What is an Anniversary (or Retirement) Year?

Let me tell you a story about an event that occurred two weeks ago.  It will lead into a discussion of a topic that is good to know for all reservists.  Please bear with me as I describe the situation (because it’s a bit lengthy) and I will get the point after I finish telling the tale.

 

This story began with an email from a person at National Guard Bureau who had stumbled upon my website.  This person, whom I will call Chief J, sent a message Friday morning which I’ll paste below:

 

Hi XXX XXXXX:

 

You probably mentioned this to me already – but, in case you didn’t

– ran across RCretirement.com by DJ – just wanted to say I love it!

Thinking this is probably you. 🙂

 

Well, naturally, since I like to be honest (and can rarely resist a little flattery), admitted:

 

I confess. Yes, it’s me. 🙂

 

Thank you very much.

 

Out of curiosity (since it’s a little nothing of a site), how did you find it?

 

Her response was this.

 

I was googling and researching a question someone posed to me – 🙂

 

I must admit it’s nice that the site is starting to pop up in web searches.  I replied with:

 

I hope you found the answer. Otherwise, I might have a topic for my next post. 🙂

 

Within mere minutes, I received this:

 

Don’t know if you have time to assist on this but we are working on an IG complaint and it is regarding establishing anniversary year ending dates –

We know the effective date prior to 1 Oct 95 is established by date entered RC  – After 1 Oct 95 it is established by date entered RC or AC.

 

We realize that the parenting guidance is DODI (Department of Defense Instruction) 1215.07.  We cannot find this in the DODI – and cannot find anything in writing anywhere – Army, Navy, Marines, you name it, nothing.  Do you by chance know?

 

I said I had experienced a similar problem with an Air National Guard member and added:

 

I have attached the letter from JAG along with excerpts from AR 140-185, DODI 1215.07, and NGR 680-2 (which gives timeframes for the different rules).  I think you will find this useful.

 

Let me know if this answers your question, please.  If not, I will do some more digging for you.

 

After very little time, I received a forwarded message from Chief J. which included information about the person in question.  I’ll call him Chief M.  Chief J. said she had one opinion on when the person’s anniversary (or retirement) year should begin and the people who ran the National Guard’s retirement points program had another opinion.

 

Anyway, this guy had been a Naval Academy cadet from 1977 to 1981 and commissioned into the Active Navy in 1981.  In 1991, he went into the Navy Reserve and remained there for ten years.  In 2008, he joined the Virginia National Guard.

 

NGB’s (National Guard Bureau’s) RPAM (Retirement Points Accounting Management) section said his year began when he joined the Navy Reserve.  Chief J. thought it should begin when he joined the Active Navy.  She was hoping I could break the tie and provide some useful advice to the debate.

 

I did a little digging into the rules for anniversary years and found, first of all, there were a LOT of them.  Secondly, I found one which fit perfectly with his situation.  Just to be sure of what I was thinking, I also built his service history in my points database and played around with it a bit.  Despite one little glitch, everything about my theory worked out.

 

I then responded:

 

Just to see things from all angles, I rebuilt Cheif M’s points history in my database so I could play with the codes, years, etc.  I have attached the points Worksheets for your reference.

 

There are a lot of factors to consider.  I’m ultimately going to have to select the ONE rule that makes the most sense.  In this case, I’m going to have to side with you on this one and say 05/26.

 

Here is my reasoning for this decision.

 

NGR 680-2, para 2-1 b (7) states:

 

Who was in a Service Academy and:

(a) Had no prior service and was appointed as a commissioned officer from a Service Academy, the anniversary year is the date of appointment.”

 

This is clearly the situation for this individual.  However, the NGR has a confusing term which can easily lead to misinterpretation.  See below.

 

Para 2-1 b (9) Exceptions. If an individual was:

(a) Inducted, and after that service was assigned to a reserve component before 1 January 1969, the anniversary year is the date assigned to a reserve component in an active status.

