 18 years of service. The intent of that law is to allow serving until vested in the pension.

      The “other” news is that TERA is not currently being offered by the services, but it’s still an option at their discretion through 2018. If your 22-month age waiver is not approved then you should apply for TERA. You’d still have over 85% of the Reserve/Guard pension that you’d normally receive at 20 years of service. Better yet, your retirement will have an inflation-fighting cost of living adjustment plus Tricare.

      Your sustained superior performance will probably be critical to the approval of the age waiver.

  41. Lonnie Crose says:

    I have a combined 18 good years with the Army and Air Force Reserves. I have 20 years total but 2 years are under the 50 point minimum. When I get 20 good years can I submit my retirement package or do I have to wait for the 20 year letter? I want to retire as soon as I can because it is really causing problems in my civilian job and home life.

    • Doug Nordman says:

      Great question, Lonnie!

      First, contact your local Air Force Reserve center to make sure that they have a record of your Army Reserve points as well as your AF Reserve points. (Other readers report that this has been a problem.) Next you’ll want to check how many good years they have on your record. For example, you may have been short of 50 drill points during a year but your 15 participation points may have put you over the 50-point threshold for a good year.

      Once you reach 20 good years, request your Notice Of Eligibility from the Reserve center. They may need a few months to audit your record(s) and confirm the 20 good years. Once you’re sure that you have 20 good years then you could reschedule drills or even take an authorized absence from drills until your retirement date. You’ll want to wait until you have the NOE letter before you apply for retirement.

      Keep in mind that once you leave drill status (even for one day in the IRR) you’ll lose your eligibility for Tricare Reserve Select health insurance.

  42. Jack brooks says:

    Can anyone help me i have tried to get in contact with the phone numbers the guard gave me when i retired in dec2011 but none of the numbers are good. I was told i would be contacted 6 months prior to turning 60. It is now close to 60 days and i have heard from none nore am i recieving any help buy the numbers im calling they keep giving me another number that either doesnt answer the phone and the voice mail is full. Is there anyone that can help me. Thank you

  43. Derrick Justice says:

    I have a toral of 21 years of service between the Army National Guard , Army Reserves but ETS before i could submit retire but unit has been demolished due to budget costs and personnel. Who do i contact with this matter?

  44. Hector A Garcia says:

    I retired from Army reserve on retired reserve status and never received and retirement certificate or flag, where can I contact to get this that I entitled?

  45. yttelv@gmail.com says:

    If I have to leave the service (AGR-Army Guard) at 17 years active duty because of RCP. Do I qualify for TERA?

    thank you for your time.


    • Doug Nordman says:

      Val, while you’d technically qualify for TERA, and although it’s in effect through 2018, the program is not generally offered by the services.

      If you end up facing separation at 17 years then you should apply for TERA and let the Guard decide. You may also be allowed to extend to get to at least 18 (good) years of service, which (under federal law) would enable you to be continued to 20 good years.

  46. Stephanie Heumann says:


    With my combined Active duty and Guard time I have 9 yrs total service. I will be 51 next month. I went back into the Air Guard in June 2013 and was told I just made it to get 20 good years in by age 60. My les shows a payday of 070510 with 9 years. How can I tell if I would actually get a retirement since I would be 61 before my 20 yrs are up?

    Thank you,

    Stephanie H.

    • Doug Nordman says:


      You’re protected by federal law, but you’re also going to have to request an extension in your status past age 60.

      First, please check your Air National Guard drill records to make sure that you indeed have nine good years. Sometimes mistakes are made at the local or national level, and you want to be absolutely sure that the ANG national database has everything you’ve earned. Good years are not just based on points. Good years also depend on mobilization readiness (dental/medical), being within physical standards (height/weight and the physical fitness test), and perhaps satisfactorily completing annual active duty. Even if you have enough points to qualify for a good year the unit still has to attest to the personnel center that you met the standards to receive a good year. If that unit confirmation doesn’t get into the ANG database then although you may have enough points for a good year, you won’t have the credit for a good year.

      It’s far easier to correct those records now than a decade from now. Keep good records of your drill musters and your active duty and make sure the official database gives you credit for everything you’ve done– and then gives you credit for a good year.

