How We Helped a Group of Army O-3s Get Their Pensions

In 2014, a group of Army officers were being forced into retirement under enlisted pay. Here's what we did to help them.
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[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.]

Update: The Officers Will Retain Their Pensions

A group of Army O-3s will finally be paid the pensions they’ve earned. However, their story is also a cautionary example of why you should be saving and investing for financial independence.

In December 2014, the Army announced dozens of officers keep their pensions.

The press release doesn’t specifically mention the role this site played in these events. It doesn’t mention the New York Times journalist or the Congressional inquiries or the Armed Services Committee discussions either. But that started here through e-mails with servicemembers and spouses just like many of you readers.

In early 2014 the Army conducted an “Officer Separation Board”. Several prior enlisted officers selected for separation sent me e-mails after they were informed that they’d have to revert to enlisted rank and lose over a third of their pensions. Others were being separated just short of their eligibility for the 15-year early retirement program. A few were already over 18 years of service but thought they were threatened with early retirement instead of a 20-year pension guaranteed by federal law.

After researching the situation and diving into the Title 10 U.S. Code that applies to most military retirements, I wrote the article that appears after the section heading “What Law Allows An Officer To Be Retired On Enlisted Pay?”

When that post went live, I heard from a few more officers. Along with their financial and career options, we also discussed writing letters to their elected representatives and going to the media.

Shortly after that, the media got interested: Dave Philipps of the NYT contacted me to interview the officers. I e-mailed several introductions and he wrote his article. Some of the officers had already written their elected representatives, and Dave’s article inspired a few more Congressional inquiries. A month later the Army announced that officers would keep their officer pensions and that others would be extended to retirement eligibility. Ironically Mr. Philipps’ follow-up article ran in the NYT’s “Politics” section.

It’s nice to see the Army (finally) do the right thing. I wonder, though, if it would have happened without those officers asking me to write about it. As nice as it is to see the good guys win one, I just wish we didn’t have to keep telling the authorities who their good guys are.

What follows is the original article that got the ball rolling.

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What law allows an officer to be retired on enlisted pay?

A reader writes:

I was selected by the latest reduction in force board with a mandatory retirement date when I will have seven years of service as an officer and 13 prior enlisted years. (I was commissioned from the rank of E-7.) According to the latest release message, officers who serve eight years can retire as an officer. I will be 12 months short of that requirement because my service is forcing me to retire. Not only I am not being afforded the chance to fulfill the eight years, but according to my base retirement services they will reduce me to my last enlisted grade and retire me at that pay scale.

After a follow up with my base retirement office it was confirmed that the pension will be based on E-7 pay, as I will have to resign my commission. My pension’s pay base will be calculated from the last 36 months at E-7 base pay, despite the fact that I actually earned O-3E pay during that time.

Our base lawyer won’t help. Can you refer me to a civilian lawyer?

As the reader said, my first suggestion in these situations is to contact a military lawyer at the base legal service office. If that lawyer isn’t a good fit (or doesn’t want to help) then ask for a referral to a civilian lawyer who has experience with military retirement litigation. The LSO usually keeps a list of lawyers who have agreed to work with military clients, and the staff just recommends the next name in rotation on that list.

This retirement doesn’t appear to comply with the law, and I’d like to ask you readers for help. Can you refer me to a federal law, a DoD policy, or a service instruction that allows this reduction in rank?

I’m surprised that the military would forcibly retire an officer at an enlisted pay grade. In this case, the officer was commissioned at a time when the service desperately needed experienced officers. Federal law Title 10 U.S. Code section 1370 says that an officer will “be retired in the highest grade in which he served on active duty satisfactorily, as determined by the Secretary of the military department concerned, for not less than six months.” Officers in the rank of O-4 and above have additional requirements for time in grade, but this officer is an O-3.

The federal law of Title 10 U.S. Code section 3911 goes on to say that “the Secretary of the Army may, upon the officer’s request, retire a regular or reserve commissioned officer of the Army who has at least 20 years of service computed under section 3926 of this title, at least 10 years of which have been active service as a commissioned officer.