(b) Inducted and remained on active duty and later assigned to a reserve component on or after 1 January 1969, the anniversary year is the date inducted.

 

In this case, inducted is being used as a synonym for drafted.  We even have a … code for that status, A9 (Draftee in any component after 1 Jan 69, or before 1 Jan 69 and entering a reserve component after that date with no break in service).  If the A4 (code for Active Navy) were changed to A9, the AYE would adjust to 05/26 on its own (and he would have twenty qualifying years as a result).

 

However, this person was not draftee; he was an academy cadet.  I believe RPAM is a great tool whose business rules rarely go wrong (except for computing reduced retirement age). I also believe it is not taking the source of Chief M’s commission into account and subsequently not applying the rules of NGB 680-2.

 

…Thank you for letting me add my thoughts to this debate.  I hope all of this made sense.  Please let me know if you have any other questions.

 

This satisfied Chief J. and appeared to settle the matter.  Chief M. should have a retirement year starting in May rather than July as NGB had argued.  This may seem like a trivial matter on its face but the decision actually affected whether Chief M. was eligible for a twenty-year letter now or after another year of service.

 

Now, let’s get to the “so what?” factor.  What is an anniversary year and why does the date it starts / ends matter to a reservist?

 

An anniversary year (as it’s called in the National Guard but called a retirement year in the other reserve components) is the time during which a service member accrues retirement points.  As I’ve said in other articles, an anniversary year is not a calendar or fiscal year; it is unique to every service member.

 

If an anniversary year begins at one point rather than another, the points earned during that timeframe may not be sufficient to qualify as a satisfactory year of service for retirement purposes.  Remember that a satisfactory year is one with at least fifty retirement points in it.

 

In the case of Chief M. this was exactly the case. The distribution of points was different enough that one start date for his retirement year resulted in one year not qualifying for retirement accounting.  The decision I suggested would cause that “bad” year to suddenly become a “good” year.

 

Since I said that everyone’s anniversary year is different, this means that the full-time staff at a reservist’s unit cannot make blanket statements (such as saying they will still have a “good year” if they miss a few weekend assemblies or if they miss annual training).  The effect of missing duty days may have a negative effect on one service member but not affect another person.  Obviously, it also helps if the member is aware of the dates of his anniversary year so he can know whether the advice he receives from a full-timer is accurate.

 

For those of you who may be interested in all of the rules for anniversary years I mentioned above, I will include an excerpt from the National Guard regulation which governs retirement points accountability.  These rules are mirrored in the regulations for the other reserve components, as well.  This is simply the one which I can access the easiest.

 

I hope this article has provided a worthwhile tidbit of knowledge for you and can help you in further understanding how to make the most of your service.  Whether it does or not, I welcome any comments or questions you may have.

 

Thanks for being part of this audience and for joining me this week.  Of course, I also thank you for your service.  Have a great day and be sure to come back next week.

 

D.J.

 

 

References:
Excerpt from NGR 680-2
Related YouTube Episodes:
YouTube Episode 0003 - The Basics of Reserve Retirement
Related Podcast Episodes:
Podcast Episode 0003 - The Basics of Reserve Retirement
Related Articles:
The Basics of Reserve Retirement

Podcast Episode 0032 – What is an Anniversary (or Retirement) Year?

References:
Excerpt from NGR 680-2
Related YouTube Episodes:
YouTube Episode 0003 - The Basics of Reserve Retirement
Related Podcast Episodes:
Podcast Episode 0003 - The Basics of Reserve Retirement
Related Articles:
The Basics of Reserve Retirement

YouTube Episode 0034 – What is an Anniversary (or Retirement) Year?

https://youtu.be/thF_fMo-sKk

References:
Excerpt from NGR 680-2
Related YouTube Episodes:
YouTube Episode 0003 - The Basics of Reserve Retirement
Related Podcast Episodes:
Podcast Episode 0003 - The Basics of Reserve Retirement
Related Articles:
The Basics of Reserve Retirement

What is a Personal Financial Counselor?