      If you have nine good years in your record today, then you’ll need 11 more good years to qualify for a Reserve/Guard retirement. Since you’re 50 years old with nine good years, that means when you get the 11 more good years you’ll be 61 years old.

      Federal law says that when you reach 18 years of service then you’re entitled (protected) to stay on active duty status (drilling) until you reach 20 years (good years) of service. Here are the sections of federal law for enlisted and officer ranks:

      Although Reserve/Guard pensions normally start at age 60 (or a few months earlier for some mobilizations), you’ll have to stay in a drill status past age 60 to earn the last couple good years. That requires an age waiver for you to stay up through age 62. This could be what you were told in June 2013, but they may have meant that you just made the age deadline to qualify for your pension. Make sure you get that waiver to stay in a drill status past age 60, because it doesn’t happen automatically. Here’s one cautionary tale:

      Next time you’re at the drill weekend or on a military base, I strongly recommend that you talk to a JAG lawyer about your good years, your broken service, your age, and your need for an age waiver. When you submit the waiver, make sure you know who’s approved it and that it’ll be completed on time.

      I’m not sure what you mean by “My LES shows a payday of 070510 with 9 years.” That could be referring to the number of pay months that DFAS has in their records for your longevity on the pay tables. It’s not the same as your ANG record of your number of good years. The LES is not the reference document for retirement eligibility. That can only come from the ANG record of your good years, because that’s what’s used to generate your Notice Of Eligibility letter for your pension.

      I hope this clarifies the rules! Please let me know if that answers your questions or if there are other issues.

    • Allen M. Fowler says:

      I was medically discharged from the mdarng back in December of 2015. I served a total of 23 years deployed to Iraq once and served the last 8 years in AGR status. I’m currently receiving a VA 100pct disability payment monthly. My question is can I still receive a pension from the guard when i turn 60 in five years?

      Mitch Fowler

      • Doug Nordman says:

        Good question, Mitch. You’d want to check the results of your Medical Evaluation Board and your retirement (discharge?) orders.

        If you served a total of at least 20 good years in the Guard (made up of active duty, drilling, and AGR) then you would have received a Notice Of Eligibility for a pension. The MEB would have awarded you the higher value of their disability rating (as low as 30% to the federal law’s maximum of 75%) or of your pension amount. Again you’d have seen these findings in your MEB package and your retirement orders.

        The MEB disability percentage and your pension are completely separate sections of federal law from your VA disability rating. If you were eligible for a National Guard pension (or if you were awarded a disability pension by the MEB) then it starts at age 60 and in addition to your VA disability compensation. You’ll get the military pension and you’ll continue to get the VA disability compensation.

        If you served in a combat zone (like Iraq) after 28 January 2008 then you’d be eligible to start your pension three months earlier for every 90 days (of the fiscal year) in the combat zone.

        The best way to verify this information is to review your MEB package (and your retirement orders) with a JAG or with your unit’s personnel center.

  47. Marsha Babineau says:

    Hello I am writing to let you know this link is workable https://www.hrc.army.mil/

  48. Ben Spencer says:

    I have 9 years and 2 moths of active duty with the USMC, I am currently in the VA Army National guard and I am working on my 15th year of total service. How will this almost half active duty and half guard duty affect my retirement when I hit my 20 years of service? Pay wise? Thank you.

    • Doug Nordman says:

      Great question, Ben! It’s all about good years.

      You have at least 10 good years from your Marine service, and you need to confirm that the VA ANG has those records in their database. (Sadly, the services do not always share that data with each other.) You say that you’re working up to your 15th good year in the ANG, and with five more good years you’ll reach the minimum total of 20 qualifying good years. Shortly after that data is logged, the VA ANG will audit your point-count record and eventually issue a Notice Of Eligibility that you can retire. Once you get that letter you’re able to file a retirement request whenever you wish– after 20 good years, or after serving for the time in grade of a senior rank, or after 30-40 years in a very senior rank.

