CSRS and FERS: Service Credit Rules

Chapter 3: Section 3

Creditable Service: General Rules

All periods of service as an employee of the federal government are creditable under CSRS or FERS. To be considered a federal employee, an individual must be (1) engaged in performing federal functions under authority of an Act of Congress or Executive Order, and (2) hired by a federal officer in his or her official capacity as such, and (3) working under the supervision and direction of a federal officer. Non-deduction service (time for which no retirement contributions were withheld from pay) performed after December 31, 1988, cannot be credited under FERS rules for any purpose. Service performed as an employee of the District of Columbia government is creditable under CSRS and FERS, for individuals hired by that government before October 1, 1987.

Service also is creditable for employees who hold federal appointments, are engaged in activities jointly administered by the United States and a state or other outside agency, and are under the supervision and control of federal officials. However, if such persons are not federally appointed or are supervised and controlled by officials of the state, land grant college, or other cooperating organization, the service is not considered federal for retirement purposes.

Employees in leave without pay status can generally credit up to six months in any calendar year toward retirement.

Congress also has authorized federal retirement credit for employment in agricultural stabilization and conservation county committees.

Employees with full-time appointments who are receiving benefits from the Office of Workers' Compensation Programs who work part of the day and who are on approved leave without pay for part of the day are given full-time credit, under Benefits Administration Letter 07-103, available at www.opm.gov/retirement-services/publications-forms/benefits-administration-letters. However, if an employee is not under a full-time appointment (for example, part-time flexible or limited tour), service is computed using part-time rules. The full-time credit policy does not apply to re-employed annuitants. More detailed information about service credits and related policies can be found in the CSRS and FERS Handbook for Personnel and Payroll Offices, at www.opm.gov/retirement-services/publications-forms/csrsfers-handbook. Questions about service credit should first be addressed to the local personnel office or the designated agency retirement counselor at agency headquarters.

To request a formal determination of service credibility, you should complete an Application to Make Deposit or Redeposit (Standard Form 2803) for CSRS, or Application to Make Service Credit Payment (SF 3108) for FERS, and submit it to: Office of Personnel Management, Retirement Operations Center, P.O. Box 45, Boyers, PA 16017-0045. The forms are available from personnel offices or at www.opm.gov/forms.

Note: Unused sick leave is not credited at the initial annuity computation for those taking “phased” retirement, but is credited at the recomputation at full retirement. However, any required payments to capture or recapture service credit must be made before entering phased retirement. See Phased Retirement in Section 1 of this chapter.

Credit for Unused Sick Leave

CSRS—Generally, under CSRS, the service of an employee who retires on immediate annuity or dies leaving a widow or widower entitled to a survivor annuity is increased by the days of unused sick leave that the worker accrued under a formal leave system. There is no upper limit to the amount of sick leave time that can be credited, and leave is fully credited even if it causes an annuity to exceed the 80 percent of high-3 salary limit that otherwise applies to CSRS annuities.

FERS—Unused sick leave traditionally was not creditable in the computation of a FERS annuity or survivor annuity, with these exceptions:

  • unused sick leave was fully creditable for registered nurses in the Veterans Health Administration; and
  • individuals who transferred to FERS with a CSRS annuity component could receive credit toward the CSRS component for the lesser of the amount of unused sick leave they had at the date of transfer or at the date of retirement.

However, Section 1901 of P.L. 111-84 amended 5 U.S.C. 8415 to provide on a phased-in basis for crediting of unused sick leave for all FERS employees. The law made 50 percent of unused sick leave creditable for new FERS annuities based on retirement (or death in service, for survivor annuities based on the death of an active employee) that began from October 28, 2009 through December 31, 2013, (For mixed CSRS/FERS benefits beginning during that period, unused sick leave was creditable toward the CSRS portion as described above and any remainder was 50 percent creditable toward the FERS portion.)

Full crediting is granted for new annuities based on retirement or death in service that begin in calendar year 2014 and after.