Since we’ve been spending so much time talking about benefits you can earn in the future, let’s talk this week about something which can use while you are still in the service.  You have noticed how a lot of my topics so far have involved a lot of numbers and dollar signs, right?  Well, wouldn’t it be nice if there was someone – other than me, of course – who could sit down with you and personalize all those numbers, even help make them make more sense?  Good news.  There is such a person.

 

Every branch of service has personal financial counselors (PFCs) available to help you and your family understand your finances as they are right now and help you develop a plan to improve your situation in the future.  I have worked with several of these individuals over the years and have seen firsthand how valuable a resource they can be.  Though they may have different job titles, they all have the relevant education and experience to help you out.  These are civilian professionals contracted by the military from different companies (the National Guard, for example, uses Zeiders Enterprises).  These companies vet the counselors’ qualifications and manage their assignment to various locations.

 

All PFCs are Certified Financial Planners (CFPs), Chartered Financial Consultants (ChFCs), Accredited Financial Counselors (AFCs), or some other variant within the financial consulting profession.  Some of them are better versed in areas such as investing or life insurance, but they all have an overlapping level of education and experience which of beneficial to service members and families.  Regardless of their certifications, PFCs can assist with financial issues such as:

  • debt reduction
  • budgeting
  • retirement
  • estate planning

This is by no means a complete list.  There is much more these people can do for you.

 

Let me go over some of the education these people have. All PFCs have, at a minimum:

  • A bachelor’s degree
  • Specialized financial training
  • Certification from an accrediting agency
  • At least 1,000 hours of experience before certification
  • A requirement of at least 30 hours of continuing education every two years
  • Continuous recertification from their accrediting agency

 

Here is an example of a typical job announcement from Zeiders for a PFC.  You can find a link to this announcement in the references section below.

 

*****

 

Job Summary:

The Personal Financial Counselor (PFC) program is seeking qualified individuals to work full-time with Service Members and their families on personal financial issues such as budget planning, credit management and debt reduction, as well as retirement and estate planning. These full-time positions are located on military installations throughout the continental Unites States and selected overseas locations.

 

Principal Responsibilities:

The majority of Service Members and their families will require financial counseling and education to assist with establishing a basic level of financial literacy, good financial behavior and habits, long term financial planning to include retirement planning.

 

The PFCs will be responsible for:

  • Identifying immediate and long range measures to increase income, reduce household expenditures, and avoid additional financial burdens.
  • Personal budget/financial planning to reduce, eliminate, and avoid debt and to achieve solvency and stability.
  • Teaching Service members (and their families) money management techniques to encourage them to live within their means.
  • Understanding credit, finance charges, interest rates and the implications of only paying the minimum amount each month.
  • Educating military families on the importance of maintaining excellent credit histories and ratings.
  • Establishing, monitoring, and protecting their credit.
  • Teaching Service Members to make informed decisions and to be aware of associated costs such as insurance, maintenance, fuel costs, etc.
  • Educating and counseling Service Members – about their retirement systems and providing financial models to assist them in establishing a comprehensive retirement plan.
  • Assisting with tax planning.
  • Teaching Service Members and their families how to save for emergencies, unanticipated contingencies, and both short and long-term goals.
  • Other duties as assigned.

 

PFCs will traditionally provide support in one of three ways. Any combination of the three may be requested by the installation coordinator.

  • Face-to-Face financial counseling: PFCs support and educate individuals and families to help address specific needs, including provision of appropriate resource referrals.
  • Financial briefings: Facilitate briefings designed to promote awareness and educate Service Members and their families on various personal finance topics. PFCs facilitate requested briefings using a library of approved presentations and handouts on a variety

of financial topics.

  • Resource table: PFCs perform outreach and engage event attendees in conversations about setting financial goals, guidance to appropriate resources, as well as discussions on all areas of personal finance.