      Your pension is calculated on your points in your retirement rank. It’s also based on the High Three average of the 36 months of your highest pay during the years that you served, including the years that you were in “retired awaiting pay” (gray area) status. When you “retire awaiting pay”, then your High Three average will be calculated from the highest 36 months of all of the pay tables up until you reach age 60, just as though you were on active duty during those gray-area years. (This is how your ANG pension keeps up with inflation before you start drawing it.) This is usually the three years of pay tables in effect when you’re ages 57-58-59.

      You also accumulate longevity in your retirement rank during the gray area years, again just as though you were on active duty. For most ranks, this means that you’ll reach the maximum pay at that rank.

      A few months before your 60th birthday, DFAS will calculate the average of your highest 36 months of pay, including all of the pay tables up to your age 60, at what is essentially the maximum longevity for your retirement rank. That’s your “High Three Pay Base”.

      Then your pension is calculated from:
      (Points / 360 x 2.5%) x High Three Pay Base.

      Here’s the details of that calculation:

      and you may be able to access a calculator for your service:

  49. Will Reeves says:

    I’m a cw2 about to have my 20 year come February 2018 and my ETS is in Nov 2019 from when I was enlisted. Can I retire on my 20 year mark

    • Doug Nordman says:

      You’re good to go, Will!

      When you reach 20 good years then your service will send you a Notification Of Eligibility indicating that you’ve met the retirement requirements. You should receive that a few months after February 2018, when they finish auditing your record. If you don’t receive it by the summer then track it down.

      Once you have your NOE then you can choose to continue to drill (as long as you find it challenging & fulfilling) or you can apply to retire awaiting pay.

      • Mary Morin says:

        Where do you track down the NOE??

      • Doug Nordman says:

        Mary, I’d start with your unit’s personnel staff. They’ll work up through your regional support to your service’s personnel HQ.

        You may also be able to find it (or request it) in your service’s online account for your point count and your performance record.

  50. Paul says:

    Hello Doug and anyone else perusing this blog!
    Here is some background I have 15 years of active service and will have 5 years of national guards service on record which according to the SFC at the retirement brief I attended yesterday should give me my 20 year NOE the 1st of October.
    He said there was 3 options to retire into. The one that interested me was transferring into the IRR, this will allow me to continue to get retirement points on my chosen schedule, attend leadership schools that I could then use to advance higher in rank. I realize that I would need to focus on 3 good years to qualify for that rank at the actual retirement age of 60 but since I can volunteer for short term mobilizations it shouldn’t be a problem. When I asked retention and senior leadership they told me it wasn’t possible to retire into the IRR, then went mute when I showed them the black and white information. So the question I have is 1) is the information I have correct? 2) where does the funding for the leadership schools come from? 3) How often on a mobilization have you seen people promoted? Questions are open to anyone who has knowledge that could help

    • Doug Nordman says:

      Good questions, Paul!

      Once you have your NOE in hand then you can start planning your service options. (Wait for that NOE, because sometimes the services have problems with auditing days of duty and point counts.) The retirement rules are a little confusing and there have been a number of changes in the last few years.

      First, you only need three years time in grade for O-5 and above. Here’s the federal law for officers:
      Note that the three years can be waived down to two years.
      And for National Guard enlisted:
      With more details here:

      Once you have the appropriate time in grade for your rank, your first option is to simply “retire awaiting pay”. You’ll continue to gain longevity in your retirement rank (just as if you were on active duty) but you’ll no longer have drills or military duties.

      Another option (once you have time in grade!) is to transfer to the IRR and wait until later to file for retirement. You’ll no longer have to show up for drills or AT. Mobilizing from the IRR doesn’t happen very often, so you won’t have many duty obligations. However good years can be a problem in the IRR, because the Reserves and National Guard have made it difficult to earn points in the IRR. (There are very few correspondence courses which are still approved for Reserve/Guard points.) You might be able to get points (by volunteering or by finding the funding to pay for your orders) but you might not get enough points within 12 months to receive credit for a good year.

      When you’re in the IRR you’re also competing for promotion with all of the Reserve/Guard members who are still drilling and completing more achievements than you, so IRR promotions are relatively rare. Even if you manage to get leadership schools and brief mobilizations, you’re still competing against drilling Guard members.