That law was recently amended from 10 years to eight years. (Equivalent laws for the other services are in section 8323 and section 8911.) If Congress has amended the law to eight years for a drawdown, it seems reasonable for them to reduce it to seven years for special situations– like a tailored reduction in force at a particular rank. Another option would be for the service to continue this officer on active duty for another year to meet the eight-year minimum.

The service asked this officer to step up and make a commitment. It seems grossly unfair to change the rules before the servicemember has the opportunity to comply with all the terms of the commitment.

Let me make this clear: the officer is not just being reduced to the enlisted rank of E-7 on their retirement certificate. They’re also being forced to retire at the enlisted rank’s pay base.

The military’s High Three pension is based on the highest 36 months of pay received during at least 20 years of service. That’s in Title 10 U.S. Code section 1407(c):

“… the total amount of monthly basic pay to which the member was entitled for the 36 months (whether or not consecutive) out of all the months of active service of the member for which the monthly basic pay to which the member was entitled was the highest, divided by […] 36.”

This O-3 has been serving as an officer for over six years and has a solid 36 months of O-3E pay. (The O-3E pay scale gives a higher base pay than O-3 to reward over four years of previous enlisted service. Otherwise an E-7 commissioning to O-1 would actually take a pay cut.) However, this officer didn’t meet the minimum eight years of service to retire as an officer, so the day before they retired they’re considered to have resigned their commission and will retire as an E-7.

Then Title 10 U.S. Code section 1407(e) says:

Limitation for Enlisted Members Retiring With Less Than 30 Years’ Service.— In the case of a member who is retired under section 3914 or 8914 of this title or who is transferred to the Fleet Reserve or Fleet Marine Corps Reserve under section 6330 of this title, the member’s high-36 average shall be computed using only rates of basic pay applicable to months of active duty of the member as an enlisted member.”

In other words, the base retirement seems to be claiming that if the O-3 has to retire as an E-7, then all those years of officer pay never really happened. The servicemember’s pension is calculated from the highest three years of E-7 pay, not the O-3E pay that they’ve actually earned.

What’s the pension difference?

This officer’s retirement pay calculation is based on their pay earned during 2012 through 2014, but we can make a quick percentage estimate of the difference from the Defense Finance and Accounting Service military pay tables.

The actual amount of the pension can be calculated manually from the DoD Financial Management Regulation at this post or using the retirement calculator on your service’s website (the non-public site behind the login). I can’t link to those non-public service retirement calculators from here, and the outdated public DoD military compensation High-36 calculator still uses the 2010 pay tables to project an estimate. (It’s not even worth the effort.) The pay tables give the most accurate answer for readers who can’t login behind their service’s firewall.

From 2014 the pay tables, an O-3E with over 18 years of service in 2014 is paid $6726.00 per month. An E-7 with over 18 years of service is paid $4323.90/month. The complete High-Three pension calculations are more complicated than these two numbers, but this estimate is close enough: the officer is being told that they’re going to lose 35% of their pension.

That may be legal according to the narrow interpretation of two separate sections of federal law, but the whole process just seems wrong. If that’s the military’s policy (ethical or not) then it appears to lack the “covenant leadership” required from both sides of a commitment.

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What happens next?

This O-3’s service has decided that all those years of officer pay were just a “bonus” and not actually a retirement benefit. That’s according to their interpretation of the law, but this situation is not explicitly covered in the law. The fact is that the O-3 earned over three years of O-3 pay and should earn a pension based on that pay, no matter what rank is printed on their retirement certificate. A creative interpretation of the law should not be permitted to change the facts.

I’m not a lawyer, but I think that the law needs to be changed to address what happens if an officer is not permitted to reach the full length of service required to retire at that rank.

I’m not holding my breath for that change.

What can this O-3 do while the retirement process is grinding away?

First, they can apply for a waiver of eight years. They’re being forced to retire from their service so they can request that their service obtain Congressional approval to waive the federal law requiring a minimum of eight years. In other words, the DoD would need to ask Congress to approve a waiver for the officers subject to this issue. I don’t think the officer should count on that, but they have to request it.

