FACT CHECK: Do Members Of Congress Receive Full-Pay Retirement Benefits After Serving Just One Term?

Brad Sylvester | Fact Check Editor

An image shared on Facebook more than 32,000 times claims members of Congress receive full-pay retirement benefits after serving just one term.

Verdict: False

Members of Congress must serve at least five years to qualify for a pension. Under federal law, they do not receive pensions equal to full pay, according to the Congressional Research Service (CRS).

Fact Check:

The viral post makes the claim about the retirement benefits for members of Congress in an attempt to compare them to those of members of the U.S. military. It has been shared more than 32,000 times to date. (RELATED: Did Congress Only Work 111 Days In 2016?)

“No one has been able to explain to me why young men and women who serve in the U.S. Military for 20 years, risking their lives protecting freedom, and only get 50% of their base pay,” reads the post. “While politicians hold their political positions in the safe confines of the capital, protected by these same men and women, and receive full pay retirement after serving 1 term!”

However, members of the House and the Senate are not able to collect their full salaries as pensions when they retire, according to a CRS report updated in August 2019. The CRS report states, “By law, the starting amount of a Member’s retirement annuity may not exceed 80% of his or her final salary.”

“Members of Congress are eligible for a pension at the age of 62 if they have completed at least 5 years of service,” the report states. “Members are eligible for a pension at age 50 if they have completed 20 years of service, or at any age after completing 25 years of service. The amount of the pension depends on length of service (as measured in months) and the average of the highest three years of salary.”

Members of the House of Representatives serve two-year terms, and members of the Senate serve six-year terms. That means a member of the House would not be able to collect a pension after only one term, though a senator would, albeit not equal to full pay.

The post’s claim about military pensions appears to be outdated. Prior to 2018, service members received 50 percent of their final base pay after 20 years of service (or the average of the highest three years of base pay), Forbes reported. The current Blended Retirement System, which applies to those who joined on or after Jan. 1, 2018 and those who opted to change from the old system, affords service members pensions equivalent to 40 percent of their base pay after 20 years, according to The New York Times. They also have a Thrift Savings Plan, similar to a 401(K), in which the military matches contributions up to a certain percentage after two years of service, per the Department of Defense webpage on pensions.

The claim that members of Congress can collect full-pay retirement benefits after serving just one term has circulated online for nearly two decades, according to Snopes.

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Brad Sylvester

Fact Check Editor
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