      To answer your specific questions:
      (1) I’m not aware of any laws or programs which allow filing for retired awaiting pay and then continuing in the IRR. Some services allow retirees to volunteer for no-cost orders to earn points (not pay), but those opportunities are rare and they’re not considered IRR. If you have a program name or a link then I’ll research it.

      (2) Leadership schools are generally funded by HRC (for service-wide career development) or by individual commands (out of their own operating funds, for their billet needs) or on no-cost orders (at your expense). In general, if you can find the funds (or pay your own expenses) then you can get the school– if they have space available. Again, you’d get points for attending the school, but it doesn’t necessarily lead to a promotion or even a good year.

      (3) I know that many Reserve/Guard members have been promoted for their performance during mobilizations, but I’m sure it depends on the type of duty and the length of the mobilization. I wouldn’t assume that a mobilization would lead to a promotion any more often than for servicemembers who are doing drills and training.

  51. RAG says:

    If spouse re-marries does this effect their portion of my military retirement?

    • Doug Nordman says:

      RAG, you’re going to have to check your divorce agreement and discuss that question with a lawyer. The Uniformed Services Former Spouse Protection Act lets the military pension be divided as an asset during a divorce, but it doesn’t specify how to divide it. The actual terms of the division are handled by state law. The state law of your divorce court can specify whether the pension payments end upon remarriage.

      The USFSPA and other federal law says that when an ex-spouse remarries, that ends any access privileges to the military base and any Tricare benefits. In other words their ID card is no longer valid and they’re no longer in DEERS.

  52. AFDave says:

    Doug, quick question for you. If I were to transfer to the Air National Guard at 21 years of Active Duty into an AGR position, would I have to wait until the age of 60 to receive a retirement check if I retired at 30 years (21 years active duty plus 9 years AGR)?

    • Doug Nordman says:

      Good question, AFDave, but I’m not sure of the AGR’s latest requirements. I’m assuming that you’re on active duty now (with 21 years) and that you’re considering a move to the ANG’s AGR program.

      You’re eligible for an active-duty pension now, of course, and after retiring from active duty it’s hypothetically possible to mobilize to full-time active duty in the AGR (in the right billet). Your active-duty pension would be suspended while you’re receiving active-duty pay & allowances, and then your pension would resume when you left the AGR billet. That AGR service would also make you eligible for a larger active-duty pension when you finished with the AGR.

      However the ANG and the AGR programs might not need your skills and you might not be able to make the switch.

      Another option might be to retire from active duty now, and then affiliate with a ANG unit (if they have a billet for you). You’d forfeit your pension or your ANG pay (whichever is less) on drill days and orders, but when you finish with the ANG then the points would be added to your active-duty pension.

      In either case, you would not have to wait until age 60. You’d receive your active-duty pension as soon as you retired.

  53. Smitty says:

    Can someone who is considered a guard/reserve junkie retire and start drawing benefits once they receive enough active duty points

    • Doug Nordman says:

      Smitty, I’m not sure what “a Guard/Reserve junkie” means. Please let me know if that’s a specific term or program, or whether it’s your description of someone who continues drilling (and doing active duty) even after they’re eligible to retire awaiting pay for a Reserve/Guard pension.

      If a Guard/Reserve member has enough days of active duty to reach 18 years of active-duty service for an active-duty pension, then they meet one of the requirements for sanctuary. However to receive an active-duty pension they have to be actually on active duty at the time they reach 18 years, and they have to continue to serve until 20 years of active duty. The program is also heavily monitored by the services to make sure that they know who’s approaching that 18-year tripwire.

      The short answer to your question is “Generally not.”

  54. phil says:

    Army National Guard with over 20 years. If I just get promoted to W5. Hold the rank for 31 days as required by
    AR 135-180 to retire as that rank; and I retire at the age of 45.

    Will my retirement be based on the high 36 months as a W5 at age 59, 58, and 57 (with the continuous running clock)?

    Or will it be based on W4 high 36 months at 59 58 and 57?

    Thank you in advance

    • Doug Nordman says:

      You’re right, Phil, when you “retire awaiting pay” with at least the minimum time in W-5 rank then your pension will be based on the W-5 pay tables.