Second, they can apply for continuation on active duty for the additional year needed to reach eight years of commissioned service. Their service wants them out of uniform to meet their manpower limit by the end of the next fiscal year, but in this situation, they’re actually punishing the officer with a seemingly arbitrary deadline. Simply extending the officer’s retirement date past the fiscal year deadline by only six months will give the officer a total of eight years of commissioned service and an O-3 retirement. Does DoD really need to hammer a servicemember’s pension by 35% just to meet an arbitrary personnel headcount deadline? More importantly, do they want to read about this on the front pages of or Military Times?

This isn’t just an isolated incident. This O-3 is being forced to leave active duty because the Army is drawing down 1100 captains. This O-3 just happens to have enough years of service to file for retirement, but the linked article includes a quote from the Army’s Vice Chief of Staff:

“Just think, if you’re a young captain… you’ve been in the army four to eight years, you could be a company commander who commanded in combat, and now somebody’s going to come up and say, ‘Hey, thanks for your service,’ ” he said. “It’s going to be a shock.”

The article continues on:

Most of the captains who receive notice this week will receive separation pay, while a few have accumulated enough time in the service to qualify for early retirement.

The Army hopes to move many into the Army Reserve ranks.

“We think about two-thirds of those who are selected would be great candidates to go into the Reserve component,” said [the] director of Army personnel management. “The Reserve component shortages are actually captains and midgrade NCOs, so it would improve readiness in the Reserve forces.”

Maybe a third option would be for this officer to apply (for yet another waiver) to transfer to the Reserve forces for a year. They’d no longer be part of the active-duty forces, so they would not count against fiscal year-end strength. When they’ve reached their eight years of commissioned service, they could apply to retire as an O-3, with an O-3 pension calculated on O-3E pay.

I’ve never heard of that happening. But then I’ve never heard of the military cutting a servicemember’s pension by 35% before either– so this third option sounds just as achievable, and a lot more equitable.

The Army is separating 1100 captains because of the drawdown. Nobody has collected the data on how many of these officers are facing pension cuts, but this is not an isolated incident– this is potentially a class-action lawsuit.

Again, let me ask the readers: Can you refer me to a federal law, a DoD policy, or a service instruction that would allow this officer to keep their high-three pension based on the O-3E pay that they’ve actually earned?

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  1. David L McDonald says

    I am 134 months into retirement, 3 boards of correction, held my commission for GREATER than 10 years and was retired as an enlisted retirement. My third board was completed DEC 2021. Finally they ruled in my favor. My story was the same for all 3 boards. Still no back pay as of 01Apr 2023. I have written to you in 2012 about this.


    Dave McDonald
    Captain in Name Only

  2. JM says

    Hoping to answer my questions regards to my MSC Service Agreement. It mentioned that upon acceptance, I will be required to serve at least eight years as an Officer & resignation prior to completion maybe be accepted or rejected. Checking if I will be able to retire as an officer if I fulfill the 8 years? (currently has 19 year enlisted & 7 year commissioned). Do I need to submit a request to resign my commissioned if I fulfill my 8 years?

    If not, then this route requires submission of a request to resign my commission & revert to enlisted in order to retire early as enlisted. If that happens, what will be the high-3 retirement calculation for this situation? Is my high 3 will be my highest basic pay for the last 3 years which is as O-3E? & since I did not complete the 10 years, is my retired ID card will be my last rank as enlisted (E-6) receiving O3E retirement pay?

    Have a great day & thank you in advance!

    • Ryan Guina says

      JM, I’m not familiar with the MSC Service Agreement. My understanding is that if you resign your commission, you will revert to enlisted status and your ID card and retirement pay will be based on your high 36 months of enlisted service.

      This is a situation that requires double- and triple-checking the regulations before taking action. I recommend working directly with your JAG and your Human Resources or Personnel office before taking any action – and them I recommend getting the recommendation in writing with a reference to the specific regulations. Otherwise, you run the risk of making a change to your military status that can have a massive impact on your retirement pay. Start asking those questions now and see what you need to do in order to retire as a commissioned officer. This will provide you with a substantially larger monthly retirement check.

      Best wishes!

  3. Cameron says


    Just curious if you know of any changes. I am currently a new Commissioned LDO. I am thinking about getting out at 20 years of service. That would only put my time as a Commissioned Officer at 6 years. With high three I would still revert back to E-7 pay for retirement? Any information would be great, Thank you.