Conversion Formula—In general, an employee is charged eight hours of sick leave for a day’s absence, 40 hours for five days (one week), and 160 hours for 20 days (one month). In an effort to provide retirees with 12 equal monthly annuity payments during a given year, OPM treats all months as having 30 days. Thus, 360 days equals one year. To find the retirement-credit value of each sick leave day, OPM divides 360 into the congressionally mandated number of work hours in a year, which is 2087. The net result is that 5.797+ hours of sick leave equals one day. For convenience, OPM uses a conversion chart based on six-hour days, inserting five-hour days at appropriate intervals so that the totals add up. For example, an employee with 1,003 hours of unused sick leave is credited with an additional five months and 23 days for purposes of computing the worker’s annuity. (A slight variation in crediting of unused sick leave applies to an employee who has an uncommon tour of duty.) See the accompanying sick leave conversion chart.

Employees making these computations should remember that the extra days (beyond a full month) of sick leave credit may only be counted for another month of credit if, when added to the extra days of credit earned through regular service, the total amounts to at least 30 days. Any hours that don’t add up to a full month are discarded. As an example, the situation described above demonstrated that 1,003 hours of unused sick leave translated into five months and 23 days of service credit. If the employee in that case had 41 hours of actual service that would have been discarded, those hours would equal 7 days. When combined with the 23 days of actual service, it would and add up to the 30 days needed to obtain one full month of additional credit for retirement purposes. On the other hand, if the worker had earned less than 41 hours during the regular service, the 23 days would be discarded. This situation also could work the other way. An employee’s regular service could translate, for example, into 20 extra days. If this employee’s sick leave accumulation turned out to give him 10 or more extra days, he also would get an extra month’s credit for retirement purposes.

When unused sick leave is counted as time served in a retirement calculation and the retiree returns to work for the government, that leave is not recredited to the returning retiree’s sick leave entitlement as an employee. However, any unused sick leave that was not counted in the retirement calculation will be recredited.

Detailed guidance is in Benefits Administration Letter 11-102 at www.opm.gov/retirement-services/publications-forms/benefits-administration-letters.

Note: Unused sick leave cannot be used in the computation of a high-3 salary or for meeting the minimum length of service for retirement eligibility. It also is not creditable toward a deferred annuity.

Redeposit Service

Employees who took a refund of their contributions from a federal retirement system and return to work for the government will receive credit for that time in determining their eligibility to retire. However, for the time to be credited in the computation of their annuities, those who took a refund after February 28, 1991, must repay that money, plus interest. See the Interest Rates table in this section for the applicable rates.

Employees who took a refund of CSRS retirement contributions (including FERS employees with a CSRS annuity component) before March 1, 1991 and return to federal service can either repay the outstanding amount plus interest using the Application to Make Deposit or Redeposit (Standard Form 2803), or elect to have their annuity actuarially reduced, for the time to be credited in the computation of their annuities (note: the pertinent date was October 1, 1990, before enactment of P.L. 111-84, effective October 28, 2009). The reduction is based on an employee’s age at the time of retirement and calculated so that over a typical (actuarial) lifetime, the total difference in the annuity would equal the outstanding amount. To make this calculation “present value factors” are used—see the Present Value Factors table in Section 7 of this chapter. For example, a CSRS employee retiring at age 62 would have a present value factor of 193.3, which would be divided into the amount owed to determine the monthly annuity reduction. If he owed $10,000, the monthly reduction would be $51.73.

For the first two decades of the FERS system’s existence, there was no provision allowing FERS employees who withdrew their FERS contributions and later returned to federal service to recapture that time in the computation of their annuity. However, P.L. 111-84 amended 5 U.S.C. 8422 to allow FERS employees to recapture service time by making a redeposit with interest, effective with separations of FERS employees on or after October 28, 2009.

Employees wishing to make a FERS redeposit should complete the FERS Application to Make Service Credit Payment (SF 3108), indicate on the application that the period of service was refunded and send the completed application through their agency for certification. They should not make a payment with the application; as soon as the OPM processes the application, a bill and instructions for making payments will be sent to the employee.

Re-employed annuitants working under FERS on or after October 28, 2009 may pay a redeposit for refunded service not credited if their original retirement was before that date, but the redeposit will not have an effect on the original retirement. The redeposit would only affect credit for the refunded service if the re-employed annuitant works long enough to qualify for and receive a redetermined annuity that is based on a separation from re-employment on or after October 28, 2009. See Chapter 4, Section 4.

Detailed guidance on FERS redeposits is in BAL 11-103 at www.opm.gov/retirement-services/publications-forms/benefits-administration-letters.

Under both systems, a redeposit may be made in one or more installments.

