Patrick, first, thank you so much for that. This is a great addition to the thread for many of us here.
Patrick Bateman wrote:Feds can also “buy back” their military time for their Federal retirement (FERS) – that means you can retroactively contribute to your retirement from your military years and get retirement credit for those years. For example, I bought back my six years on AD, meaning that after I serve as a Fed for 20 years, I am actually going to retire as someone with 26 years of service. That can add up.
I didn't know until recently that you can double dip with your reserve and federal civilian retirements. I thought you could only apply your AD time to your military retirement or buy it out for your federal retirement, but your AD time can count for both. It got rid of any excuses I had for not staying in the reserves.
i. Category A: You are likely a DSJA or SJA that is attached to a dedicated reserve Wing that is very likely going to be in some form of driving distance from where you live. You function a lot like folks in the Air Guard in terms of having a drill weekend each month and then your two weeks. You are never totally off the clock, even if not drilling, but the benefit is that you are serving close-ish to home. Another big benefit is that you are going to be doing leadership things, which looks really good for promotion boards. While most of the regular Air Force reservists are Cat A, it is the minority for JAGs – I will admit I am not as knowledgeable about the actual day-to-day life of Cat A.
I spoke to a Cat A SJA recently whose base pays for any time he works between UTAs. So if a CC asks him a question and the SJA responds from home, the SJA records the time and then gets paid for it. He has been able to supplement his civilian income quite a bit with this. But certainly YMMV depending on your assignment.
As an IMA, are you able to get paid mileage or lodging costs for any of the times that you work?
Re: the buyback. Yeah, it is pretty excellent. At later middle age, you can have your reserve retirement as an O-5/O-6, your Federal retirement as a GS-15/SES (assuming you are in the DC area where these level of jobs are way easier to get), and your TSP all as retirement revenue streams (to say nothing of social security, assuming the trust fund still exists by then). Like I always tell folks, you won't get rich in the Fed govt or the military, but you can be quite comfortable still working if you play your cards smartly.
Your point regarding the Cat A pay is well noted. On my side of the fence, we are eligible to request "points only" credit for days where we have to do admin or other duties not for pay. This adds to our yearly points total (same as, for example, the points given for completing ACSC). Over the course of years, these additional points only credits can add up for computation of our retirement pay as well as adding to that overall points total that the promotion boards are looking at.
I could probably write what amounts to several single spaced pages on the ass pain and complexities of being paid as an IMA. The short-ish version:
It is all complicated due to the different pots of money from which we get funded. We have all these different duty status that are more or less the same in terms of day to day execution of the job, but have different names and get paid in different ways, because of the fiscal side of things. Generally, for your Annual Tour and MPA tours, you are paid like you are back on active duty. Your BAH/BAS gets punked and you end up with this BS version (still tax free) and your pay is based on grade and years in. IDTs are this whole other confusing thing - if you look up "drill pay" (also relevant to our Cat A and Air Guard folks), you get this lump sum (fully taxed) for each drill period (and because this HAS to be confusing, there are 2 periods for each day). As a Major with over 8 years, a single drill period is worth $220.04. So one IDT day is that amount x2. A drill weekend for a Cat A reservist is that x4.
So that is the "salary" side. For Cat Bs, your travel costs (mileage/air fare) are only covered for your Annual Tour. If you do your IDTs AND your AT together however, your travel for both are effectively covered though - so, if you are geographically separated (stationed in, let's say, Germany), you are effectively stuck taking a full month off of work so you can do your 12 AT days and 12 IDT days (note, this is actually 24 IDT periods because of the two periods a day thing). If you decide to split your AT and IDTs, you are on the hook for travel expenses for your IDTs. I am also pretty sure they will fund a rental car (if necessary) for your AT but again, not for your IDTs. So, while in Germany, you get absolutely screwed into eating half of your rental car costs as well as your weekend lodging (as your weekends are usually not in a duty status for IDTs). We can waste billions into the F-35 but they have screwing reservist pay down to a science.
[I will also note that the current reserve CC for JAGs is now allowing "split tours" where you can basically do one week of your AT w/ some IDTs and then your second week of AT w/ IDTs in separate (2) chunks - this is critical for folks that have a job where a month off is just not an option. That said, it is because the current reserve CC that runs this is absolutely awesome - it could easily go away under the next CC.
And this brings me to the negative of reserve service - opportunity cost. A day you spend on AF orders is a day you are not doing your civilian job. This may hurt your ability to advance as a civilian. A lot of reservist JAGs are EXTREMELY successful in their civilian jobs and find ways to make it work, but it is worth being aware of. I lost out on a chair at a major trial because I was gone playing Air Force. It is way, way easier as a Fed do handle this juggling act. The trial types that end up in the white shoe/white collar law firms I think have a much harder time with the balance, though I have meet some truly exceptional reservists that are killing it on both ends. I, and countless others, have made it work, but just keep it in mind in respect to what your ultimate priorities are.]
The best way to "hack" this system as an IMA is to be in the same geographic area as your assignment - let's say you live in DC and are assigned to Andrews. You have no travel costs, so this AT and IDT distinction is meaningless in terms of reimbursement. You don't have to do your IDTs and AT together, so you have greater flexibility with your schedule (dependent on the needs of your AD unit of course). If you get really lucky, you can have a unit that is happy to have help whenever or via telework and maybe you have a Federal job that lets your have a flex schedule (where every other Friday/Monday is off and you make up that days hours over the other 9 duty days) - you can then take 1 day of military leave on a Thursday, flex Friday, and work on Saturday. You just knocked out 3 IDT days at the cost of only one single military leave day. Not every job will let you thread this needle but if you are clever and have supportive leadership (both civilian job and military), you can really squeeze out some extra money.