    • Ryan Guina says

      Cameron, based on what I’ve seen in the regs. You still need to have 10 years of active duty service to retire as an officer. This has been waived down to eight years of service at times, but given current retention issues, I don’t see any time in service waivers happening in the near future. As always, things can change in the future. For now, I would get clarification in writing from your branch of service, then continue to monitor the situation to see if things change when you get closer to the 20 year mark. Best wishes!

  4. Jason Canonigo says

    My name is Jason (former Navy O3/LT). I reverted back to enlisted in MAR 2022 due to promotion and expect to retire OCT 2024. I’m currently active now with a total of about 17.5 years and was active officer for almost 13 years. Based on the article and comments, I should go to my JAG and, if needed, make a congressional inquiry. Do you have any other advice or can you offer other assistance? I appreciate any consideration.

    • Patrick says


      This might help, but it is Coast Guard Policy which I am assuming is backed by US Code Title 10. You need to find the code and or the comparable Navy Reg. You are looking for 3.K.7

      Enlisted members who have previously served as a commissioned officer in the Coast Guard or another service, may request to retire in the highest officer grade satisfactorily held. An enlisted member may request to retire in a previously held officer grade by submitting a memo, with supporting documents, to Commander (CG PSC-EPM) at least six months before their approved retirement date. Upon receipt of such a request, Commander (CG PSC-EPM) will review the memo and consult with Commander (CG PSC-OPM). If the member is not approved to retire in the requested officer grade, Commander (CG PSC-EPM) will convene a highest grade held determination board in accordance with Section 3.K.9 of this Instruction. The member waives their right to retire in the requested officer grade if the request is not received at least sixty days before the member retires.

      Hope this helps.

  5. Chris says

    This was a devastating time period for me, as I got passed over for MAJ (a 62% promotion rate). I was lost for awhile, and thankfully I had loved ones strong enough to be involved in my life and bring me back around. The Army came back around, too. I got out and took a position in the reserves as a stop-gap. Between that and taking unemployment for the first time in my life, I managed for 15 months, found a job in Dallas for 4 months, and finally rejoined active duty in AGR capacity. That was almost 5 years ago. Now, my packet is in for promotion to LTC and despite my insecurities, my packet should be pretty competitive. If I get picked up, I’m 5 years from retirement at age 44. I’ve also invested heavily throughout my career, and am on track to have ~$1.2MM invested by retirement without further market gains.

    As I reflect back on that time, I recognize that the needs of the Army will always take precedence, but wow… Watching the Army tell deployed friends that their career was over, but they should still finish their combat tour was unbelievable. Mission first, people always?! Taking care of people?!

    My whole outlook on fighting for my evaluations, feeling like the Army had my back, and so on completely changed. I’m proud of my service. I’m glad to have experienced the honor of a higher calling. I grew through the incredible challenges and beat downs I’ve endured. I’m glad I’m nearing the end of it, and I’ll be happy to be financially independent and able to experience the remainder of my life on my own terms.

    • Doug Nordman says

      Thanks for sharing your experience, Chris– I’m glad to see your financial independence is on track!

      At the very least, the Army could have called this entire process the “Officer Retention Board” and focused its results on who made the list to stay on active duty. Then there could have been much better counseling and assistance for those who were not retained.

  6. 1LT Parker says

    I need your help!

    We all know that the Army is downsizing and using any means available to include promotion boards. Officers are being hit hardest. I am an active duty Army Officer with prior enlisted time. After not making the promotion list for the second time, I received my Mandatory Retirement Notification from HRC with a Mandatory Retirement Date (MRD) of 31 Dec 15.

    Like those Captains and Majors that were boarded against their peers in a reduction in force board I was boarded against my peers in a promotion board. I feel I am not very marketable against many peers and an easy target because of the following.

