The Service Computation Date Comes in Five Flavors

Comes in Five Flavors

There are five different service computation dates that you should be familiar with.  They are used to determine your leave accrual rate, career tenure, in-grade pay increases, retirement eligibility, retirement annuity, retention position during a reduction in force, and TSP vesting.

An Often Adjusted Date

A Federal Employee’s service computation date (SCD) for most purposes is the day they started their federal service.  But as OPM’s personnel handbook points out, this is not always the case.  It reads, “A date, either actual or constructed, that is used to determine benefits and is generally based on how long the person has been in Federal Service.”  Anytime a law, regulation or policy uses the words “constructed” and “generally based,” that usually means there is a little work involved, as you can see in the next few examples.

For Life Insurance Payout and Career Tenure

The first SCD is the SCD CIV.  This date is essentially the day you started working for the Federal Government.  If you are a FERS employee, this date is used to calculate your life insurance payout formula.  Your SCD CIV is also used to determine when you achieve career tenure.  Achieving career tenure makes it easier to return to federal service if you leave for a period of time.  It takes three years of “substantially continuous” service to achieve this status.

Leave Accrual Rate and Retirement Eligibility

The SCD found on your leave and earnings statement pertains to your leave accrual rate.  Depending on how much creditable service you have, your leave accrual could be either four, six, or eight hours per pay period, depending on the length of your federal service. Your personal statement of benefits only has an estimate of your retirement SCD.  To determine your actual SCD for retirement purposes you will need to look at your SF-50, Notice of Personnel Action.  Of course, your SF-50 may be filled out incorrectly so it is important to regularly review it.  For more information on reviewing your SF-50, read this post.

Reductions in Force

Your SCD RIF is your retention position if there is a reduction in force in your agency or department.  The earlier your adjusted SCD is, the better position you will be in to keep your job.  You are given additional retention service credit based on the average of your three most recent performance ratings during the four-year lookback period.  The lookback period is a time window prior to the date your agency either issues a RIF notice or sets a cutoff date after which performance ratings will no longer be given consideration.  Your retention position is also affected by whether your federal position was by appointment or veterans’ preference.

For Former Military Members

Those in the military do not have an SCD, but anyone who left the military and began to work for the Federal Government on or after October 1, 1982 can effectively purchase back their military time and move their SCD back for retirement eligibility and annuity purposes. For former military personnel that later become FERS employees, this payment is 3% of their total military earnings, plus interest. However, when determining leave accrual rates for civilian federal service, the SCD automatically includes time in the military, no purchase necessary.

For TSP Vesting

For TSP vesting of the automatic 1% agency contribution and its associated earnings, three years of civilian federal service are required.  It does not matter whether or not you are a TSPparticipant. Congressional employees or employees in certain non-career positions need only two years of service to vest.  There is no vesting requirement if the Federal Employee dies while in service.  TSP participants are always vested in their own TSP contributions and in the agency matching of up to 4%.  No TSP SCD can be earlier than January 1, 1984 when all new federal hires were covered under FERS.  If you have an earlier SCD, for TSP purposes, it will appear as January 1, 1984.

No Simple Answer

When it comes to most things about your federal benefits the answer is not straightforward, and your SCD is no exception.  If you need help understanding this or other aspects of your federal benefits, see a professional federal benefits consultant.

This article was originally posted on