Navy Backlogged on Reserve Retirement Pay

| January 9, 2019

“Gray Area” Navy Reserve retirees have to wait to get paid because of a backlog.  “Gray Area” refers to the time that a reservist stops drilling, goes into the Retired Reserve and wait until they turn 60 y/o to get Tricare and monthly paychecks.  More about that in a moment.

Most of us have experienced many age-related milestones in our lives.

I couldn’t wait to be 13 so I was technically a teenager and I could go see a decent movie.

At 16 I could drive on my own.  At 18 I could drink – legally.

Then, we transition to wanting to pump the brakes.  Life is speeding by too fast.  As you get older there are things you can’t do anymore.  I was disappointed when I reached 28, because I could no longer join the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. Not that I ever wanted to, mind you, but it was one less thing in life I couldn’t do anymore due to my age.

Through the years, there were other milestones.  Some unexpected as when I got that dreaded letter from AARP, the American Association of Retired Persons, when I turned 55.

But alas, there was one milestone I was looking forward to and that was turning 60, because it meant I could start drawing my retirement pay after spending almost 30 years in both the Navy and Navy Reserve, retiring out of the Reserve.  The one time in my life I was looking forward to getting older.

So, I was advised to get my package in since, oddly, one has to request to get retirement pay.  I did this many months beforehand hoping for a smooth transition.

I never got a brochure or package welcoming me to the exciting and fun-filled world of Navy Reserve retirement.  There was no “Thank you for your service” letter signed by the POTUS.  There was no fruit basket.  I cared little about all that since cold, hard cash will keep me company on a snowy winter’s evening.  Cashing it all in for one dollar bills, throwing it all on my bed and rolling around in it naked.  That was the dream.

But no, it turns out they are backlogged.

I even missed the following article about it back in August of 2018, although there was probably not much I could have done differently.

The article had a bunch of examples about how long people had to wait – in some cases one year, but reiterate that you will get every penny when the eagle finally flies.

I don’t know how the Army, Air Force, Coast Guard or Marine Corps is doing but if you are a “Gray Area Navy Reservist” as they call it, put your package in a year early and hope for the best.  I have a friend that is still a drilling reservist and will reach 60 next year.  I broke the news to him that it’s a double-whammy for him: he will stop drilling and not get the check every month but has to wait until the retirement kicks in.  He said his wife is not going to like hearing that.

They can keep throwing things at me but they won’t wear me down.  Time’s on my side, I hope anyway.

Is this old sailor sour?  Not really… because I’m used to waiting.  Now I will look forward to turning 61 and not many people can say that.

I would have really liked that fruit basket – I’m not gonna lie.

Category: Navy, Politics

Comments (49)

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  1. JimV says:

    The day after I retired I knew that I had made a mistake and should stayed in the Army. 20-years-later, I feel the same way.

  2. David says:

    I musta got old early, I started getting AARP solicitations years before I turned 55. And since.

    • IDC SARC says:

      Same here…been getting those emails for years and I’m still not 55.

    • HMCS(FMF) ret says:

      Got my first when I turned 49…

    • MSG Eric says:

      Hell I started getting mail from them when I was 39. The same year I was finally told by a doctor, “You’re getting too old for this shit.”

      • gungy says:

        Got that beat. I returned from an Iraq deployment with the Marine Reserve in 2003. Received my AARP notice in the mail that September. I was 26 years old.

  3. IDC SARC says:

    Well, that’s just FUBAR.

    I hope ya get it soon and don’t have to chase down back pay.

    Hang in there!

  4. Ret_25X says:

    I’ve never heard of it taking a year to get reserve retirement pay from the Army.

    Knowing Army reservists, if there was such a delay, there would already be lawsuits pending.

  5. thebesig says:

    “Gray Area” Navy Reserve retirees have to wait to get paid because of a backlog. “Gray Area” refers to the time that a reservist stops drilling, goes into the Individual Ready Reserve (IRR — non-drilling) and wait until they turn 60 y/o to get Tricare and monthly paychecks. More about that in a moment.

    Did things change?

    The Individual Ready Reserve is a part of the ready reserve, which includes SELRES/TPU. You could earn retirement points in the IRR.