    I will be 21 days shy of my 23rd year of Active Army Service on my MRD. 19 Enlisted with the highest grade of Staff Sergeant (E-6) and almost 4 years as an Officer. Let me briefly explain. I got commissioned through a recruiting program called the Army Enlisted Commissioning Program (AECP). I applied at 14 years of service when I was an E-6. I was notified of acceptance but placed on a Deferment Status because of a priority Military Transition Team (MiTT) assignment that I would not be released from. At 15 years of service, I deployed on that MiTT assignment. I returned, 16 years enlisted service, and on a conditional acceptance, I still had 2 classes to complete before I could start the last 2 years of the BSN Nursing School I had chosen. At 17 years of service I finally started Nursing School (2 years), this takes me to 19 years of service. Upon graduating and passing the National Nursing Board Test, I commissioned in the Army Nurse Corps. At almost 46 years old with this many years of service, I feel may be some of the reason for me being a non-select. I do not feel I have longevity left as a soldier, and the board probably recognized that also.

    Unfortunately, US Code, Title 10 states (summarized) that to retire as an Officer the Officer must have at least 10 years of Commission Officer Time. The 10 years is allowed to be reduced by the Secretary of the Army to no less than 8 years, which has been done. It also states that promotion non-select for the second time be retired/separated within months of the board president approval of the list. If they do not meet the required Officer Service time, and eligible, they can retire at their highest enlisted rank. I am almost convinced that this US Code law was written during a period that the US was not engaged in major conflicts.

    Like the others, this is a slap in the face. The concern is how much it affects my retirement pay. I have dedicated myself to the Army and our Country. I stepped up when the Army was heavily recruiting Army Nurses. Unfortunately, this led me to not continue my enlisted career and pursuit of promotion within the enlisted rank (By this time I knew I was a career soldier). I have deployed in time of war. I have been attacked by the enemy. The sacrifices I have made especially abandoning my family for 3 separate deployments. I was in Afghanistan with the initial wave of Army troops and Iraq with the initial wave as well. Initial wave equals nothing very established; a true war time soldier (MRE’s and no baths for days sometimes up to 3 weeks). I have already mentioned the MiTT deployment for which I was embedded along with 11 other soldiers (12 man MiTT) into and Iraqi force (Battalion level in my case) with the priority mission being to train them as the US military was gearing up for transfer of the war mission with hope of an established and functioning force and government. This is what I get. Disheartening!
    I ask for your help in any way you may know.

    Much appreciated, Rodney

    • Doug Nordman says

      Rodney, you’ve certainly researched the issue (thank you!). I see you’ve also found the other posts which discuss the parameters.

      It’s difficult to speculate on the reasons for non-promote. It could be age or errors/omissions in a record. It could also have little to do with you and everything to do with downsizing issues and end strength requirements.

      If you haven’t already done so, your first step should be to sit down with a JAG to discuss the federal law (with these blog comments) and whether you have any other options. You and the JAG could craft a waiver request to permit you to continue on active duty to reach eight years’ commissioned service due to the critical skills you’re providing in your billet. The point of the request is to force HRC to issue a formal letter response to your waiver request, not to let them discourage you from submitting the request. You want a written response, not just a verbal “We can’t do that”.

      You could also contact your elected representatives, because several senators were involved with last year’s OSBs. That tactic might not be popular with HRC or your chain of command, but again you have nothing to lose from starting a Congressional inquiry. Regardless of when or why the “10 years commissioned service” law was passed, only Congress can change it.

      I’m not going to hold out false hope. Even if your commission could somehow be backdated to your initial AECP acceptance, you’d still have less than 10 years of commissioned service. Perhaps the best you could hope for would be that your situation calls attention to the need to change the law.

      Even if you’re forced into retirement at an enlisted rank, the military may feel that you’ll eventually be “made whole” at the 30-year point. You and the JAG should take a look at 10 U.S. Code § 3964. Here’s the text:
      Higher grade after 30 years of service: warrant officers and enlisted members
      (a) Each retired member of the Army covered by subsection (b) who is retired with less than 30 years of active service is entitled, when his active service plus his service on the retired list totals 30 years, to be advanced on the retired list to the highest grade in which he served on active duty satisfactorily (or, in the case of a member of the National Guard, in which he served on full-time duty satisfactorily), as determined by the Secretary of the Army.

