Regardless of the retirement system you are in, your entitlement to retirement benefits depends on your years of creditable service. The term “creditable service” includes all your service subject to retirement deductions. That’s always the case if you are a career or career conditional employee. However, creditable service isn’t limited to positions covered by retirement deductions. It may also include service where your pay wasn’t subject to retirement deductions.

If you are a CSRS employee, you’ll always get credit for service time for which retirement deductions weren’t made—that is “non-deduction service”—in determining your eligibility to retire. To get credit for that time in your annuity computation:

• If that service was performed before October 1, 1982, you have a choice to make a deposit or not. If you don’t, your annuity will be reduced by 10 percent of the amount you owe, plus accrued interest.
• If that service was performed on or after October 1, 1982, you’ll have to make a deposit to get credit for that time in your annuity computation.

If you are a FERS employee, the only way you can get credit for eligibility and computational purposes for any non-deduction service performed before January 1, 1989 is to make a deposit for that time, plus accrued interest. If that non-deduction service was performed on or after January 1, 1989, with rare exception you can’t get credit for that time—it will be as if you had never worked for the government.

There are other types of employment for which you can get credit, but only if you make a deposit to the retirement system. Among these are active duty in the armed forces, employment in the Peace Corps, as a VISTA Volunteer, National Guard Technician, Commissioned Officer in the Public Health Service, or in certain overseas broadcasting organizations.

Since your length of service is so important in determining your eligibility to retire and is a key element in the computation of your annuity, you need to be sure that you are getting credit for all your creditable periods of employment. Check your official personnel folder (OPF) to make sure that every bit of service is in your file. If it isn’t – or if you aren’t sure if some of it is creditable – check with your personnel office.

Next week, I’ll show you how to compute your annuity.