    Gray Area retirees are in the Retired Reserve (for Army). They wait in the retired reserve until they could apply to receive retirement pay. There’s also the option of getting out, not recommended though.

    Those in the Army National Guard, who receive their 20-year-letter, may apply to transfer to the IRR or they could transfer to the Retired Reserve. Their Army Reserve counterparts have the option to transfer to the Retired Reserve.

    I believe the Navy is looking at applying High Year Tenure (Retention Control Point) caps to IRR Sailors… Unless they’ve already implemented that. My understanding, when I was in the Navy, was similar. Gray Area retirees were a separate animal in the Navy than the IRR.

    I’m in the Army’s Retired Reserve. :mrgreen:

    • sbalm says:

      Hmmm… maybe I got the classification wrong. I may have been in the Retired Reserve vs. IRR but I was under the impression I could still acquire points on correspondence courses or be called back for an ADSW or special active duty orders if the need arose. IOW, on a list.

    • bullnav says:

      The “Gray Area” is the same for the Navy Reserve. When you retire, you transfer to the Retired Reserve and not the IRR. I will hit 30 years AC/RC in May and will transfer to the Retired Reserve.

      I, too, missed these articles on the issues with retired pay at age 60. Good to know even though I am several years away from it.

      • bullnav says:

        *Navy Reserve (not Navy, not meant to imply AC)

      • IDC SARC says:

        It’s semantic, but Active Duty Navy with under 30 years goes to the Fleet Reserve. After whatever is left to make 30 years is accumulated you’re then transferred to the retired List.

        I did 24 years, went to the Fleet Reserve and then 6 years later I got my retirement letter.

    • sbalm says:

      For the sake of accuracy for readers, I changed IRR to Retired Reserve.

      I am mindful that due to the edit, these comments may cause people to scratch their head, but I deemed it more important to change it in the article to get people accurate information.

      Thank you for the valuable input.

    • Comm Center Rat says:

      I spent several years in the USAR Retired Reserve and submitted my application for retired pay early last year. Nine months later HRC mailed the order transferring me to the AUS Retired List and authorizing retired pay. That order is what DFAS uses to begin paying you retired pay. I was able to use the “90 day rollback” to receive retired pay before age 60. Still have to wait a couple years for TRICARE eligibility though.

      HRC recommends gray area retirees submit their retired pay applications 9 months before expecting to begin drawing the pay. Kudos to Army HRC personnel – they are responsive and keep you informed as warranted during the application process.

      • MrBill says:

        I’m in the same boat. Retired from USAR and submitted my application a few months ago. HRC seems to be processing applications promptly.

        • PFM says:

          Army Gray area – gonna start collecting at 58 due to several deployments. Thought it was a good thing, now I think I’ll need the extra time to let the system catch up with me…

          • Stacy0311 says:

            Same boat. I’ve got 33 years (13 AD USMC and 20 years ARNG). Could retire in 3 years and start drawing retired pay due to deployments. Then I saw how much Tri-Care Retired Reserve costs ($1200/month). Eligibility for Tri-Care Retired doesn’t start until age 60. So I can draw retire pay before age 60 and most of it would go to Tri-Care premiums.

            • PFM says:

              I’m using TRR for myself and at $431/month for single it is 300 cheaper than COBRA Blue Cross/Blue Shield from my former employer, about 60 more than I was paying when employer was matching..

            • SaraSnipe says:

              I entered the gray area three months before turning sixty. I know, three month… My wife and I discussed it, and thought we could take a chance on her not getting sick or injured for three months while not covered by tricare. Four days before my sixtieth birthday she develops a kidney stone. The operation cost $36,000.00. Of course if we paid it in full, we only had to pay $19000.00. Wish I had paid the cobra cost for three months. I also wish I had put in my retirement packet a year early, but that still would not have prevented my packet from getting stalled at HR for six months.

      • MSG Eric says:

        Too bad all of HRC doesn’t function as efficiently as those that deal with retirement orders.

  6. Trapper Frank says:

    I am a “gray area” retiree myself, and started collecting my retirement check the month I turned 60. Army HRC did a great job processing my paperwork. But, HRC couldn’t tell me how much I was going to get. To further complicate matters, HRc took down the retired pay calculator.