 

REQUIRED QUALIFICATIONS:

  • A minimum of a Bachelor’s degree coupled with 2+ years of experience in financial counseling or education.
  • A national certification as an Accredited Financial Counselor (AFC), Certified Financial Planner
  • (CFP), Chartered Financial Consultant (ChFC).
  • Counselors shall maintain a valid, unrestricted motor vehicle license.
  • Demonstrated experience in utilizing MS Office products (Excel, Word, PowerPoint).
  • A criminal history background check that includes a credit check, as well as an FBI fingerprint check are required to work in this program.

 

DESIRED QUALIFICATIONS:

  • Previous military experience (including military spouses and/or as a service provider)
  • Ability to travel up to 10% including some weekends with advanced notice.
  • Ability to facilitate financial workshops and trainings to large groups and ability to tailor presentations to audiences as needed.
  • Knowledge, skills, and abilities such as:
  • Working knowledge of military, state, federal, and local resources.
  • Understanding, sensitivity, and empathy for Service members and their family members.
  • Ability to develop trusting helping relationships.
  • Ability to work effectively with individuals and families from diverse racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic backgrounds.
  • Ability to use sound professional judgment, ethical practice, and common sense. Ability to develop, implement, and evaluate financial needs of individuals and families.

 

*****

 

Now that I’ve hyped up the PFCs, you might have a few questions going through your mind.  I’ll try to predict some of them and answer them for you now.

 

Is there any cost to use the Personal Financial Counselors?

Not at all.  While financial planners can charge as much as $150 per hour or an initial flat fee around $2,000, they are available at no cost to you.

 

Will the PFC recommend financial products for me to purchase or refer me to outside financial services?

Again, the answer is no.  Many of the contracted PFCs do have practices in addition to their consultation contract, they are forbidden by that contract from making recommendations for products and from referring you to either their or another financial planning business.  The PFC will offer advice and education only.  If you choose to make use of such a company in addition to consulting with the PFC, that is your prerogative.

 

How can I find a Personal Financial Counselor?

For the National Guard, the PFCs are usually attached to your state’s Family Programs branch.  You often can find contact information for family programs through your state’s National Guard website.  I have included a few useful links in the references section.  The best news, though, is the PFCs will assist any currently serving military member or military family regardless of branch.  Like any of us, they need numbers of contacts in order to maintain their positions.  Help them out and make an appointment to speak with a PFC when you’re able.

 

I think that is enough to get your mind working on a few things such as your current financial condition and questions you’d like to ask the PFC.  I hope this has been an informative and useful article for you.

 

Join me next week when I will talk about an issue specific to officers (though there is a similar thing for enlisted members): the mandatory removal date and how it can affect a career path.

 

As always, please post any questions or comments in the comments section below.  If you think this article can be beneficial to another person, please share the link with them and spread the word about this website.

 

Thanks again for joining me today and, of course, thank you for your service.

 

D.J.

References:
Certified Personal Financial Counselor Job Announcement – Zeiders Enterprises
National Guard Financial Management Awareness Program
Personal Financial Management and Taxes (Military OneSource)
How to Access Financial Counseling Through Military OneSource
Army Reserve Family Programs
Service Provider Network
MyArmyBenefits Resource Locator


Podcast Episode 0022 – What is a Personal Financial Counselor?

 

References:
Certified Personal Financial Counselor Job Announcement – Zeiders Enterprises
National Guard Financial Management Awareness Program
Personal Financial Management and Taxes (Military OneSource)
How to Access Financial Counseling Through Military OneSource
Army Reserve Family Programs
Service Provider Network
MyArmyBenefits Resource Locator


YouTube Episode 0024 – What is a Personal Financial Counselor?

https://youtu.be/9OMPKjP-Goo

References:
Certified Personal Financial Counselor Job Announcement – Zeiders Enterprises
National Guard Financial Management Awareness Program
Personal Financial Management and Taxes (Military OneSource)
How to Access Financial Counseling Through Military OneSource
Army Reserve Family Programs
Service Provider Network
MyArmyBenefits Resource Locator


How to Read an Army National Guard Retirement Points Statement

Let’s talk about a skill everyone in the Army National Guard should have.  In addition to being able to read your Leave and Earnings Statement (or LES, for short), everyone should be able to understand their retirement points statement.  This is a long article so take it in pieces if that will help you comprehend it.

