Australian Government - Department of Defence - Department of Veteran's Affairs

Breaks in service/Rejoining ADF

Breaks in Service

A break in service, where you cease to be an employee of the ADF for a period of time and then resume active service, will impact on the DHOAS eligibility and entitlement of both Permanent and Reserve members. The impact will depend on the length of the break.

Key impacts of service breaks are:

Qualifying Period : A break in service of one year or more, or period of complete discharge from the ADF, will break your continuity of service during the DHOAS qualifying period and you will need to restart this qualifying period of service.

Accruing service credit : A break in service after the qualifying period will pause your accrual of DHOAS entitlement for the duration of the break. If you rejoin after a break of two years or more, your service credit may be affected.

Separation conditions : As a separated member, you have access to only one subsidy certificate, which has to be accessed within two years. If you have not completed 20 years of effective service at the time you separate, you will receive your subsidy at the tier 1 level.

Reservists and breaks in service

Reservists particularly need to be alert to inadvertent breaks if they have not completed effective Reserve service within a financial year. In this case, they will be deemed to be separated.

Permanent members on leave without pay

Please note that for the purposes of DHOAS, members of the Permanent Force who take leave without pay and remain employees of the ADF are not defined as “separated members”.

Whereas they cannot accrue entitlement while they are on leave, they can continue to receive their subsidy payments at their eligible tier level and can access additional subsidy certificates.

Exemption from effective service

You may be able to apply for an exemption from effective service requirements for the purposes of DHOAS. This means you would avoid the impacts of taking a break in service.


Rejoining the ADF

If you have a break in service of two years or more and then you rejoin the Reserves, or you have a break of five years or more then you rejoin either the Permanent Force or Reserves, you will be subject to DHOAS rejoining provisions. This can reduce or cancel your DHOAS eligibility and entitlement.

Since the DHOAS Act was amended in July 2009, members who take a break in service from the ADF and then rejoin are assessed as rejoining members. The table below shows the impact of taking a break of two years or more and returning to active service in the Reserves, or taking a break of five years or more and rejoining the Permanent Force. 

Return to which service? Length of break Pre-service contributes to qualifying period

Pre-service contributes to  service credit 

Lose eligibility and entitlement
Permanent 5 years exactly, or less Yes Yes No
Reserves Under 2 years Yes Yes No
Reserves Between 2 to 5 years Yes No Yes - you need to accrue service credit before you can receive subsidy.
Either Permanent or Reserves Over 5 years No No Yes – you must restart qualifying period and accrue service credit before you can receive subsidy.


Details of rejoining impacts

The impact on your DHOAS eligibility and entitlement will depend on the length of your break in service, and whether you rejoin as a Permanent member or Reservist, as follows:

  • If you return as a Permanent member after a break of exactly five years or less, your previous service will count towards DHOAS eligibility and entitlement. This means your total years of service in the ADF will count towards your four year qualifying period of service as well as accrued entitlement to DHOAS.
  • If you return as a Reservist after a break of less than two years, all of your previous service will count towards your qualifying period and accrued entitlement to DHOAS.
  • If you return as a Reservist after a break of two years or more, but five years or less, your previous service will count towards your DHOAS qualifying period and tier level, but not towards your accrued entitlement period. This means you will not have to complete the eight year qualifying period, and all of your effective years of service will count towards your eligible tier level. However, your service prior to the break will not count towards your accrued entitlement period. The period of time that you're entitled to DHOAS will be based on the years of effective service you have completed since rejoining the ADF.
  • If you return to the ADF after a break of more than five years, either as a Permanent or Reserve member, your previous service will not count towards either eligibility or entitlement. You will need to serve the qualifying period again (four years for a Permanent member or eight years for a Reservist), and then complete enough effective service to accrue entitlement to the DHOAS.

Please note that warlike service completed prior to a break of any length will be recognised for the purposes of the DHOAS warlike service bonus, which contributes to your accrued entitlement.


Be cautious! Impact on subsidy payments

It is very important that you understand the full implications of how the rejoining provisions might affect your DHOAS benefits if you are currently receiving subsidy payments, based on an assessment made before amendments to the rejoining provisions were made in 2009.

This includes those members returning from a recent break as well as those with breaks in the past and who applied for DHOAS prior to the rejoining provisions took effect in 2009. You are advised to contact DHOAS to discuss your plans before you make any changes to your current DHOAS home loan.

If you need to apply for a new subsidy certificate to restart subsidy payments, the rejoining provisions may take effect on your DHOAS entitlement. This could result in a reduction or cancellation of your subsidy entitlements, and/or shorten the length of your entitlement.

You may need to determine if it is better in your circumstances to continue receiving your current DHOAS subsidy (on your existing eligible home loan) than it is to make changes and need to reapply for DHOAS, possibly impacting on your future entitlement.

Reserve members particularly need to be aware of what constitutes effective Reserve service, to ensure they do not inadvertently take a break in service and become a rejoining member.