By: Bob Braunstein, Federal Benefits Specialist
Published: March 2023
Is your Retirement Service Computation Date the same date as your Leave Service Computation Date?
While this is likely, there are several reasons why they could be different. The rules and procedures for setting, constructing, or changing Service Computation Dates, also known as SCDs can be confusing even to the most seasoned HR professional. SCDs are essentially the starting dates for periods of service that, once fulfilled, qualify employees for specific Federal benefits. The more common SCDs are for retirement eligibility, leave accrual, and Thrift Savings, but there are many others. Some are obvious, such as the Leave SCD that appears on Leave and Earning Statements and SF 50s (Notifications of Personnel Action). Others are more elusive as they are not called SCDs but still measure qualification periods for benefits, such as waiting periods for within-grade increases, or the requisite 5-year periods for maintaining health and life insurance coverage when retiring from Federal service.
Formal SCDs generally begin on the date one is hired, also known as the Entrance on Duty Date or “EOD”. But under some circumstances, these SCDs can be earlier than one’s EOD. They have what are referred to as “constructed dates” because they include qualifying service time that was completed prior to EOD. For example, the Leave SCD, which determines the rate of an employee’s annual leave accrual, could be earlier if they have prior military service. A new employee with three years in the military would have an earlier Leave SCD as it would include the prior military service. The earlier Leave SCD would immediately place them in the 6-hour annual leave accrual category (as opposed to an employee who would otherwise have to work three years beyond EOD to reach this milestone). And the prior military service would eventually create a chronologically equivalent Retirement SCD when a service credit deposit is made for it.
But there are situations where Leave and Retirement SCDs will always be different. For example, temporary Federal civilian service – brief appointments for which retirement contributions are not withheld – count in Leave SCDs. But they only count in FERS Retirement SCDs, if a service credit deposit is made for them – and such deposits can only be made when the temporary service occurred before 1989 (unless it was in the Peace Corps or Volunteers in Service to America, also known as VISTA).
Yet more confusing are the Retirement SCDs that have “subsets” for lack of a better term. This would be the case for SCDs for special occupational categories like law enforcement. A law enforcement officer who began Federal service in a non-law enforcement position would have a LEO SCD, which is the start date of the 20 years of required LEO service to retire under this special occupational category at age 50 or older. However, the LEO SCD would not include other Federal service or prior military service, if applicable. Nevertheless, this additional time could be creditable for the calculation of the employee’s retirement annuity.
While the intricacies of SCDs are numerous and varied, there are a few good-to-know common denominators for the major ones:
- Leave SCDs can include all Federal civilian service (permanent or temporary), prior military service (including time spent in military combat for military retirees), and non-Federal service creditable for leave accrual as part of a Federal hiring offer.
- Retirement SCDs can include eligible temporary Federal appointments and prior military service for which deposits have been made.
- Special Occupation SCDs (law enforcement, firefighters, air traffic controllers, etc.) may not include other creditable service used to calculate retirement annuities (i.e., service in other Federal occupations and military service for which deposits have been made).
- All SCDs will be recalculated when an employee experiences: 1) more than six months in non-pay status in any calendar year; 2) a break in Federal service of more than three days; or 3) a move from an intermittent work schedule, also known as “when actually employed” (WAE) to a regular and recurring full or part time work schedule.
Bob Braunstein is a retired Federal employee who was last employed as a Senior Human Resources Consultant with the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) at the Department of the Treasury. During his Federal career, he served in a full range of HR positions spanning recruitment, staffing, employee relations, retirement and benefits, and position classification/management disciplines. He is a retirement and benefits presenter for NITP.