Military Service: USERRA-Covered

Effective January 1, 2013, Pennsylvania Act 2012-181 amended the State Employees' Retirement Code to change the way SERS is required to handle certain types of military leave. The legislation brought state law into compliance with a number of federal laws, including the Uniformed Services Employment and Re-employment Rights Act of 1994 (USERRA), the Heroes Earnings Assistance and Relief Tax Act of 2008 (HEART Act), and the Internal Revenue Code.

USERRA provides members of the military with certain protections when they leave civilian employment for military service. To be eligible, you must:


Re-employment requirements and leave administration are managed by your agency's human resources office. They tell SERS when military leave is approved, the dates of the leave, and if the leave is covered by USERRA. They also tell us what kind of leave you use during military duty. We use this information to determine the method for crediting your retirement account and how much service credit you may be able to purchase for retirement purposes.

No Contributions Deducted

Retirement contributions are not deducted from your pay during military duty, even if you are on paid military leave or use paid leave in lieu of military leave. You are provided with an opportunity to purchase this time, if you choose, upon returning to work.


Purchasing USERRA Leave

Upon your return, if you have questions as to whether it would be beneficial to purchase the USERRA leave or wish to purchase the USERRA leave, you can contact a retirement counselor at 1.800.633.5461. Invoices provide a great deal of detail about your specific situation and explain that you can have your military time credited to your retirement account by paying SERS the contributions that would have been paid if you had been at work. No interest is charged and, after paying in full, the time is treated just like the rest of your state service for the purposes of calculating your pension upon retirement.


A Time-Sensitive Decision

You must pay the contributions, in full, within specific timeframes. If you exceed payment timeframes, USERRA does not permit you to purchase the military service.

 

Only One Opportunity

If you decide not to purchase the service or if you do not make all payments within required timeframes, you cannot purchase this military service later.

In the case of partial payments, only an amount of time proportional to the payments actually received is added to the service credit in your SERS retirement account.

Factors to Consider

An important component in calculating your retirement benefit is "years of credited service." If you work more than 1,650 hours in the calendar year (as most employees do), you still only earn one year of credited service. Thus, if you work at least 1,650 hours during the year without including the time you were away from work for military duty, your years of credited service will not increase if you purchase military service in that year. However, if you do not work that many hours, you can increase your years of credited service by purchasing military service.

Another important component in calculating your retirement benefit is "final average salary." If you are on military leave with pay, your earnings will be included in the calculation of your final average salary, regardless of whether or not you purchase your military service. If, however, your military leave is without pay, the salary that you would have earned will not be included unless the military service is purchased.

A third important component is "eligibility points." Eligibility points determine when you vest in SERS' pension plan. You earn eligibility points during USERRA-covered military leave, regardless of whether you purchase the service or not; they are credited to your retirement account when you become re-employed.

Not All Military Leave is USERRA Covered

When military absences are not covered by USERRA - activation by a state Governor, for example - Pennsylvania law classifies the time as "non-intervening military leave." This type of leave may be purchased at any time while you are an active, contributing SERS member and meet other eligibility requirements. You will not automatically receive invoices related to this kind of leave from SERS. You must contact us at 1.800.633.5461 to purchase this service.