Redeposits must be made prior to the final adjudication of the individual's application for retirement, or, in the case of a death in service, of an application by a spouse or former spouse for survivor benefits. A redeposit cannot be made in an application for survivor benefits associated with the death of a retiree. For procedures, see Creditable Service: General Rules, above.

Non-Deduction Service

Non-deduction service (previously referred to as optional service) is a period of federal employment during which no retirement deductions were taken from salary.

Under CSRS, such periods always are creditable for determining eligibility to retire. However, for such time to be used in the computation of a CSRS annuity:

  • For service on or after October 1, 1982, the employee must make a deposit.
  • For service before October 1, 1982, the employee may make a deposit; if the employee doesn’t, the annuity will be reduced by 10 percent of the amount, plus interest, that is owed.

In general, the circumstances that led to service being performed without deductions from pay being required were eliminated at the time FERS was enacted.

Under FERS, periods of non-deduction service performed on or after January 1, 1989, are not creditable for either eligibility or computation purposes nor may an employee make a deposit to get credit for that service. Such periods performed before January 1, 1989, count for eligibility and computation purposes if the employee makes a deposit.

The required deposit is equal to the deduction that would have been made to the applicable retirement system at the time the service was performed—generally, 7 percent for CSRS and 1.3 percent for FERS (regardless of whether the deductions would have been taken at that rate) plus interest. See Required Contributions from Employees in Section 2 of this chapter. Interest is charged at the rates shown in the Interest Rates table in this section.

The forms to use are the same as those for redeposits as described above.

FERS Credit for Certain Service Abroad—Under Section 321 of Public Law 107-228, individuals who performed certain government service of 90 days or more abroad under a temporary appointment not subject to FERS deductions after December 31, 1988, and before May 24, 1998, can get retirement credit for that service under FERS, if the service is not otherwise creditable under FERS or any other retirement system. The individual (or any person who is or would be eligible for a survivor annuity under FERS based on the service of the individual who performed the service) had to, before March 2007, file an application with the State Department or other pertinent employing agency and pay a deposit equal to the amount of FERS employee deductions that would have been withheld from the individual’s basic pay had the service been subject to FERS deductions, plus interest.

Implementing rules at 5 CFR 842, subpart C specify that the service must have been performed at a United States diplomatic mission, consular post, or other foreign service post abroad as defined under the Foreign Service Act of 1980, require the application of Department of State regulations in determining if the service is creditable, and require that government contributions accompany the individual's deposit.

Deemed Deposits and Redeposits

If you are eligible to receive the Alternative Form of Annuity when you retire and elect it (see Section 7 in this chapter), any unpaid redeposit and most deposits for service that you still owe at that time will be deemed to have been paid. However, this option is available only if you have a life threatening medical condition. In other words, if you elect the Alternative Form of Annuity, you would not actually have to pay the deposit or redeposit. OPM would simply consider it paid when determining the amount of your creditable service. The deemed deposit/redeposit would also be added to your total lump-sum credit used in determining the amount by which your annuity must be reduced under the Alternative Form of Annuity option.

Creditable Military Service

As a rule, employees who are receiving military retired pay must elect to waive their retired pay in order for their military service to be added to their civilian service for purposes of computing their federal annuity. If they do not waive their military retired pay and make a deposit to the civilian retirement system for that period of service, their retirement rights will be based on their civilian service only and the period of military service will not be included in the computation of their annuity.

However, under certain conditions, someone receiving retired military pay may receive both that pay and a full civilian annuity, but only if a deposit is made to the civilian retirement system for that period of active duty service. To be eligible, the employee who is receiving retired military pay must have been awarded it (a) on account of a service-connected disability incurred in combat with an enemy of the United States, or (b) 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.

Those receiving reserve retired pay under Chapter 67, Title 10 U.S. Code, which relates to retirement from a reserve component of the armed forces, may receive that pay and a full civilian annuity. However, a deposit to the civilian retirement system may be required to get credit for any periods of active duty service in determining their length of service and in their annuity computation.

Receipt of Social Security benefits has no effect on granting civil service retirement credit for military service performed before January 1, 1957. (For information on contributions that must be made to purchase credit for military service performed on or after January 1, 1957, see Payments to Capture Military Service Credit, below.)