 

But, why, D.J.? I’m just going to be in the National Guard for a few years and then I’m getting out.

This statement tells you more than just what you’ll earn as a monthly pension if you stay for twenty years.  It also tells you if you are eligible for other types of benefits.  There will be a separate episode about those types of benefits later.  For now, let’s focus on the retirement and pension side of things.

 

Let me say from the outset that this episode will be much easier to understand if you also have your own points statement in front of you.  If you do not have one, be sure to ask the full-time staff at your unit for a copy.  They should have the ability to pull that statement for you.  It is also possible that you can find a copy in your electronic personnel record (or iPERMS, as it is called for Army service members).

 

There are several different versions of the points statement available in the Army National Guard.  The first, called NGB Form 23A, shows not only your total retirement points, but also an estimate of your retired pay and the number of drills and active duty days you served in the last year.  Personally, I do not like this version much because the pay estimate is based on assumptions that, in my opinion, are not as accurate as I would like.  In fact, sometimes they’re quite inflated.

 

The next version, called NGB Form 23B, is just a statement of your retirement points.  I prefer this version the most.  If you’re familiar with the old show, Dragnet, it is “just the facts, ma’am.”  That is what we’re after in this game after all, the facts.

 

I will also put a link in the episode notes to a handy how-to-read guide which will be useful to you.  I will also be using this guide in my talk about how to understand your points.  If you do not have a copy of your personal points statement, there is also a link to a sample points statement which you can use alongside this guide and hopefully gain a better understand of how to read this important document.

 

The top left corner of your points statement shows some pertinent information about you.  You will see your rank and full name, the last four digits of your Social Security Number (older versions will have the full SSN), and the name, address, identification code and payroll number of your current National Guard unit.  That’s simple enough to understand.

 

Let’s move to the top right corner.  This area contains a great deal of useful information that is often overlooked by service members.  The first two items are simple enough; they are the date the statement was prepared and the reason for doing so (usually upon request).  Next, we will see a lot of acronyms, codes and numbers.  This is usually a point of confusion for service members and, as a result, ignored.  This is actually a very important section.

 

The third line in the top right corner says, “AYE.”  This is the Anniversary Year Ending date.  To translate, it means the date on which your unique period for earning retirement points will end.  Keep this in mind.  The anniversary year is not a calendar year or a fiscal year.  It is different for every member of a reserve component.  This is something to keep in mind when determining whether you have enough time to earn a good (or qualifying for retirement) year or not.  The first two digits are the month and the second two are the day.

 

The next line says, “BASD.”  This stands for Basic Active Service Date.  If you were in an active duty status when the statement was prepared, there will be a date here.  If you are not in an active duty status – in other words, a drilling soldier – there will be no date here.

 

The BASD reflects a compilation of all of your prior active duty service and, again if you’re on active duty, reflects the date your active duty service would have begun if it had been continuous service.  For those Active Guard / Reserve soldiers who may be reading this and are wondering when you will be eligible for a regular retirement, just add twenty to the year and you will have your answer.  Don’t worry about this date if you are a drilling soldier.

 

The next line is important for all service members.  It says, “Notice of Eligibility” and then says YES or NO.  This tells you whether a twenty-year letter (or Notice of Eligibility for Retired Pay, as it’s officially called) has been issued.

 

If this line says yes and you do not have a copy of this letter then you should check your electronic record.  It should be there.  If it is not, ask your full-time staff to request a copy from your state’s retirement points accounting manager (RPAM).  This letter will be important to you in the future.  See my episode on the twenty-year letter for more information.