  7. 5th/77th FA says:

    You can probably take your pending money letter down to the local Class 6 Supply Store and they will use it to issue you a line of credit.

    God forbid an Old Salty Tar not be able to get his daily grog ration.

    The struggle must be real.

    • sbalm says:

      I had a business plan I was working with on retirement.

      I figured that if I was ever homeless, I could loan shark the money to the other folks living in the alley.

  8. Charles says:

    This is an Army vet talking, so it may or may not apply to Navy Reserve Retirees:
    Whether or not pay has started, get Tri-Care and ID cards, DEERS enrollment and so on immediately. Your red reserve ID card should have an expiration date of the day before your 60th birthday. At age 60, get the blue card with an expiration date of the day before your 65th birthday (when you will transition — like it or not — to Medicare. At 65 you will get a new blue ID card with no expiration date … it expires when you do.

    For that first blue card you should need only your retirement orders, the red card, and a trip to the nearest ID card/DEERS facility.

    • Steve Balm says:


      I marched down to the ID office the day it expired and got a blue one.

      Good info to post for those not aware or simply for reinforcement.

  9. Martinjmpr says:

    Good info. As an Army Gray Area retiree I guess the backlog isn’t as much of an issue. I do seem to recall seeing in my retirement letter that I am to apply for my retired pay no later than age 59 and 6 months, presumably to allow them time to process it. I just turned 57 so 2 1/2 years to go!

  10. Mason says:

    I never even considered being a lifer so didn’t pay attention to retirement. So I marvel at a system that has you retire (which you file for) and then requires you to later submit more paper to get paid. It should all be one thing. They know what day you’re going to turn 60 when you initially retire.

    Bureaucracy feeding needless bureaucracy.

    • PFM says:

      Come on, you should know that bureaucracy greases the wheels at DoD…

    • Hondo says:

      I can think of at least four good reasons for the application requirement, Mason.

      1. Not everyone who retires from the Reserve Components actually lives long enough to get retired pay. The application process shows they’re still alive (and thus entitled to the retired pay).

      2. It also ensures that DoD has their CURRENT mailing address, bank info for direct deposit, etc . . . . That info often changes in the time interval between going into the Retired Reserve and formal retirement. Not a good idea to depend on info that may be 20+ years old regarding where to send $$$.

      3. Requiring application helps prevent some level of fraud in the case of deceased RC members. Sending a check automatically starting on the 60th birthday assumes the individual is still living and still resides at the location in question (ditto, with obviously different details, for electronic payments). Do you really think that all such unauthorized payments made in error to deceased persons would be returned by their survivors?

      4. Some people intentionally defer applying for retirement. I know of one case where the individual intentionally deferred applying for RC retired pay for about 15 months. The reason: he knew he was retiring from his civilian career soon and would be moving afterwards – and didn’t want his former state of residence to get ANY of his military retired pay. And back pay claims have a 6 year “lookback” period (claims against the US are valid that far back in time if I recall correctly).

      FWIW: the process for retirement from active duty isn’t all that dissimilar. A retirement packet is prepared in which the individual requests retirement. DFAS recommends starting well in advance of the desired date (6 months), and other sources say that the service generally sends individuals a packet a year out. (Can’t say how well that variant works, as I wasn’t an Active Duty retiree.) But you still have to apply to retire. The biggest difference is that entitlement to retired pay starts immediately (and is calculated somewhat differently) for those retiring with 20 years of active duty.

      Lastly: the above are also very likely among the reasons why you have to apply for Social Security, too – even though the government presumably already knows (1) your birth date, and (2) if you’ve qualified to receive benefits (and how much). Last time I checked, it’s still a requirement to apply for Social Security benefits. (smile)

      • Mason says:

        All very good points. However, I’ll say that they shouldn’t get backlogged like this. They should know how many applications they’ll have to process each year. Your worst case workload is that all retirees turning 60 apply.

        • Hondo says:

          Agree that it’s bad planning, and that the data is there to allow a fairly close estimate regarding how many should retire from the USNR in any given year. The point of my comment was that there are some very good reasons why the process should require a retiree to apply and should not be “fully automatic”.

