WASHINGTON — The Defense Department has launched a comparison calculator for eligible service members to analyze their estimated retirement benefits under the legacy system and the new Blended Retirement System.
The tool walks members through five screens, allowing users to adjust 12 data fields and compare benefit scenarios under both systems, Air Force Maj. Michael Odle, the Defense Department's assistant director of military compensation policy, explained.
The calculator is aimed at helping eligible members make the best decision about whether to remain in the current retirement plan, known as the High-3 System, or opt into the Blended Retirement System, which goes into effect Jan. 1, he said.
Eligible service members have until Dec. 31, 2018, to enroll in the new system. Military members who enter service on or after Jan. 1 will automatically be enrolled in the BRS.
The tool is meant to provide flexibility so members can compare estimated benefits under a variety of situations, said Steve Galing, the lead analyst in the Defense Military Personnel Policy Analytical Directorate.
Members are advised to consult with a financial professional, he said. "This is a personal decision," he added. "There are a lot of various resources available to our members, but ultimately it is up to the member."
The calculator is a comprehensive tool designed to take into account the unique financial situations of all who serve - active duty, National Guard members and reservists, Odle said, and it's designed to be used in conjunction with the mandatory BRS opt-in course.
This comparison calculator is the only comparison tool endorsed by DoD, he added.
The opt-in BRS course is available with a common access card through Joint Knowledge Online or through a service's learning management system. Military OneSource offers the course without a CAC. Military OneSource is hosting a Blended Retirement System question-and-answer session June 8 at 1 p.m. EDT on its Facebook page.
Additionally, an optional training course for the calculator will be available in the next weeks, Odle said.
Exploring options under calculator
An information box will pop up when users hover over underlined text in the calculator, providing further information on that topic, Odle explained. Further information is available through the links in the "more info" section under each page of the calculator.
After a user inputs all the information, the calculator will generate a results page. Service members are encouraged to go through the process several times to see how their projected benefits change under various situations, Odle said.
The comparison calculator does not take into account optional Thrift Savings Plan service member contributions under the legacy plan, and it does not account for optional monthly automatic Treasury Direct Government Savings Bonds purchased under the legacy retirement plan, he explained.
All currently serving members are grandfathered under their legacy retirement plans. Active component service members with fewer than 12 years of service as of Dec. 31, 2017, and reservists in a pay status with fewer than 4,320 retirement points as of Dec. 31, 2017, are covered under the existing system, but are eligible to opt into the Blended Retirement System.