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Generally, you are covered by FERS if you were first hired in a retirement covered position after December 31, 1983.


Special provisions for the early retirement of law enforcement officers and firefighters are based on a determination that these positions should be filled by young individuals capable of meeting the demands of occupations that are far more physically taxing than most positions in the Federal service.

The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) has given the Department of Defense (DoD) the authority to approve special retirement coverage for law enforcement officers and firefighters. Positions can be approved as rigorous or secondary.

Rigorous position primary duties are:

  1. Performing work directly connected with controlling and extinguishing fires; or
  2. Investigating, apprehending, or detaining individuals suspected or convicted of offenses against the criminal laws of the United States or protecting the personal safety of United States officials.

Approved rigorous positions include:

  • Firefighter
  • Lead Firefighter
  • Criminal Investigator

A secondary position is:

  1. In the law enforcement or firefighting field;
  2. In an organization having a law enforcement or firefighting mission; and
  3. Either:
    1. Supervisory — a position whose primary duties are those of a first-level supervisor of law enforcement officers or firefighters in rigorous positions; or

    2. Administrative — an executive, managerial, technical, semiprofessional, or professional position for which experience in a rigorous law enforcement or firefighting position, or equivalent experience outside the Federal government, is a mandatory prerequisite.

Approved secondary positions include:

  • Fire Protection Inspector
  • Fire Communications Operator
  • Supervisory Fire Protection Inspector
  • Supervisory Firefighter
  • Fire Chief
  • Supervisory Criminal Investigator

If you are in a position that has been approved as a rigorous position, you are covered under the special retirement provisions for law enforcement officers and firefighters.

If you are in a position that has been approved as a secondary position, you are covered under the special retirement provisions if:

  1. While covered under the special provisions, you move directly (without a break in service exceeding 3 days) from a rigorous position to a secondary position;
  2. You complete 3 years of service in a rigorous position prior to transfer to the secondary position; and
  3. You have been continuously employed (without a break in service exceeding 3 days) in a secondary position or positions since moving from a rigorous position.

When a new law enforcement officer or firefighter position is created, the activity can request approval from DoD for rigorous or secondary special retirement coverage.

If you are in a position that has not been approved for special retirement coverage and you feel it meets the requirements for coverage, you can submit a request for individual service credit determination to the Civilian Benefits Center.

OCHR Norfolk Operations Center
Attn: Civilian Benefits Center
Norfolk Naval Shipyard, Building 17
Portsmouth, VA 23709


Special retirement provisions offer stability to the air traffic controller profession and are an incentive to personnel who carry out highly stressful duties to stay in Federal service until a reasonable retirement age. OPM gave DoD the authority to approve special retirement coverage for air traffic controllers, and DoD further delegated the approval authority to the Department of the Navy.

An air traffic controller is a civilian employee in an air traffic controller facility or flight service station facility who is:

  1. Actively engaged in the separation and control of air traffic or providing pre-flight, in-flight, or airport advisory service to aircraft operators; or
  2. The immediate (first-level) supervisor of any employee described in #1 above; or

  3. The immediate (second-level) supervisor of any employee described in #2 above.

Although the air traffic controller definition covers employees and their first- and second-level supervisors, air traffic controller positions are not categorized as rigorous or secondary positions.

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