Military Breaks in Service
Relief associations are required under state and federal law to provide service credit to members who are absent from firefighting service due to military service. Members who are absent from the relief association due to a military break in service are treated for pension purposes as though they were active. This is true regardless of whether the member voluntarily enlisted or was called upon as a member of the National Guard.
The service credit provided under state and federal law is subject to certain limitations and restrictions. To be eligible for the service credit, the member must provide notice to the fire department that he or she is leaving to provide military service, unless it is not feasible to provide that notice due to the emergency nature of the situation. It is recommended that both written and verbal notice be provided. The member must also return to firefighting service with coverage by the same relief association upon discharge and must be honorably discharged. Upon reemployment, members are not required to remain in active status for any minimum length of time.
Military service credit is generally capped at five years, although there are exceptions for many active duty periods. For example, operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom are not counted against the five-year limit. The five-year limit is a cumulative limit, per employer. So, if a member of a relief association was absent to provide military service for three years, resumed active service with the fire department and then was absent for another three years, the member generally would only receive five years of active service credit for the military break.
Published last in the April 2019 Pension Newsletter