      The formula will use the average of the highest 36 months in the future W-5 pay tables in effect when you’re ages 59, 58, and 57, and at the longevity in your W-5 rank as if you’ve been on active duty up to age 60.

      You’ll also be eligible to receive your pension three months earlier for every 90 days (in a fiscal year for most cases) which you’re mobilized to a combat zone (or a national emergency for some cases) after 28 January 2008.

      • Alexander says:

        I received my 20 year letter and stayed in the Army Guard then received 20% for my back injury and had to leave the guard for that service connected reason. I received a lump sum and to date I am now 60% service-connected disabled Veteran. From my disability monthly pay they have taken money from my check in order to pay back the lump sum I received. The lump sum should be paid back by age 60. Will I be able to take my 20 letter and receive military retirement at age 60? In the meantime, am I eligible now at age 56 for the gray I.D. Card (without pay as I’m not yet 60) as I have my 20 letter?

      • Doug Nordman says:

        Alexander, I’m not sure what “had to leave the Guard” means.

        If you have a Notice Of Eligibility (20-year letter) and filed for “retired awaiting pay” status then you’re eligible for a Reserve pension at age 60. However you could have been medically separated or even elected to be discharged. Those have different benefits before age 60 but still result in a pension at age 60.

        What status did you file for when you left the Guard, and was done with the ID card you had when you left the Guard? Most Guard retirees file for “retired awaiting pay” until their pension starts, and during that time they have a red/pink ID card.

        You could contact the nearest Guard armory and discuss your status with their personnel staff, and then figure out the ID card situation.

  55. Ben Dipace says:

    Hi Doug, I have a pink US Army reserve retired ID card that expires the day before my 60th birthday. Is this a discharge ID or will I be getting the pay increases from when I retired in 2006?

    • Doug Nordman says:

      Great question, Ben!

      When you start your pension at age 60, you have to get a new ID card from your local RAPIDs facility. Your ID card changes to the blue retiree version and the issuer updates the DEERS database.

      In addition to your pension, DFAS updates your Survivor Benefit Plan status (if you opted for SBP). The transition to your retiree ID also turns on your eligibility for Tricare (Prime or Select health insurance) and the Veterans Administration (in case your military pension is offset by any VA disability compensation). You’re eligible to fly military Space A worldwide (not just the U.S. and some territories). And finally, it continues to give you base access because many military base security guards will now confiscate an expired ID.

      The amount of your pension depends on which retirement option you chose in 2006. 99.99% of Reserve/Guard servicemembers opt for “retired awaiting pay”. By federal law for that option, your pension is calculated from the pay tables and longevity for your rank as though you’d been on active duty all the way up to the start of your pension. You’d get all the pay and longevity increases since 2006.

      The reason that “retired awaiting pay” includes all the pay and longevity increases is because gray-area retirees are also subject to recall to active duty for a total mobilization. That last occurred during WWII.

      Because of that very small risk, a few Reserve/Guard retirees opt for “separation” or “discharge” when they file for retirement. That prevents being mobilized before their pension starts at age 60, but it also freezes their pension at the pay tables and longevity which were in effect when they made that choice.

      You probably chose “retired awaiting pay” and you’ll get the increases.

      By the way, your new blue retiree ID should expire on the day before you turn age 65. That’s to make sure you sign up for Medicare by age 65, which you’ll have to do in order to get a new retiree ID with eligibility for Tricare For Life insurance. That’s supplemental Medicare insurance which covers the Medicare copay.

  56. virginia cosylion says:

    I’m helping a friend out. He’s a retired National Guard Technician and would like to change his tax with holdings? Who should he contact?

    • Doug Nordman says:

      Thanks for reaching out, Virginia!

      If your friend is already receiving his military pension, then the most reliable way to change the withholding would be on the Defense Finance and Accounting Service MyPay website. (https://mypay.dfas.mil/) A less-reliable way would be to fill out a new W-4 and mail it in to DFAS.

