By Dr. Jarrod Sadulski
Faculty Member, Criminal Justice
The U.S. military provides a lot of great opportunities. Many people commonly join the active-duty ranks and decide to pursue a new career choice at the end of their enlistment.
Most people find that the skills, discipline and knowledge they gained during active-duty service can help them in pursuing their career goals later in life. According to the Department of Labor, around 200,000 men and women leave military service each year.
For those that are leaving active duty and are not eligible for a military retirement, one good option may be the reserves. In my military career, I spent eight years on active duty and served another 16 years in the reserves.
Joining the Reserves Provides the Opportunity to Further Your Learning through Military Education Benefits
Remaining associated with the military through the reserves was extremely helpful for me in many ways. I was able to complete my bachelor’s degree, master’s degree and doctoral degree through military education benefits that were extended because I stayed in the reserves.
Another significant benefit to the reserves is that the servicemembers may be able to earn job certifications and training that can be applied to non-military job goals. For instance, servicemembers may be able to get military training that can be used in trade certifications such as welding, electrical work and other skills that can be transferred to the civilian workforce.
Certain Reservists and Their Families May Qualify for Health Benefits
When you’re departing active duty, entering the reserves provides an opportunity to build on the experience, time and benefits of being on active-duty military service. For example, the reserve offers a healthcare program called TRICARE Reserve Select, a premium-based healthcare program that can be used by Selected Reserves members and their families who qualify for the program. Reserves in the Individual Ready Reserve or Navy Reserve Voluntary Training Units don’t qualify.
Time Spent on Active Duty Can Be Applied to a Reserve Retirement
Another benefit of serving in the reserves is that the time spent on active duty can be applied toward a reserve retirement, referred to as a non-regular retirement. Servicemembers are eligible for reserve retirements once they accumulate 20 or more years of qualifying service.
However, reservists need to wait until they are 60 years of age to collect the retirement benefit. However, there are some exceptions that reduce this age requirement, such as when a reservist is called to active duty for a certain period of time.
Military retirements in the reserves are based on a point system. The more points reservists can accumulate, the more they will get paid once they receive the retirement benefit.
One point is awarded for each drill period, which consists of four hours. In addition, reserves receive 15 membership points each year and any time that they spend on active duty will count for one point for each day of active service. It is common for reservists to be recalled to active duty during their careers, which provides another good opportunity to accumulate more retirement points.
In addition, reservists can contribute to the Thrift Savings Plan. This retirement fund is available to federal employees and members of the uniformed services.
Additional Benefits of Joining the Reserves
There are other benefits to entering the reserves following active duty. Reserve members can go back to active duty or receive active-duty orders through a Title 10 or Title 14 deployment. These actions eliminate the need to re-apply for military service and go through the process for enlisting.
Servicemembers departing active duty and joining the reserves may be eligible for cash bonuses for enlisting into the reserves. For example, the Army may offer up to $20,000 in bonuses for Army Reserve enlistment into in-demand Military Occupation Specialties.
Joining the Reserves Requires Careful Consideration
Servicemembers should carefully reflect on whether the reserves are a good fit for them when they depart active duty. Joining the reserves may provide the opportunity to take advantage of some military benefits during the pursuit of non-military career goals.