This claim sometimes comes with the variation that the full pension can be obtained after serving only one term. This is completely false.
Members of Congress receive the exact same pension benefit of all other federal employees except for members of the military and federal judges, who are entitled to much more lucrative pensions.
Members of Congress receive 1.7 percent of their salary as a pension for each of their first 20 years they serve, and then one percent for each year thereafter. They pay into this pension program out of each paycheck. As with other federal employees, a pension vests after five years.
I am very grateful to have any kind of pension plan. I am not entitled to any pension for my 7.5 years as a criminal court judge for Knox County. When I served, state judges were vested only after serving eight years in office, so I missed out on a state pension by just a few months.
The pension for state judges is 2.5% per year, so I would have been much better off from a pension standpoint if I had remained a Tennessee state trial judge.
All federal employees, including me, should be very grateful for their pensions, as fewer than 20% in the private sector have any pension program at all other than Social Security or what they do privately on their own.