      If your friend’s not yet receiving a pension then he’s not getting any money from DoD and has no military income for DFAS to withhold. He might be receiving VA disability compensation, and that flows through the DFAS MyPay website, but VA compensation is not taxable. I’m not sure whether he’d have a MyPay link to change withholding. Any changes to tax withholding would have to come from somewhere else (a civilian employer’s income?) or he’d have to pay estimated taxes.

      He can always pay estimated taxes on his own, and for that I greatly prefer the Electronic Federal TaxPayer Service (https://www.eftps.gov/eftps/ ).

  57. Eric says:

    Hi! I have been in for 22 years, but less than 20 of it has been full time. My assumption was, in order to receive an active duty retirement that included traditional National Guard service, I would need to attain 7300 points (the equivalent of 20 years of points at 365 days per year – figuring leap years are insignificant). I am hearing rumors that the actual number is 7200 (because they use 360 days per year). Can you clear this up? Even the personnelists I speak to are not consistent in their response to this line of questions.

    • Doug Nordman says:

      Eric, if you have at least 20 good years of any combination of active duty and traditional National Guard service, then you’ll be eligible for a Reserve pension. That’s documented by your Notice Of Eligibility letter.

      The divisor for the years of service in the Reserve pension formula is 360 (= 12 x 30) because all military months have 30 days and there are no military leap years. If you’ve accumulated 7200 points over that time then your pension multiplier is indeed 20 years of points, or 50% of the High Three pay base. However that pension is still a Reserve pension that starts at age 60. You can read more about the details of the calculation (and the pay scale that’s used in the calculation) at this link.
      That post has been the blog’s most popular one for over eight years because there’s so much confusion about the Reserve pension laws.

      Your personnel staff should be able to look that up in their copy of the Financial Management Regulation (DoD 7000.14-R) Volume 7B Chapter 3:

      Click to access 07b_03.pdf

      It’s possible to start a Reserve pension three months earlier for every 90 days mobilized in a combat zone, or for a national emergency, or for a natural disaster. However that program only counts mobilizations after 28 January 2008 and there are a significant number of additional caveats. You can read more about the details at this post:

      The only ways to receive an active-duty pension in a Reserve career are the Active Guard Reserve (or Navy Full Time Support) programs, or to reach sanctuary. Sanctuary is only approved for a few specialized skills and situations and is highly unlikely to be available to most Reserve/Guard servicemembers. You can read more about sanctuary at this post:

  58. Michael Gendron says:

    If I retire from the National Guard with 25 yrs 60 yrs old how many years can I draw retirement pay. Reason I ask is I was told by someone that you can only receive retirement pay for 20 years so from 60-80 is this true?

  59. Paul Andrews says:

    I retired from the AGR program with 20 years of service. I had 3 years reserve time prior to taking an AGR position. Am I eligible to receive State retirement for this time in addition to my active duty retirement.

  60. Jarrette says:


    Thanks for so much information! I currently have 14 years of active duty service between the Navy and Army and am now in the Air National Guard. I have the opportunity to pursue an AGR job and am wondering if I continue to get 6 years of AGR time to bring my total to >20 years of active duty service, will I be eligible to receive retirement pay at that date? To phrase another way: When retiring I will be ~45 years old with 14 years active duty service (Navy/Army), ~3 good years in the Air National Guard, and 6 years in AGR status. Do I still have to wait until age 60 to receive my retirement pay?

    Your articles are great, and thank you for all the help!

    • Doug Nordman says:

      You’re welcome, Jarrette, I’m glad it’s helping!

      Yes, if you pick up at least six years of active-duty AGR orders then you’ll reach 20 years of active duty and be eligible for an immediate active-duty pension. In your scenario you’d start that pension at age 45 instead of having to wait until 60.

      Please make sure the ANG point-count database has all of your active-duty records from your Navy & Army years. (The Guard & Reserves struggle for accurate records of people who’ve been in more than one service.) It’s a lot easier to fix those records now, while you’re getting ready to start AGR orders, rather than when you’re near your retirement.

