Retiring from the military is a hectic, often-confusing process – and it’s one most Guard and Reserve members must navigate twice.
First, these members reach Retired Without Pay status, which comes after they have 20 qualifying years of service. Then, after this “gray area,” they’ll be able to retire with pay. Administrative actions required at both points of retirement only add to the confusion.
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It’s vital servicemembers periodically check their point totals. Each branch calls the points statement something different, and each branch has a different way of accessing it.
Military OneSource breaks down these differences in this slide (PowerPoint download). The key takeaways are below; note that many of the websites listed require a Common Access Card (CAC) or other secure login:
- Army National Guard: Soldiers should review their Retirement Points Account Management (RPAM) System report. The State RPAM NCO conducts this review annually near the birth month of the member, and an updated copy is posted to the member’s IPERMs record.
- Air Force Reserve and Air National Guard: Airmen should access the Air Force Portal at https://www.my.af.mil, navigate to the Virtual Military Personnel Flight (vMPF), select “Self-Service Actions,” select “Personal Data,” and click “ANG/USAFR Point Credit Summary Inquiry (PCFARS).”
- Army Reserve: Soldiers should review their Chronicle Retirement Point Statement DA 5016 through the Army Human Resources Command’s My Record tab.
- Marine Corps Reserve: Marines should review their Career Retirement Credit Report at https://tfs.usmc.mil/mol.
- Navy Reserve: Sailors should log into BUPERS online to review their Annual Retirement Point Record (ARPR).
- Coast Guard Reserve: Reservists should use Direct Access, https://portal.direct-access.us, to determine current retirement points. Members can click on "My Reserve Points Statement" under the "Employee View" menu.
Waiting in the ‘Gray Area’
Approximately three to six months after a reservist or National Guard member completes their 20th qualifying “good” year, their branch sends them a Notice of Eligibility (NOE), sometimes called a “20-year letter.” It’s important to keep this letter in a safe place.
Within 90 days of receiving this letter, regardless of when the servicemember plans on retiring, they must make a decision on whether they want to contribute to the Reserve Component Survivor Benefit Plan (RCSBP) and submit a Form DD-2656-5 with their selection. Failure to submit the form results in the member being defaulted to the highest coverage option.
[RELATED: Our National Guard Needs More Support to Overcome Ongoing Challenges]
Members may remain in Retired Without Pay status for years. Nominally, reservists may retire with pay at age 60, but if they have qualifying service days on or after Jan. 29, 2008, they may be eligible for a reduced retired pay age. The earliest a reservist/guard member may retire with pay is age 50.
While they are waiting, they should also be sure to keep their contact details up to date. The Defense Finance and Accounting Service (DFAS) has created a special Gray Area myPay account to allow members in this status to stay connected and informed. Members should also notify their branch of service and the Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System (DEERS) if they move or have any other life changes.
Retiring – Again
Each branch has a slightly different timeline when it comes to filing for retirement with pay. But for all branches, it is an action the member must take – there’s nothing automatic about it:
- Army Reserve/National Guard: DFAS suggests applying up to nine months prior, but at least 90 days prior, to turning 60 (or reaching reduced retired pay age).
- Air Force Reserve and Air National Guard gray area retirees are advised to begin their retirement packet no earlier than a year and no later than six months in advance of their effective pay date.
- The Navy Reserve tells members to place a retirement request six months in advance, and notification is sent out advising how to apply. If members have not received notification by four months prior to turning 60, they should contact the MyNavy Career Center.
- The Marine Corps says that the Reserve Retirement and Separation Section (MMSR-5) will send out retirement paperwork four to six months before retired pay eligibility.
- The Coast Guard asks retirees to fill out CG-2055A (Reserve Retirement Transfer Request) at least 100 days before a status change – the same form is used for those entering RET-2 (Retired Awaiting Pay) or RET-1 (Retired With Pay) status.
[MOAA PUBLICATION: Guard/Reserve Retirement Checklist (Premium and Life Member Download)]
Members must complete a DD-2656, or Data for Payment of Retired Personnel form, at retirement in addition to DD-108, Application for Retired Pay Benefits. They will also fill out a direct deposit form (SF 1199A). The individual service branches then produce the retirement orders.
If a servicemember declined to make an RSSBP election when they received their Notice of Eligibility, they will have another chance to participate when they file for retirement with pay.
DFAS says it takes 30 to 45 days to process pay for gray area retirees if the retirement packet is completed properly.
Once retirement orders have been received, servicemembers can make an appointment to get a new retiree ID card. At age 60, there will be health care decisions to make since they will now be eligible for TRICARE Prime and Select.
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