  11. MSG Eric says:

    Not sure about the other services, but in the Army Reserve, it takes one year after you make 20 for you to get your 20-year letter. Most just ride it out until they have the actual retirement letter. But, I’ve known of a couple that got out because they had 20 and they didn’t get their 20-year letter and had to come back in to finish up a bad year.

    At the same time, Hey Navy, even the VA is consistently getting disability determinations and that first disability check to veterans faster than you are getting retirement checks to Sailors. So, how do you feel now? (I hope like shit.)

    And of course, if you owe the military 25 cents, they are taking it back the very next check. Funny how they are always so efficient at taking money BACK from you (even if it is in error), but take so much longer to pay you. Maybe they should swap the people working on each side for a while and see how it goes?

  12. Dave Hardin says:

    The picture of that HOBO Guy is priceless. We try to keep his pictures off the web but its nice to see Hondo in his native environment.

  13. David says:

    Could be worse, could be a Coastie ant getting paid at all. Still unclear why they aren’t under DoD.

  14. HMC Ret says:

    Good explanation. Doesn’t apply to me, though, I did 23 years active duty. Was surprised, though, when I found out that I had what is called constructive time. So I’m being paid for a little less than 23 1/2 years. Good deal but was unexpected. I knew a Navy Mess Specialist (cook) from the PI. He worked the system and retired with 20 for retirement pay purposes but only actually did about 19 years. He knew of the ‘flaw’ in the system and milked it. I didn’t know and milked it. It’s no longer a thing, though.

    • Martinjmpr says:

      IIRC they used to count DEP (Delayed Entry Program) time towards retirement but that stopped in the 80’s I think. Since a service member could DEP as much as a year out, that adds a year of ‘free’ retirement time.

    • Milo Mindbender says:

      They used to give credit for a full enlistment, even if you reenlisted 6 months prior to ETS. This could add up over a career, and end up with 20 credited years after less than 20 total calendar year. i believe they closed that loophole in the 90’s.

  15. Rodney Wall says:

    Thank you for the info: i am a gray area naval reserve retiree i sent in my NOD and retirement papers in july 2018 i turned 60 in november 2018. at the time i had not seen the story in the Aug 2018 navy times stating the backlog in naval reserve retirements. i found out the hard way it is now Jan 2019 and im hoping it won’t be much longer before i receive my first retirement ID has expired and i went to the nearest base. what they did was call per-9 (Millinton, tn) and they gave me a new red reserve I.D for two months i guess this is to hold me over until they get to my package.

    • Steve Balm says:

      You are just a month in front of me.

      If you call the Navy number they also work with the Navy Reserve.

      1-866-U-ASK-NPC (1-866-827-5672)

      They were most helpful at telling me where in the process it is. They have to complete their work on the package and then send it to DFAS and there is additional/final work done to it there. At least you can find out where it is in the process – Millington TN or DFAS (Cleveland OH, I think).

      They encouraged me to call back once a month to get the status but said I may have to wait as far as June-July 2019. *SIGH*

  16. USN MCPO says:

    Was just in a DOD funding briefing where this was brought up. Seems there was a “perfect storm” of events that led to under-manning in this department in Millington. The clerks are lower level GS’s and several got higher level positions almost at once. The department was left short staffed while the jobs were posted, filled, and new employees getting up to speed. Seems they are going again but no date was given as to when operations will return to normal.

  17. Charles says:

    Retired Reservists who did/do a lot of full time active duty service do get a slight “notch” when their retirement pay is later calculated. Remember that a retirement “point” is earned for every day of active duty. At the end of a year, the service member has earned 365 points for full time active duty(366 if it was a leap year). And non-active duty points for drill weekends, courses, etc. are added into the total, subject to certain counting rules. But when the total points earned over 20 or more calendar years are “shrunk” “distilled” “squeezed down” into active duty equivalent years, the divisor isn’t 365/366, it’s 360.
    So a service member who served ten calendar years of active duty will have earned around 3,653 points (depending on the number of leap years). However, when years of service are calculated, it’s: 3,653/360 = 10.147 years of service, an extra bonus of over a month and a half. Every bit helps increase the multiplier that will be used to calculate retired pay.