If you have been separated or retired from military service for awhile and working in the civilian world, you know things are different on the outside. Some people make the military-to-civilian transition easily while others have a harder time with it. Some never fully adjust.

If you are one that has given adequate time to make the adjustment and it just is not happening, you could be a good candidate for employment in government service at the federal level. Besides having a structure similar to the military, there are a host of benefits that you can get from working for the federal government, like:

  • Annual Leave
  • Sick Leave
  • Military Leave
  • Credit for Retirement
  • Participation in the Thrift Savings Plan

Annual Leave

Annual Leave is a term the federal government uses for “vacation time”. Most new employees coming in from the civilian world without prior military or federal service start at the bottom of the benefits ladder at 4 hours per bi-weekly pay period which equates to 13 days per year. However military service can count toward annual leave accrual. With at least three years of military service, but less than 15 years, annual leave starts at 6 hours per pay period or 20 days of leave per year, instead of 4 hours/13 days. More than 15 years of military service (but less than retirement eligibility at 20 years in most cases) starts at an even higher rate at one day per pay period or 26 days per year.

Sick Leave

In addition to annual leave, the federal government also gives you paid time off if you are sick – 4 hours per pay period. While annual leave accrual increases with longevity, sick leave does not; it is a constant 4 hours per pay period.

Military Leave

Federal government employees also serving their country as members of the National Guard or Reserves, get up to 15 days per year of paid military leave they can use to fulfill their military obligations. Not only do they get paid from their job, but also collect their military pay. Most civilian companies make employees take vacation time or leave without pay for military training. Some companies make up the difference between the two pays if military pay is lower than their civilian pay.

Credit for Retirement

Former military members have an option worth considering – making a deposit for military service. Under this benefit, one can make a deposit into their retirement account based on their amount of basic military pay. For example, for a FERS employee the amount is 3%. This deposit increases the amount of retirement from the federal government service once retirement eligible. For military separated employees, it is a way to use their military service time to increase retirement pay.

On the other hand, members retired from military service have the option to draw their military retirement pay without making a deposit or to waive their military retirement in lieu of making a deposit into their retirement account. An experienced financial planner in this area can advise which is the better way to go.

Participation in the Thrift Savings Plan

The federal government also has its own retirement savings and investment plan called Thrift Savings Plan or TSP – the same basic plan used by the military. Similar in nature to 401(k) plans on the outside, federal government employees can designate an amount each pay period that will go into their TSP account. The advantage over many civilian companies is that the federal government also contributes to your account: one percent automatic and up to 5% matching. In other words, you automatically get 1% put into your TSP account whether you contribute to it or not.

However, if you do contribute to your account, they will match what you put in up to a maximum of 5% per pay period, along with the automatic 1%. TSP is above and beyond the standard retirement pay. And if you left your TSP in when you got out of the military, you can transfer it over to the federal government side.

As you can see, being a former military member and working for the federal government has many advantages to it besides being a structured environment more like you were used to while serving in the military. Paid leaves, retirement credit, TSP, retirement and job stability just add to the appeal of continuing service to your country by working for the federal government.

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Kness retired in November 2007 as a Senior Noncommissioned Officer after serving 36 years of service with the Minnesota Army National Guard of which 32 of those years were in a full-time status along with being a traditional guardsman. Kness takes pride in being able to still help veterans, military members, and families as they struggle through veteran and dependent education issues.