 

Next, we have “Highest Grade Held.”  This line should either be your current pay grade or, if you held a higher grade in the past (such as enlisted men who were commissioned officers at one point in their careers). If you not reduced for punitive reasons, that higher grade will not show up on this line.

 

I know one individual who was a major and resigned his commission.  He came back as an enlisted member and became a sergeant first class.  Later on, he was reduced to staff sergeant for misconduct.  A few months later, he was reduced again to sergeant.  His highest grade held now says E05 (sergeant) and not O04 (major) and it will never show the grade of major again.  Keep your noses clean, guys.

 

The final line in the top right corner shows two critical elements of information.  The first is RPED (or Retired Pay Eligibility Date).  For most of us, the date shown here will be our sixtieth birthday.  For those of us eligible for reduced retirement age, the date should show when we will able to receive retired pay before sixty.  Contact your unit full-time staff if you have qualifying active duty service and your RPED still shows your sixtieth birthday.

 

Next to the Retired Pay Eligibility Date, you will see a number and “Pds.”  This is the number of qualifying ninety day blocks of active duty you have.  Each period should result in a three-month reduction in your RPED.  Again, if you have qualifying service and believe this number is not correct, contact your full-time staff.

 

I know that’s a lot so far.  Don’t worry.  It gets much easier (and faster) from here.

 

Let’s move on to the line that starts with “Begin Date.”  The first two columns are “Begin Date” and “End Date.”  The first entry should be the time at which you first joined the military in any status.  Entries in these columns are usually but will not necessarily be one year increments.  Whether or not they are full years will depend on what you see in the next column which is “MMSI.”  The time frame in each the begin and end columns will change whenever the MMSI changes.

 

The “MMSI” column stands for the Military Membership Status Identifier.  In laymen’s terms, this means the type of service for each entry.  Don’t worry about remembering what all of these codes mean.  There is a legend at the bottom (or next page) of your statement which will define each of the codes for you.

 

Now we move into the meat of the lesson.  The next three columns (across the top of the headers only) are “IDT,” “MEM,” and “ACCP.”  These stand for, respectively, Inactive Duty Training, membership points, and Army Correspondence Course Program (and other distance learning) points.  These three columns are collectively categorized as Inactive Duty Training (or IDT) points.

 

The IDT column shows your drill points during the given time.  The MEM column shows the number of membership points you earned during this period (you can earn up to fifteen membership points for each full year in a reserve component).  The ACCP column shows the number of points you earned from the completion of military distance learning courses (divided by three since you earn one point for every three hours of correspondence learning).

 

Let’s do an experiment.  Add the number of points from IDT, MEM, and ACCP in a timeframe.   Now look at the table below.

 

1946 – 23 September 1996                              60

24 September 1996 – 30 October 2000          75

31 October 2000 – 29 October 2007               90

30 October 2007 – Present                               130

 

If the total number of points you have is greater than the limit shown above, your points from these three columns will be reduced to that number.  This limit does not apply to the other types of points.

 

The next column, the “FHD” column, stands for Funeral Honors Details.  While this is technically another a type of IDT point, it is not subject to the point limit I mentioned earlier.  This is to encourage people to participate in funeral honors details.

 

Next, we have the “AD” column.  This displays the number of active duty points (such as your annual training or mobilizations) you have earned.

 

The “VS” column stands for verification status.  This tells you whether this period of service has been verified by proper documentation or not.  If you see a V, the period is verified.  If you see a B, it has not been verified.  Points will not count unless the time period has been verified.

 

Now we come to the “Total Career Points” and the “Total Pts for Ret Pay” columns.  The first column shows the total number of points you have earned for this particular period of time and the second shows the number of points remaining after the point limits above have been applied.  Only the “Total Pts for Ret Pay” column will be used when computing what your retired pay will be.