      Keep in mind that if you serve for at least three years in the AGR program then you’ll initially reach 20 good years and eligibility for a Reserve pension at age 60. If you’re still feeling challenged & fulfilled by the AGR then you can pursue more active-duty orders to reach the active-duty pension. If you’re saving & investing for financial independence, though, then you might not need to serve the additional years for the active-duty pension— your assets might be more than enough to support your expenses to your Reserve pension at age 60.

      When the ANG and DFAS process your retirement orders, your Reserve/ANG points will be added to your active-duty years to give you full pension credit for all of your service.

  61. Gerald Nall says:

    I have 27 years service in the guard. Who do I contact to start the retirement process/make the request?

    • Doug Nordman says:

      Gerald, there’s two ways to interpret that question.

      If you’re referring to “retiring and awaiting pay” after at least 20 good years– and you already have your Notice Of Eligibility– then you’d file your retirement request with your unit’s chain of command.

      If you’re already retired awaiting pay and now you’re getting ready to start your pension, then for the Guard you’d go to the Gray Area Retirements Branch of the Army’s Human Resources Command. That website is currently at this URL:

      (For anyone reading this comment after 2021, the Army may have changed the URL but you’ll be able to dig down from the HRC page.)

      • juan aponte says:

        Mr. Nordman

        I need to find out how can I apply for my military pension?, between Active duty Army and the NJ National Guard. I served 24 years, four years active duty Army and the rest in the National Guard. I had some bad years but I had 15 good years. Is there a way that I can request a count of how much I served?

      • Doug Nordman says:

        Juan, a Reserve/Guard pension requires a minimum of 20 good years and a Notice Of Eligibility. If you have fewer than 20 good years then you’re not eligible for a Reserve pension.

        The best way to check your good years (and your point count) is to start with your last Guard unit. If you’re not near there then you could contact New Jersey’s National Guard headquarters or the National Guard Bureau:

  62. MSgt Bobby Conant (Ret.) says:

    Hi Doug. I retired from the NH Air National Guard in January 1985 where I served for twenty years as a traditional airguardsman and from the U.S, Navy for eight years which included four years of active duty during the Korean War and four years in the Naval Reserve. I am eighty eight years of age and am wondering if my wife who is much younger than I am is entitled to any military compensation?.

    • Doug Nordman says:

      Bobby, I’m assuming that you had at least 20 good years of service when you retired, and that you started collecting a Reserve pension at age 60.

      The Survivor Benefit Plan is available to your spouse if you signed her up for it when you started your pension, or within a year of your marriage.

      She’s eligible for the military benefits of all retiree spouses: Tricare health insurance, base access, commissary/exchange purchases, and other base services like MWR, ITT, the legal service office, or family financial education programs.

      You’d also want to check with a Veteran Service Officer for more federal and state veteran’s benefits that she merits with you, like spouse employment programs or discounts on property taxes or military license plates. You can find VSOs at local chapters of vet’s organizations like a VA clinic, the American Legion, DAV, or VFW.

  63. Chris says:

    I have over 20 years Active Federal Service between Active Duty Army and am currently serving T32 AGR. If I were to request deferred retirement to continue in an M-day status, and elect to retire a couple years later; at what age / date would I be able to draw retirement pay.
    Current age is 41, might be worth it to make CW5 unless I have to wait until 60, but I can’t make sense of the regulations and retirement briefings I have received. Thoughts or insights would be appreciated, your articles and comments are very helpful.

    • Doug Nordman says:

      Thanks, Chris, I’m glad it’s all helping!

      The default start date for a Reserve pension is age 60. Your first pension deposit would hit your account at the end of the month that you celebrate your 60th birthday.

      You can estimate the value of your pension from the detailed description in this post:
      The important point is that it’s based on the future pay tables in effect when you start your pension, and at the longevity column for your retirement rank as though you’ve been on active duty all the way up through the starting date.

      If you’ve mobilized at any time after 28 January 2008, you can start your pension three months earlier for every 90 days in a combat zone. This early-retirement provision started as “at least 90 days in a fiscal year” and in October 2014 was revised to “at least 90 days.” In 2013 it was also expanded to national emergencies. You can read the fine print of the 2008 NDAA at this post:

      No matter when you start your pension, Tricare Select/Prime coverage still starts at age 60.

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