For information on earnings during military service, complete OPM form RI 20-97, Estimated Earnings During Military Service, available from your personnel office or at www.opm.gov/forms, and send it to the appropriate address:

Army
DFAS-Indianapolis Center
Army Military Pay Operations
Attn: Verifications Section
(Estimated Earnings)
8899 E. 56th St.
Indianapolis, IN 46249-0865
Phone: (877) 734-6202
Fax: (317) 275-0123

Navy
DFAS-Cleveland Center
Attn: DFAS-CL/JFLAGB
1240 E. 9th St.
Cleveland, OH 44199-2005
Phone: (888) 332-7411
Fax: (216) 367-3666 

Air Force
DFAS-Indianapolis Center
Attn: Verifications Section
(Estimated Earnings)
8899 E. 56th St.
Indianapolis, IN 46249-0875
Phone: (877) 734-6202
Fax: (317) 275-0123

Marine Corps
DFAS-Cleveland Center
Attn: DFAS-CL/JFLAGB
1240 E. 9th St.
Cleveland, OH 44199-2005
Phone: (888) 332-7411 (option 2)
Fax: (216) 367-3614

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)
NOAA Commissioned Personnel Center
1315 East-West Hwy., Rm. 12100
Silver Spring, MD 20910-3282

Coast Guard
Coast Guard Pay and Personnel Center
444 S.E. Quincy St.
Topeka, KS 66683-3591
Phone: (785) 339-2200
Fax: (785) 339-3784

Public Health Service
Division of Commissioned Personnel
Compensation Branch
Parklawn Bldg., Rm. 4-50
5600 Fishers Lane
Rockville, MD 20857
Phone: (301) 594-2963
Fax: (301) 443-0064

Payments to Capture Military Service Credit

The armed services began deducting Social Security from military pay on January 1, 1957. Congress enacted a law in 1982 giving employees the opportunity to make a deposit into their civilian retirement system for active duty military time served after that date (no deposit is required for service before that date). Individuals who make the deposit are entitled to credit for the military service under both the Social Security system and the applicable civilian retirement system. See 5 CFR 842.307.

Military service for this purpose is honorable active duty service in the following uniformed services: Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard and, after June 30, 1960, in the Commissioned Corps of the Public Health Service, and after June 30, 1961, service in the Commissioned Corps of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and its predecessor agency. It also includes military service as a midshipman at the U.S. Naval Academy or as a cadet at the U.S. Military Academy, U.S. Air Force Academy, or the U.S. Coast Guard Academy (under Section 1115 of P.L. 110-181, which codified a prior administrative practice of granting credit for such time), and service when called to active duty or training duty as a member of the Naval or Marine Corps Reserve Officers Training Corps or the Army Reserve Officer Training Corps.

You also may receive credit for Army National Guard or Air National Guard service that is followed by federal civilian re-employment that occurs after August 1, 1990, when all of the following conditions are met:

  • the service must interrupt civilian service creditable under CSRS or FERS and be followed by re-employment in accordance with the appropriate chapter of the laws concerning veterans benefits;
  • it must be full-time, not inactive duty; and
  • it must be under a specified law and you must be entitled to pay from the U.S. (or have waived pay from the U.S.) for the service.

Employees who perform active duty service while in a leave without pay status (LWOP-US) only need to make a deposit for the period of time when they were not receiving civilian pay subject to retirement deductions—for example, reservists who elect to use their annual two weeks of military leave with pay when called to active duty for a protracted period of time.

No interest will be computed if a deposit for military service is made within two years after the date you first became employed. If the deposit is not completed in the two-year period, interest will be posted to your account one year after the two-year period; thus the total effective interest-free period is three years minus one day. Any interest charged is assessed at the rates listed in the accompanying Interest Rates table.

Any required deposit for post-1956 military service normally must be made before retirement in order for it to be creditable for eligibility or computation for retirement purposes. The exception is if OPM determines that an administrative error has been made; in that case, the deposit must be made within the time frame set by OPM. Benefits Administration Letter 13-103 (available at www.opm.gov/retirement-services/publications-forms/benefits-administration-letters) ended a prior policy of allowing the deposit to be made up to the time the retirement benefit application is adjudicated; it also specified certain circumstances that may qualify as administrative error, such as material misinformation from the agency that the retiring employee relied on in deciding not to make a deposit. Note: It is advisable to make the deposit well in advance of retirement because the process can take a number of months.