      I’m not a lawyer, and I don’t understand whether Section 3964 means that your retirement pay is also recomputed. Your JAG may be able to find the applicable rule in the DoD Financial Management Regulation manual for military retirements:
      Table 1-2 on page 1-33 lists the rules for mandatory retirements, and Rule 6 probably applies to your situation. It doesn’t advise whether your retirement pay is also recomputed when you reach the 30-year point. However section 090401 on page 9-5 says:
      Reduction In Pay Due To Advancement
      There is no absolute requirement that a member of the Armed Forces be advanced on the
      retired list. If advancement and recomputation results in a reduction of retired pay for the member
      and is based solely on administrative determination, then, prior to the advancement, the member
      should be consulted by the military service and advised that the member’s retired pay would be
      reduced if advanced.
      A. Enlisted Member. If an enlisted member is, in fact, advanced on the retired
      list, then retired pay must be recomputed, even though a reduction of retired pay would result.

      To my unqualified interpretation of the FMR, it seems pretty clear that at the 30-year point you could apply to be advanced to O-2 on the retired list– and then you could apply to have your pension recalculated at the O-2 pay scale instead of the E-6 pay scale.

      Your former High-Three pay base derived from E-6>22 ($3,724.20) would be switched for a High-Three pay base of O-2E>2 ($5,418.00). Keep in mind that those columns are just the starting points and not the actual dollar amounts. You’d have to calculate the average of the highest 36 months of pay at those ranks. DFAS can help you with the calculation.

      Finally, Section 090302 on page 9-4 says you’ll also need an Army determination that you served satisfactorily in your O-2 paygrade. That appears to be handled by an Army Grade Determination Review Board, and it’s up to you and the JAG to ensure that happens during the next few months. You definitely want to get this done while you’re on active duty, because it’ll take months to make it happen after you’re retired.

      I know this doesn’t make the situation right, but I hope it helps. Please let me know how it turns out.

    • Doug Nordman says

      Technically, anyone at the end of their enlistment contract can be turned down for re-enlistment. Officers can also be separated for failing to attain promotion or qualification requirements. And as we’ve seen during the drawdown, anyone with less than 18 years of service can be separated as part of a reduction in force.

      However once a servicemember reaches 18 years of service they’re protected by federal law to remain on active duty until they’re eligible to apply for retirement.

      In the case you’re asking about, that servicemember would apply for retirement.

  7. Dave says

    I’m guessing a rogue action/assignment officer put it out there despite the fact it is classified FOUO. I have no issues with the rest of the brief except protecting the identities of the four folks on page 4.

  8. Dave says

    The brief keeps disappearing from Army sites because it contains personal information (names, DA photos etc.) of those affected and the brief was never intended to be leaked. The stats/information are useful for understanding how the process occurred, but you may want to consider redacting the brief to safeguard the privacy of fellow service members.

    Good work advocating for those other folks. Glad to see they will will receive the benefits and retirement compensation they are entitled to.

    • Doug Nordman says

      Dave, I’d be happy to replace this brief with a better version. When the Army posts a brief that’s free of personal information, math errors, and grammar errors, then I’ll update this edition. If they’re just trying to keep quashing the current version then I think they could make better use of their time & effort.

      The current brief (with all of its flaws) offers valuable insights into the thought process of the action officers and supervisors who prepared it. These are presumably the same people who thought it was appropriate to force officers to retire on an enlisted pension even when the federal law states that it only applies for voluntary retirements.

      If those HRC procedures include preparing briefs that flout personal information while “never intending for it to be leaked” then maybe the spotlight on these practices can produce behavioral change at HRC as well.

  9. Rob @ The Military Financial Planner says

    Nords, I know you’re too humble to take enough credit here, but you done good. You deserve a chance to take a victory lap. Thanks for the mention, but you’re the one that got things noticed.

  10. Michael says

    I would like to address a part of the law that everyone else seems to have missed. The affected officers are being told that they have to retire at their highest enlisted grade because they are not eligible to retire as officers under Title 10 Section 3911. In Title 10 Section 638a (the law authorizing early retirements) it states:

    (C)Officers, other than those described in subparagraphs (A) and (B), holding a regular grade below the grade of colonel, or in the case of the Navy, captain, WHO ARE ELIGIBLE FOR RETIREMENT UNDER SECTION 3911, 6323, or 8911 of this title, or who after two additional years or less of active service would be eligible for retirement under one of those sections and whose names are not on a list of officers recommended for promotion.

