The Air Force Reserves offer retirement benefits similar to those offered to active-duty personnel. Reservists who serve 20 or more years are entitled to retirement benefits, but those benefits do not generally begin until the retired reservist reaches age 60. In addition to retired pay, as it is called, retired reservists also have commissary privileges and access to inexpensive life insurance and a Reserve health-care plan. A recruiter can provide a complete list of benefits.
For people who joined the Reserves after 1980, retirement pay will consist of some portion of the average of their 36 highest-paid months. Because most reservists serve part time, the military uses three calculations to determine that amount. The first calculation determines when a reservist is eligible for retired pay. The second determines the active-duty base pay used to calculate the retired pay. The third part determines the retired pay percentage multiplier. For active-duty personnel, the multiplier is 2.5 percent per year of service; a person who retires after 20 years of service qualifies for retired pay that is 50 percent of the average of that person’s 36 highest-paid months. The calculation is complicated for reservists, because the military tries to accurately prorate each member’s service. Retired pay may rise each year with a cost of living adjustment tied to the Consumer Price Index, but Congress must approve those increases.
Determining When Retired Pay Begins
In general, retired pay for reservists does not begin until age 60. That age requirement is reduced for reservists who have been called to active duty or to active service in response to a national emergency after Jan. 28, 2008. It is reduced by by three months for each three months served on active duty or active service. A reservist who spent a total of 36 months on active duty or active service begins receiving retired pay at age 57.
Air Force Reserve retirees are eligible for TRICARE, the military’s health insurance system. Before age 60, retirees must pay premiums for their coverage and can purchase individual or family plans. Premium amounts, co-pays and other information are available at the TRICARE website. After age 60, or after retired pay starts if that is earlier, the retired reservist is eligible for the same TRICARE coverage offered to all military retirees.
Commissary and Base Exchange
Retired members of the Air Force Reserves retain their rank and receive Retired Reserve identification cards. Those cards grant them unlimited access to base commissaries and base exchanges, where prices are generally much lower than in civilian stores.
Air Force Reserve retirees are eligible for Veterans Group Life Insurance, without proof of good health, if they enroll within 120 days of retiring. With proof of good health, they may enroll in VGLI for up to one year after retiring. VGLI offers five-year renewable life insurance of up to $400,000 or the highest amount the reservist qualified for before retiring.
Members of the Air Force Reserves may retire with less than 20 years of service if they are forced into retirement by a medical disability. The retired pay and benefits are determined by years of service, disability rating -- the minimum to qualify is 30 percent disabled -- and whether the disability is service related. The rating is set by the Veterans Administration.
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