Employees also have the option of not making a deposit and accepting the rules governing length of service and annuity computation, which differ according to the retirement system and when the service was performed, as described below.

If you die as an employee, your surviving spouse will have the option to make a deposit for your military service for purposes of calculation of survivor benefits.

If you are retired military, you may combine your active duty military service and civilian service for one annuity. This requires a deposit into the civilian retirement system for the active military service and generally you must waive your military retired pay effective with the beginning of the civilian annuity. However, you do not have to waive your military retired pay if it was awarded for a disability incurred in combat or caused by an instrumentality of war, or awarded for reserve service under U.S.C. Chapter 67, Title 10.

In sum, a period of military service may be credited for title to and computation of federal retirement and death benefits, subject to the following conditions:

  • the military service was performed before the date of separation upon which title to an annuity is based;
  • it was active duty;
  • it was not included in the computation of military retired pay, or if it was included in retired pay, the retired pay was awarded based on disability incurred in combat with an enemy of the United States or caused by an instrumentality of war and incurred in the line of duty during a period of war; or granted under the provisions of Chapter 67, Title 10, of the U.S. Code;
  • it was honorable service; and
  • a deposit is made for post-1956 military service (see below for special considerations for those first employed under CSRS before October 1, 1982).

FERS—If you are covered under FERS, you will receive retirement credit for military service only if a deposit for military service is made. The deposit equals 3 percent of basic military pay (not allowances or differentials) you received for the post-1956 military service, except for periods of service performed during 1999 (3.25 percent) and during 2000 (3.40 percent). The 3 percent rate also applies to “FERS Revised Annuity” employees (those first hired, or returning after a break in service with less than five years of previous creditable service, in 2013 and later) who pay a higher basic retirement contribution as described in Required Contributions from Employees in Section 2 of this chapter. Also see Benefits Administration Letter 13-102 at www.opm.gov/retirement-services/publications-forms/benefits-administration-letters.

FERS with a CSRS Component—If you transferred to FERS and have a CSRS component, you continue to be under the CSRS military deposit rules (see below) for service performed before the transfer. The earliest interest begins to accrue is October 1, 1986, or your third anniversary of entry into a CSRS position (if no CSRS component, interest begins to accrue two years from the date of transfer to FERS; posted on the third year).

If you are not eligible for Social Security at age 62, no deposit is required for the military service performed after January 1, 1957. If you were first hired on or after October 1, 1982, a deposit is required whether or not you are eligible for Social Security. Note: OPM will only check with Social Security for eligibility the year that you turn age 62 or at retirement, if later.

CSRS—If you were first employed under CSRS on or after October 1, 1982, you will receive retirement credit for post-1956 military service only if a deposit for the military service is made. The deposit equals 7 percent of basic military pay (not allowances or differentials) you received for the post-1956 military service, except for periods of service performed during 1999 (7.25 percent) and during 2000 (7.40 percent).

If you were first employed under CSRS before October 1, 1982, you have two options:

  • make the deposit for the post-1956 military service; or
  • receive service credit but have your annuity recomputed to eliminate post-1956 military service. This reduction, known as “Catch-62,” only occurs if you are eligible for Social Security at age 62 or at retirement, if later. Any survivor annuity payable to your spouse after your death would also be recomputed to eliminate all credit for post-1956 military service when he/she attains age 60 and becomes eligible for Social Security benefits. If you do not currently have enough quarters to be eligible for Social Security benefits and will not have enough quarters by age 62 or when you retire, if later, there is no advantage to making a deposit for the post-1956 military service.

Making the Deposit—Complete Form RI-20-97, Estimated Earnings During Military Service, and mail it to the appropriate military finance center identified above, with a copy of your DD Form(s) 214, Report of Transfer or Discharge. The completed form or letter showing the estimated earnings will be returned to you. Take that letter, a copy of your DD Form(s) 214 and form Standard Form 2803 (CSRS) or SF 3108 (FERS), to your local payroll office to request an estimate of deposit required. Your payroll office will compute the amount you owe, including interest, and arrange with you to make the payment in a lump sum or on a schedule of regular payments. Any required deposits for military service must be made to your employing agency before you separate for retirement. The forms are available from your personnel office and at www.opm.gov/forms.

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