 

At last we come to the last column, “Creditable Svc For Ret Pay.”  If the time period is a full year and you have at least fifty points for that year then you should see 01/00/00 in that column.  If the time is less than a year and you have enough points (prorated from fifty) for that time to count, you will see however many months and days are creditable.  If you have a full year and less than fifty points, you will see 00/00/00.  This means that particular year will not count for retirement purposes.

 

If the time period is less than a year and your service continues on the next line, you will see –/–/–.  This does not mean the service does not count.  It simply means your service time for that retirement year will continue on the next line.

 

Now let’s go all the way down to the “Grand Totals” line.  Here you will see the total number of points you have earned from active duty service, your total career points, the total creditable points for pay purposes, and the total amount of service that is creditable for retirement purposes.  Keep in mind that if the last entry above the grand total has two dashes in the “End Date” column, the points from that line will not be included in the totals until your retirement year is completed or until you separate from service, whichever comes first.

 

Let’s assume that you’re currently serving and your total creditable service equals 19/11/15.  This does not mean you only need to serve fifteen more days in order to have twenty creditable years.  The retirement points database only recognizes full years. You need to complete the full retirement year before database will recognize that you have twenty full years and then you will receive a Notice of Eligibility for Retired Pay.

 

Finally, we come to the “Military Membership Status Identifiers” section which tells you what all of the codes you saw in the MMSI column mean.  After that, you will see another section for “Non-Creditable Periods of Service.”  This section will include breaks in service and the types of service which do not count for retirement purposes (like, in some cases, being an ROTC cadet).

 

If you have service which qualifies for reduced retirement age, there will be additional sections which show the qualifying service and compute how much of a reduction in your retirement age you currently have.

 

Hopefully, that was easy to understand for everyone.  If not, please comment below and let me know what was confusing.  I will be glad to answer any questions you may have.

 

Thanks for joining me today and, of course, thank you for your service.

 

D.J.

 

References:
How to Read an Army National Guard Retirement Points Statement
Sample NGB 23B
MMSI Codes

Related YouTube Episodes:
Episode 0004 – The Notice of Eligibility for Retired Pay (Twenty-Year Letter)
Episode 0009 – So, What is This Reduced Retirement Age Thing Anyway?


Help, I Need My Records. Where is My DD 214?

Let’s take a break from SBP this week and talk about another topic that comes up all the time.  People are always looking for documents from their service records, but are they necessarily looking for the right thing?

So, you’re trying to get a VA home loan or prove your military service for some other type of benefit.  Sadly and confusingly, most if not all of the organizations that are offering a service or benefit based on your service will automatically say, “Show me your DD 214.”  For a great many service members, particularly reservists, this is a distressing request.

The Department of Defense (DD) Form 214 is the “Certificate of Release or Discharge from Active Duty.”  It is, or should be, issued whenever a service member completes a tour of active duty of ninety days or more.  Whether or not you, as a reservist, qualifies for this document is widely variable and depends on whether you have completed the required amount of active duty service.

A great many reservists only have, if they’re lucky, a DD 214 when they finished their basic and advance training at the beginning of their reserve careers.  It is entirely possible for a reservist to complete twenty or more years of service and never receive another DD 214 because they did not have any long-term tours of active duty while they were serving.  Annual training and other short periods of active duty do not qualify for a DD 214.  This can leave reservists seeking to take advantage of service-based benefits in a bit of a quandary.

There is another form, call the DD 220 (Active Duty Report), which is generally issued for shorter periods of active duty (other than annual training).  Very often, reservists never receive these forms, either.

So, what do you do if you need to prove your service to an organization or government agency?  There are options, believe it or not.  If you are a currently serving reservist, you can find other documents in your electronic personnel record.  The most useful document you should find in that record is your retirement points statement.  This statement should show your entire military career and the number of retirement points you earned during each year of service.  If you are an enlisted member, you can also find DD Form 4, Enlistment / Reenlistment Document; if you are an officer, you can find your appointment as a commissioned or warrant officer.

