Fedweek

An employee must complete at least five years of creditable civilian service in order to be eligible for a FERS retirement annuity.

A court decision has underscored that while military service can be credited in the calculation of a federal retirement benefit in certain situations, it does not count toward eligibility to receive such a benefit in the first place.

The ruling by the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit involved a retirement claim from an individual who graduated from a service academy, spent a 20-year career in the military and then received a political appointment as a federal employee — a period that lasted less than four years.

He paid a deposit so that the academy time would be counted toward a FERS benefit, but when he applied for that benefit, OPM found him ineligible, saying that only his time as an appointee constituted “creditable civilian service” toward the requirement for at least five years of such service for eligibility.

An MSPB administrative judge agreed, and on appeal, “the court held that although cadet service is creditable service, it is military service that cannot be used to satisfy the requirement that an employee complete at least 5 years of creditable civilian service in order to be eligible for a FERS retirement annuity,” according to a summary by the MSPB.

Because the law defines military service and civilian service as separate categories, it said, academy time cannot qualify as civilian service and there is no distinction between that time and active duty service.

Read more about military service credit for federal retirement at ask.FEDweek.com