Members of the National Guard and reserves are eligible for retirement if they have completed 20 “good" years of service. Good years refer to years that are eligible for retirement credit. Determining what counts as a good year can be confusing. Here's what you need to know.
Retirement Age Qualifications
If you have received 20 qualifying years of service by age 60, you are eligible to begin receiving retirement benefits if you served as a member of the National Guard or reserves. A “good” year is any year in which you received sufficient retirement points. You can receive retirement points for reserve membership, instruction, inactive duty training and correspondence courses.
For those whose years ended before September 23, 1996, you must earn 60 points per year. If your service ended on or after September 23, 1996, but before October 30, 2000, you must earn up to 75 points for the year to count. After October 30, 2000, you must earn 90 points for the year to count. You can earn points from active duty and training for up to a maximum of 365 or 366 points per retirement year.
Earning Qualifying Retirement Points
Points are credited for different activities according to the following:
- One point for each day of active service.
- Fifteen points for each year of membership in the National Guard of reserves.
One point for each unit training assembly.
One point for each day on funeral honors duty.
One point for every three credit hours of correspondence courses.
An active day of service includes either active duty or active-duty training. It also includes annual training (AT). You can earn retirement points for both paid and unpaid service. For instance, you will receive one point for each day of AT. You will also earn a point for unpaid Honor Guard duty for a funeral.
One thing to keep in mind is that if you did four years as a regular service member and are on the Individual Ready Reserves (IRR) roster, you will receive 15 points per year, even if you are never recalled into action. For drill weekends, you get an equivalent of one day’s pay for each drill and earn one point per drill. Since a drill weekend consists of four drills per weekend, you can earn four retirement points in one weekend. In a normal year without anything other than training, you can earn 78 retirement points.
In 2008, a law was passed that allowed for National Guard and reserve members to receive retirement benefits before age 60 if they were deployed for wartime duty or a national emergency. Every 90 days that are spent mobilized reduced the start date for retirement by three months. This only counts for deployment time that was served after January 28, 2008.
Calculating Retirement Pay
The calculation for how much you will get for retirement depends on when you first entered the service. If you entered the military before September 8, 1980, the calculation is different than if you entered the service between September 8, 1980, and July 31, 1986. If you entered before September 8, 1980, your pay is calculated by multiplying your basic monthly pay by the “good” years of creditable service.
After September 8, 1980, you can use the High 36 system to calculate your pay. This system is calculated at 50 percent of your highest three paid years. Some reservists are eligible for pay under a blended system that has elements of both retirement systems. This retirement calculator can help you calculate how much you can expect to receive at retirement.
- Some states, such as Florida, grant state retirement benefits to National Guard members who remain in service for 20 or 30 years. Check with your chain of command or unit S1 NCO to find out if your state offers state retirement benefits in addition to federal retirement benefits.
Adam Luehrs is a writer during the day and a voracious reader at night. He focuses mostly on finance writing and has a passion for real estate, credit card deals, and investing.