[January 2015 update: this inequity has been resolved. The Army O-3s affected by the 2014 Officer Separation Board will remain eligible for officer pensions instead of reverting to an enlisted pension. This happened because people spoke up and drew attention to the problem. If you have a similar issue, let us know how we can help.]
[December update: Congress is proposing the PROPER Act to allow officers commissioned from the ranks to retire with as little as four years of commissioned service. Two senators have also written the Secretary of the Army to extend affected officers on active duty until they reach eight years of commissioned service.]
[November update: a journalist asked to interview some of the officers affected by the OSB.
Last month the Army selected over 1100 captains for separation. Some of them were commissioned from the enlisted ranks and will have enough years of service to retire. Others are still a few months short of the eight years of commissioned service required to retire as an officer, so they’re not considered eligible for an officer’s pension. As it stands now, at retirement they’ll be reduced to their previous enlisted rank and receive an enlisted pension.
One officer told me that he had only seven years of commissioned service. Although he could retire, he was losing 35% of his pension. This doesn’t seem fair or ethical. Is this legal? What can he do?
The federal law in section 3911 of Title 10 U.S. Code says that an officer can retire as an officer only if they have at least eight years of commissioned service. If they retire with less than 30 years of total service, then section 1407(e) says that their pension is calculated from only their enlisted basic pay. The difference between federal law and the Officer Separation Board is that the officers have not requested retirement– they’re being forced to retire. They want to stay for at least eight years of commissioned service, and some of them want to stay longer than 20 years of service. If they’re being forced to retire, then why are their pensions being reduced as if they’ve asked to retire?
The separation board has been widely reported in the media. Unfortunately, the board results have been announced as a separation list, not as a retention list. Captains knew that they were under consideration and were notified if they had been selected, but the rest of the O-3s were left to wonder whether there would be another round of phone calls. Unlike most selection boards, the officers could not consult a public list to see whether their name was on it. Instead, they spent days, even weeks, wondering when they’d get the word. Even worse, there were persistent rumors that the separation board had been told to focus on officers who were eligible for retirement or in certain specialties. Others wondered whether there was racial or gender discrimination. Everyone seemed to know someone who was being separated, but nobody knew how the officers were selected.
Then last weekend, one of my readers e-mailed me a half-dozen PowerPoint slides: part of a brief that had been prepared last month by the Human Resources Command for the Chief of Staff of the Army. The slides addressed several key questions and would help a few of the officers who were being separated. The brief had been shown at this officer’s command, so it was not a hoax. However, I wanted to share the slides on the blog (spoiler: the links are in the next paragraph) and I e-mailed the reader to make sure that I had their permission.
The reader agreed that I could post the slides here (and asked to remain anonymous):
Army Officer Separation Board details HRC Brief to CSA 10 JUL 2014 – v140710 0730 v5 1 w hyperlinks (1) (That link downloads the PowerPoint slides.)
Then I saw a longer version of the brief mentioned on the RallyPoint forum. Here’s the link to that Google document of 31 backup slides from the Officer Separation Board. Shortly after that, I found the entire Officer Separation Board “brief” on Scribd. I sure hope it’s the entire presentation because it’s 85 slides long.
Just in case the online versions are removed from public view, I’ve uploaded the entire Officer Separation Brief as a PDF:
HRC-Brief-to-CSA-10-JUL-2014-v140710-0730-v5-1-w-hyperlinks-PDF (That link downloads the PDF.)
Here’s a few highlights:
- 71% of those being separated had specific derogatory or adverse information or negative evaluations. The board considered this in the context of the officer’s total service record.
- 101 captains will not have obtained eight years of commissioned service to retire as an officer.
- The Secretary of the Army may defer (for not more than 90 days) the retirement of an officer otherwise approved for early retirement in order to prevent a personal hardship to the officer or for other humanitarian reasons.
- 22 captains can request that the Secretary of the Army defer the retirement date from 1 Apr 15 to 30 June in order to reach eight years of commissioned service and retire as an officer
- 1188 captains were selected for separation (10,165 considered out of ~28,000 Army O-3s)
- 11.7% selection rate
- 14% (164) are eligible for retirement (although not all can retire as an officer)
- 4% (52) have 18-20 years and are in sanctuary for retirement under Title 10 U.S. Code
- 7% (77) are eligible for early retirement (15-18 years)
- 75% (897) have less than 15 years of service and are eligible for involuntary separation pay
(Note: those four numbers add up to 1190, not 1188.)
- 310 could potentially revert to enlisted rank (“review dependent“)
- 107 already pending separation; 83 have separated
- Available captain population reduced from 92% to 86%
- OSB results in 9936 junior captains for 11,018 requirements (90%)
Here’s the Army’s assessment on the impact to readiness:
Impact: Minimal- losses mitigated by precision distribution
The “good” news is that the 22 officers who are within 90 days of eight years’ commissioned service will be allowed to defer long enough to reach eight years and retire as an officer. It looks like HRC is at least “reviewing” another 288 cases to see what can be done. It seems reasonable to continue 288 captains (out of nearly 27,000 total) on active duty until they reach eight years of commissioned service. The Army will still reach its required end strength, or DoD and Congress will certainly understand the reason for the extension. I’m sure that at least one Congressional inquiry letter is already on its way to Capitol Hill.
This is the Army’s chance to stop blindly following the law and to retire these 310 officers honorably on an officer’s pension– with the same commitment and dedication that they’ve shown the Army.
Another reader has told me that one of the 897 is just 167 days short of the 15 years needed to qualify for the Temporary Early Retirement Authority, but a 90-day deferment would not help him. He’s planning to leave active duty for the Army Reserve. It sounds like the Army Reserve is happy to have him. He’s still entitled to involuntary separation pay, but when he retires from the Reserves then that money will be recouped from his pension.
Nothing in the brief indicates how many of the 10,165 separation candidates are O-3Es (captains commissioned from the enlisted ranks), although at least 310 of the selected captains do not have enough commissioned service to retain their rank. There’s still no clear evidence that the board was targeting O-3s who are eligible for retirement. As far as I can tell, the Army has not released the official instructions that the Officer Separation Board members used to make their decisions. Even that letter may not mention retirement eligibility. Board members are usually directed to retain the best performers, not the ones who still need a few more years to reach retirement.
After the brief’s extensive statistical analysis (and more discussion on RallyPoint), there does not appear to be racial or gender bias in the selection of the officers being separated. Again this is unlikely to be confirmed, even if the Army releases the board instructions.
TheMilitaryWallet.com: Military Involuntary Separation Pay Rules & Eligibility
What Law Allows An Officer To Be Retired On Enlisted Pay?