You’re not eligible to retire from the reserves until you receive a “Notification of Eligibility for Retired Pay at age 60” letter. This is known as the “20-Year Letter”. You’ll get this letter after your 20th good year; approximately 90 to 120 days after your retirement year ending date.
Along with this letter, you’ll also receive a “Reserve Component Survivor Benefit Plan (RC-SBP)”. Someone at your unit, or a career counselor, will work with you at this point. Your spouse and you will complete the RC-SBP and submit it to your unit. Your unit will send it to the office that’ll hold your records after you retire. For the Army, this’d be HRC.
You’ll have three major options.
You’ll also have three options. The first one is to continue your reserve status. The second one is to transfer to the retired reserve. The third one is to choose to be discharged from the reserves. There’s also a fourth option, more on that later.
You can continue your reserve status. If you’re a drilling reservist, you can continue to drill and follow your troop program unit plan. If you’re in the Individual Ready Reserves (IRR), you can continue meeting your requirements for the IRR. If you’re in the standby reserves, you can continue to drill without pay.
This option allows you to gain time in grade/service credit for the duration of your ready reserve time. It also allows you to continue to accumulate retirement points. The more retirement points you have, the higher your paycheck amount. Ideally, you’ll want to remain in this status until you reach paid retirement eligibility.
As a ready reservist, you’re a mobilization asset.
If you continue to remain in the ready reserve status, you’re still obligated to get 50 retirement/reserve points each retirement year. If you drop below that requirement, you’ll be subject to transfer to the retired reserves.
The second option you have is to transfer to the retired reserves. In this case, you’ll submit a retirement packet. You’ll transfer to the retired reserves once you get your retirement orders. Once in the retired reserves, you’ll be a “grey area” retiree. You’ll receive a retired reserve ID card, and have most the benefits that you had as a ready reservist.
This option allows you to gain “time in grade/service” credit for the time that you’re a grey area retiree. It also keeps you as a “mobilization asset.”
The third option that you have is to choose discharge from the reserves. This option removes you as a mobilization asset. However, this option also short changes your retirement pay. If you chose discharge, your retirement pay/rate will be that in effect the retirement year you got discharged. This means that the value of your future retirement pension decreases each year before you start receiving it.
The choice that you make, between transfer to the retired reserves or discharge, will be final.
Qualitative Retention Program:
Now, let’s say you chose to remain in the Troop Program Unit (TPU)/Selected Reserves (SELRES). What happens next? If you’re Army Reserves, or Army National Guard, you end up subject to the Qualitative Retention Program. The Army will review your record once every two years. They’re going to determine whether you’re among the best chosen to continue drilling, or whether you should be transferred to another status.
Once your record is flagged for consideration, they’ll send a packet of information to you via your chain of command. One of the items in that packet will give you two options. If the board removes you from your drilling status, where do you want to transfer to? Do you want to transfer to the IRR, or to the retired reserve?
If you choose transfer to the IRR, you can continue to accumulate points. You’ll also have a chance at doing AT/ADT or volunteer for other training opportunities. If you have other priorities, you could choose transfer to the retired reserves.
You’ll also get advice to check your records and make sure that they’re complete. They’ll also give both your commander and you an opportunity to make statements.
The fourth option, pending unit policy.
Depending on your unit (Army Reserves), or if you’re in the National Guard (Army), you have another option after receiving your 20-Year-Letter. You can apply for transfer to the IRR.
Even if you’re not close to receiving your 20-Year-Letter, you should carefully consider the above options.
Final reserve years required for retirement.
If you reached 20 qualifying years fore retirement before October 5, 1994, the last 8 qualifying years have to be reserve years. If you reached 20 qualifying years for retirement from October 5, 1994 to April 24, 2005, the last 6 qualifying years have to be reserve years.
If you reached 20 qualifying years for retirement after April 24, 2005, you don’t have a minimum reserve requirement at the end.