Some organizations, particularly civilian agencies, may not understand what these documents are.  You may need to explain (politely) what the documents mean or give them contact information for your unit or a retirement services officer in order to assist them.

If you were a member of the Army or Air National Guard, you should have a copy of National Guard Bureau (NGB) Form 22, Report of Separation and Military Service.  While it is somewhat erroneous to say so, you can consider the NGB 22 as the National Guard equivalent of a DD 214.  The NGB 22 is verification of your National Guard service.  Sadly, if you discharged from any other reserve component, there is no single-source document which proves your military service.

Now, what can you do, particularly if you were National Guard and need a copy of your discharge documents?  For the National Guard of any state, there is a person as your state headquarters who can request records for you.  Some of them may need a signed Standard Form (SF) 180, Request Pertaining to Military Records, or a locally produced form from you before accessing those records.

If you separated from service after 2005, that state-level person will likely have access to the Interactive Personnel Electronic Records Management System (iPERMS) and be able to pull the documents you need very quickly.  If you separated prior to 2005, that person will likely need to request records from your state records archives warehouse.

If you served in a different reserve component, the first stop is to contact your branch of service or, if you are currently serving, access your electronic record.  I have placed links to each service’s electronic records website below.  If your branch of service no longer has those records, you can try the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA).  NARA will require an SF 180 from you in order to fill your request.  You can mail or fax a paper form to them or submit a request online.  See my notes below for a link to the NARA site and a link to an SF 180.

Now, here is a hint.  If you served in multiple components, such as the Navy Reserve and the Army National Guard and you are requesting records from NARA, do NOT mention your National Guard service in your request.  If you do, NARA will immediately (or, at least, has every time as of the time I wrote this article) refer you to your state’s National Guard headquarters and will not fill your request.

It is possible, especially if you were in several branches of service, that no one source will have your complete record.  Naturally, the ultimate responsibility for maintaining a complete record falls on the shoulders of the service member.

I will compile and post a page on my website of as many of the state National Guard records managers as I can find.  Building this complete list may take some time so please check back if you do not see your state listed.

References:
Air Force Personnel Records (https://mypers.af.mil)
Army Personnel Records (https://iperms.hrc.army.mil/)
Coast Guard Personnel Records (http://cgbi.osc.uscg.mil/2.0/contentpanes/personal_files/summary_sheet.cfm)
Marine Corps Personnel Records (https://sso.tfs.usmc.mil/sso/DoDConsent.do)
Navy Personnel Records (https://www.bol.navy.mil/DefaultPub.aspx)

National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) (https://www.archives.gov/veterans/military-service-records)

Request National Guard Archived Records (http://rcretirement.com/national-guard-archived-records/) (List In Progress)

Forms:
DD Form 214 – Certificate of Release or Discharge from Active Duty
DD Form 220 – Active Duty Report
NGB Form 22 – Report of Separation and Military Service
Standard Form (SF) 180 – Request Pertaining to Military Records

Retirement Points Statements By Service:
Air Force Reserve / Air National Guard: AF Form 526 – Point Summary Sheet
Army Reserve: DARP Form 549 or DA Form 5016 – Chronological Statement of Retirement Points
Army National Guard: NGB Form 23B – Army National Guard Retirement Points History
Navy Reserve: NRPC Form 1070-124 – Annual Retirement Points Record
USMC Reserve: NAVMC Form 798 – Reserve Retirement Credit Report
Coast Guard Reserve: CG Form 4175 – USCG Reserve Retirement Points Statement


YouTube Episode 0007 – Help, I Need My Records. Where is My DD 214?


Podcast Episode 0004 – The Basics of the Survivor Benefit Plan (SBP)

Today I am going to talk about the Survivor Benefit Plan.  Like its reserve component version, this is one of the most important decisions a service member must make.