SCHRIEVER AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. --
"Eighty percent of our troops leave service before 20 years…and in the current system, if they leave before 20 years, they leave with nothing. (The) Blended Retirement System creates a choice that opens up opportunity and –allows us to be similar to other (civilian) institutions and therefore competitive with them in getting people to join us and stick with us."—Former Defense Secretary Ash Carter
With less than a year before the Blended Retirement System takes effect, the Department of Defense and the Air Force Personnel Center are working to fully inform and notify all eligible members of their ability to opt-in should they so choose.
“The eligibility is based off of the pay date,” said 1st Lt. Zachary Hornberger, 50th Force Support Squadron Military Personnel Section chief. “Anyone who has entered within the last 12 (years) as determined by pay date, after Jan. 1, 2006, (is eligible).”
AFPC will send notices to eligible members through myPers and virtual Military Personnel Flight.
Hornberger said any member who thinks they are eligible to opt-in to the BRS but has not received a notice from AFPC may reach out to MPS for verification.
All eligible members must complete the online acknowledgement documenting notification of opt-in eligibility.
The DOD estimates approximately 85 percent of service members will receive at least some retirement benefits under the BRS, even if they do not serve for 20 years. Under the current system, approximately 81 percent of veterans leave the service with no retirement benefits.
“Under the current system right now, you only receive retirement benefits, with the exception of special programs that rise up, if you complete 20 full years of service, minimum,” Hornberger said. “Under this new system, with the government matching into your Thrift Savings Plan, it allows it so that even if you don’t stay in the full 20, you’re already building a retirement portfolio.”
According to the DOD, “many of the elements of the legacy retirement system remain in some form. The Blended Retirement System retains the traditional defined-benefit annuity, but adjusts the years of service multiplier from 2.5 percent to 2.0 percent for calculating monthly retired pay.”
Members leaving active service with less than 20 years will keep all money in their TSP account, including government matches, but will not start receiving monthly retirement pay until they reach retirement age as determined by the IRS.
“To get the immediate monthly payments, you would still need to complete your 20 years,” Hornberger said. “But in this case, you still get something at retirement age.”
A BRS opt-in course is expected to be available on the Joint Knowledge Online website Jan. 31. All eligible members must complete the course, even if they choose to stick with the legacy retirement system.
“The most important thing is making sure that everybody is aware of the options that are afforded to them under the current retirement system and this new blended retirement system to make sure that they are able to make educated decisions on that,” Hornberger said.
MPS is teaming with the Airmen and Family Readiness Center for a briefing covering the finer financial aspects of the BRS. The first briefing is scheduled for Military Saves Week, Feb. 20-24, and more will be held as demand necessitates. Both organizations want to ensure members have as much information as possible before making a decision.
“The decision to opt-in is irrevocable,” the DOD says. “It cannot be changed at a later date.”
“This shift in retirement benefits and determining how each individual member is going to best look out for their own personal interests and their own personal financial security following the Air Force, that’s a really important matter,” Hornberger said. “Everyone is going to have their own considerations; everyone’s going to have their own life plans. The plans, or response to this, that one person may have will be entirely different from someone who might be very similar to them, but with a different outlook on life, life plans, etc.”
While those Airmen who enter service after Jan. 1, 2018, will be automatically enrolled in the BRS, those currently serving must opt-in to switch from the legacy system to BRS. If a member has not selected the option to opt-in by Dec. 31, 2018, they will remain in the current retirement system.
“They have the full year of 2018 to decide,” Hornberger said. “Just having this whole year . . . so that if you know going into 2018 what your decision is going to be, especially if you choose to switch into blended retirement, opting in earlier in 2018 allows more months of government matching.”
For more information about BRS, visit militarypay.defense.gov/BlendedRetirement, or contact Hornberger at 567-3098.