(UPDATE: Read about changes to the myPay site design here.)

Could some service members inadvertently make an irrevocable decision about the new Blended Retirement System because of the configuration of a Defense Department website?

It’s not all that likely, according to DoD officials who outlined the multistep process required for soldiers, sailors and airmen to opt into the BRS. But the layout of the myPay website, which is where members of those three branches go to make their BRS choice, has led to at least some confusion.

A soldier forwarded emails to Military Times that have been circulating through his organization, warning troops not to click a link on the myPay website that could force a BRS decision. That link sits above the link service members use to access their Leave and Earnings Statement, a commonly used feature on the myPay site.

It’s true that an accidental click would send service members into a series of steps that would, if completed, result in them enrolling in the BRS, said Andrew Corso, project lead for blended retirement and DoD’s assistant director of military compensation policy, retired and annuitant pay.

However, after clicking on that initial BRS link, “a service member must acknowledge no less than three times that he or she is aware and fully understands the decision to opt in is irrevocable and that he or she is opting into the BRS,” Corso said.

Information was not immediately available from Defense Finance and Accounting Service officials about whether the buttons will be moved, or whether they’ve received complaints. DoD has received “a small number” of questions about the placement of the links, Corso said, and officials have been in touch with DFAS on the issue.

TROUBLE SPOT?

Soldiers, sailors and airmen have until Dec. 31 to opt into BRS via myPay. Marines have the same deadline, but must use Marine Online to make their decision and must do so whether they are opting into BRS or staying in the current system; if members of the other services want to stay in the current system, they do nothing.

Only those who are eligible to make a decision will see these options in their myPay account.

Some confusion may stem from the first menu screen encountered after clicking the BRS link, which asks service members whether they’ve completed the mandatory BRS training. An affirmative response does not mean “yes” to BRS, it just allows the process to continue; a negative response sends the user to Joint Knowledge Online to take the training.

Among other instructions, the training “advises the member of the irrevocable nature of the decision,“ Corso said.

More than 1.6 million service members are eligible to opt into the BRS, which provides a monthly retirement check for those who stay for at least 20 years, but one that’s 20 percent less than what is received under the legacy system. However, BRS recipients receive up to 5 percent of the service member’s base pay via DoD match deposited into their Thrift Savings Plan, similar to a private-sector 401(k) company match, and are eligible for continuation pay.

STEP BY STEP

Corso notes that the BRS website has a variety of resources and information, including a video, “How to Opt Into BRS.” He laid out the specific opt-in process via myPay:

  • Click the link under “Pay Account” that says “Blended Retirement System Opt-In.”
  • On the next screen, the member acknowledges completion of mandatory BRS Opt-In Training. If it’s complete, click “Yes” to move on. If not, click “No” for a redirect to the online course.
  • The next screen reminds the user that the decision to opt in can’t be reversed.
  • The next screen allows the user to confirm their address and date of birth on file. The user must check a box to acknowledge the decision can’t be reversed, and then separately click a button to advance to the next screen. 
  • The next screen repeats that process: Review the address and date of birth, acknowledge the decision can’t be reversed, then click either “Yes” or “No.” to make the call.

A fifth screen confirms the opt-in decision, and DFAS emails confirmation of the transaction to the service member.