Why Your Retirement Points Are Important!
by John Cooney on Jan 27, 2021
If you are a Reservist or a member of the National Guard, you are familiar with retirement points, or at least you should be. Retirement points determine your eligibility for a retirement pension and the amount you receive for a pension. In this article we will discuss how you earn retirement points, why you should be checking them for accuracy, and how to correct any discrepancies.
What Are Retirement Points?
To calculate the pension a service member earned, the Department of Defense takes into account two things; the number of years of service and the three highest years of salary that the service member earned.
For service members on active duty, determining the number of years of service they have completed is simple. As the service member passes the anniversary of the date they entered into military service, they earn credit for 1 year towards retirement. For service members in the Reserves or National Guard it is a little more complicated. Reservists establish their years of service by earning retirement points. If a reservist accumulates at least 50 retirement points in a year, they have earned credit for 1 year towards retirement. To qualify for a military retirement pension, a service member must complete at least 20 good years. Unlike their active-duty counterparts, a good year does not count as a full year of service when calculating the amount of pension the service member qualifies for. This example will show how it works:
SFC Smith accumulated 20 good years in the National Guard and amassed 3,600 retirement points. To calculate how many years of service this translates to, we divide the number of points by 360.
3,600 divided by 360 equals 10, so SFC Smith gets credit for 10 years of service, make sense?
Now that we know how Retirement Points impact your pension, let’s talk about how you earn them.
How Do You Earn Retirement Points?
There are a few different ways to earn retirement points throughout the year.
- Membership Points – You earn membership points by being in the Individual Ready Reserve (IRR) or being an active drilling reservist. Everyone eligible for membership points receives 15 for each year they serve in an active drilling status or in the IRR.
- Active-Duty Service – Every day a service member is in an active-duty status will earn them 1 retirement point
- Inactive Duty Training (IDT) – You earn 1 retirement point for every 4 hours of IDT completed; so for a 2-day Battle Assembly weekend, you would earn 4 retirement points. There are several categories of IDT:
- Battle Assemblies
- Re-scheduled Training (Making up missed battle assemblies)
- Additional Training Assemblies
- Funeral Duty (Funeral Duty awards 1 retirement point for every day you perform at least 2 hours of funeral duty)
- Training in a non-pay status
How Do I Make Sure My Points Are Accurate?
Retirement points determine if you qualify for a military pension AND how much that pension will be, so it is important that your points are accurate. In this section we will outline a process for you on keeping your records up to date and ensure you get credit for what you have earned.
Step 1: Know What Your Anniversary Date Is.
Your anniversary date is usually the date you entered military service. So if you entered on May 30th, your year for retirement point purposes goes from May 30th to May 29th. It is within this 12-month period that you have to accumulate at least 50 points to receive credit for a good year. You can find your anniversary date on your LES in the “Pay Date” block.
Step 2: Pull your current points record at 6 months after your anniversary date.
Regardless of which Reserve force you serve in, you will have a way to check the points you earn during the year. In this review you are checking the details showing your credited service during the current year. Checking your points total every six months will make it easier for you to request any missed points be added on to your record. The closer you are to the time you earned the points, the easier it will be for you to identify what is missing and to provide documents proving the service was completed.
Where you go to view your points will depend on which service you are in.
Army National Guard – You will want to review your NGB Form 23A1; you will need to contact your individual States personnel office to get a copy.
Army Reserve – Review your “Points Detail,” which you can access through your HRC Reserve Record at hrc.army.mil
Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve – Access your AF 526 at ww.mypers.af.mil
Marine Corps Reserve – Access your Career Retirement Credit Report at mol.tfs.usmc.mil/mol
Navy Reserve – Access your Annual Retirement Point Record at bol.navy.mil/ARPR
Step 3: Pull you points record one month before your anniversary date.
I recommend checking at the 6-month point to make sure you are reviewing your records when the details are fresh on your mind. The same goes for checking it before your anniversary date. On this check, you will want to review the details again to make sure you received the proper credit for your service over the final six months, but also to make sure you completed enough service to get credit for a good year. Checking it prior to your anniversary date gives you some time to have corrections made if there are any errors or to schedule any make-up training to ensure you do enough training to earn a good year. To review your points, you will go to the same locations as detailed during Step 2.
Step 4: Correct Any Inaccuracies
If you recognize that any training is missing, you will want to make sure you work to get the record corrected. If you are still an active Reservist/Guard Soldier, you will want to contact your local personnel office to ensure your record is updated. If you are in the IRR or already retired you will need to contact the personnel command for your service. It is very important that you keep the source documents proving your service. What are source documents? They can be orders, LESs, course transcripts/certificates, and official DoD Forms for records of performance. These documents are your proof that you performed the service you are claiming. This is why I recommend doing the checks every 6 months; you are much more likely to have the proof from the last 6 months than you will be 10 years after the fact.
Does it Really Matter?
Yes!! Over a 25-year career, if you miss out on only 5 retirement points a year, it can have a serious impact on your military pension. Let’s look at an example:
SFC Smith retires after 25 years, with 3,600 retirement points. They can expect a pension starting at $1,687/month, which when paid out over 20 years means they will earn a total of $496,331 from their pension.
Now, let’s say they retire with 3,475 retirement points. They can expect a pension starting at $1,628/month, which when paid out over 20 years means they will earn a total of $478,885 from their pension, a difference of almost $20,000! Don’t let 5 retirement points a year cost you money.
Remember, no one cares about your retirement more than you do, not your Commander and not your personnel office. You need to be proactive in tracking, verifying, and correcting your retirement record. Saving your source documents and checking your retirement points record at regular intervals will ensure you get the credit you earned and the pension you deserved.