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Buying Back Military Time

Judy Beard, Director
Retirees Department

(This article appeared in the November/December 2010 issue of The American Postal Worker magazine.)

Far too many postal employees who have served in the military wait until immediately before retirement to buy back their service time, without realizing how long the process can take.

Obtaining all the necessary paperwork to buy back time may take over two months; therefore, we recommend that you begin the process as soon as possible.

Doing so could save you money. One of our members who retired in October 2009 regretted not buying back his military time earlier. Had he done so, interest would not have accrued on the cost — and he would have saved $10,000.

Why should you consider buying back your military time? Making military service payments could increase the amount of your annuity and could add credit to your eligibility for retirement. Making these payments will guarantee that you will not suffer a future reduction of your OPM annuity if you qualified for Social Security benefits. If your active military duty ended prior to Dec. 31, 1956, and you are in the Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS) program, you will receive full credit without needing to make a deposit for either your retirement eligibility or annuity calculations. These rules change, however, for CSRS and FERS employees who served in the military after Jan. 1, 1957. Information for these employees can be found in Chapters 21, 22, and 23 of the CSRS and FERS Handbook for Personnel and Payroll Offices, which can be found online at www.opm.gov/retire/pubs/handbook/hod.htm.

You can begin calculating what effect buying back your military time will have on your retirement eligibility by verifying the date your military service ended. To do so, you must obtain a copy of your discharge papers (Form DD 214) by submitting a written request to:

National Personnel Records Center
Military Personnel Records
9700 Page Avenue
St. Louis, MO 63132

Upon your submission of Form DD 214, the finance center for your particular service branch will send you your estimated military earnings computation. The USPS Human Resources Shared Services Center can then use this information to determine the amount of your deposit, if applicable. If you choose to buy back your military time, the deposit must be paid prior to the date you retire from the USPS. Don’t forget to retain your proof of payment.

Social Security Resolution Passes Unanimously

For months, the APWU Retirees Department and local chapters have been working to stop cuts in Social Security benefits. As a result of the unanimous approval of Social Security Resolution C-219, which was submitted by the Michigan Postal Workers Union at the APWU’s National Convention in August, the entire delegation made it clear that they consider this issue to be a priority as well.

The resolution states that the APWU should encourage its members to contact their congressional representatives and the members of the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform to let them know we do not want any cuts to our benefits, or an increase in the age at which Americans become entitled to these benefits.

This firm stance against expected proposals to cut Social Security and Medicare/Medicaid benefits sends a clear message to lawmakers, but we need to do more. Every member should contact their U.S. Senators and Representatives and tell them:

  • We don’t want Social Security cuts;

  • We are against retirement age increases, and

  • Stay away from risky schemes to privatize Social Security.

Call (866) 338-5720 to contact your congressional representatives. You can also e-mail the commission at commission@fc.eop.gov.

Remember, the commission will report on Dec. 1, 2010, and Congress may vote on their recommendations shortly after the report is submitted — so voice your opinion before it’s too late!

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