    As you can see in order to be selected by the Early Retirement Board you have to be eligible to retire under 3911. Or are with in two years of becoming eligible, which all the officers selected by this board are. The Army needs to allow these officers the time to complete their eligibility NOT be retired as enlisted.

  11. CPT or SFC says

    I am affected by this as well and there is nothing I could find that says if you are involuntary retired before 8 years as an officer you have to retire enlisted. Everyone keeps bringing up the 8 year law but it clearly says voluntary. Since there is nothing to use for our situation that is all they have to go by. Hopefully congress or the secretary of the army will correct this injustice, but unfortunately for me nothing seems to be happening in congress quickly. Maybe the President could just do an executive order.

    • Doug Nordman says

      Thanks for the comment, and that’s exactly the problem the Army needs to resolve.

      The Army’s legal distinction is that you’re being forced to separate, but you’re requesting retirement. Even though the request is being forced by the separation, it’s still a request made before reaching eight years of commissioned service. Legal, but not ethical.

      The presentation slides in the followup post ( say that this issue is “under review” by the Army. Some officers have been allowed to request an extension to reach their eight years of commissioned service, and others are pushing for a similar extension or waiver. Congress will only get involved through Congressional inquiry letters submitted by Army officers, and possibly by public testimony through one of the Armed Services Committees.

  12. Doug Nordman says

    Thanks, Bruce.

    I agree that federal law is being mis-applied to those who are eligible to retire, yet do not want to retire because of the huge financial penalty for reverting to an enlisted pension.

    I also hope the Army reviews their personnel numbers and does the right thing for those affected by this decision.

  13. Bruce says

    I am in this boat as well. I am a little shorter than he is. I am 47 days short of the requisite 8 years of commisioned service to retire as an officer. I am applying for a 60-day extension to my manditory retirement date. One thing that I did want to add is that those selected under this redution that are between 18 and 20 years of service are being allowed to continue on until they reach the 20 year mark. I believe that this is a huge injustice to the ones that fall into the category referenced in this discussion, merely because they are over the 20 year mark

  14. Bill Schmidt says

    Somenting else to ask for is a retroactive promotion to E-* and maybe E-9. If he had stayed enlisted he would now be an E-8 or E-9 by now.

  15. Doug Nordman says

    Great suggestion, Ryan! I’ve been e-mailed by another O-3E in this position who’s not eligible for retirement (not even TERA), and he says the Reserves/Guard are happy to have him.

  16. Ryan says

    This is a terrible situation. I don’t think this individual was singled out. Rather, it’s probably a perfect storm of bad circumstances. I would immediately start looking into a Active Guard or Reserve billet, with the hopes of being able to meet the minimum requirements for retirement. I’m sure it would be difficult to find such a billet. But it’s at least worth looking into to preserve the value of the officer retirement. In the mean time, I would try everything else I could to find a possible waiver or extension.

  17. Kate Horrell says

    I’m super-impressed that you were aware of this possibility, Rob. I’d never heard of it, and I study this stuff every single day. I agree that this is an absolutely unacceptable way to treat folks!

  18. Rob says

    This is EXACTLY the situation we were preparing ourselves for over the last few months. I’m prior enlisted and have 6 years as an officer. I’m retirement eligible but hoping for early retirement, so staying in the Army was the best option to make this happen. If they had forced me to retire now, I would have been looking at a HUGE pension reduction. Thankfully, the stars aligned and this didn’t happen. Good luck with your situation. It sounds criminal to me that the service can kick you out and bail on their promise to you.

    • Doug Nordman says

      Thanks, Rob. Like Kate, I’m curious what documents the reversion to enlisted rank if you were forced to retire before eight years. Can you refer me to an acknowledgment you signed when you were commissioned, or an instruction?

      I’m trying to help those who were forced to retire before reaching the eight-year minimum, and part of that help is checking the laws. I can understand reverting to an enlisted rank if the servicemember requested retirement before reaching eight years of commissioned service, but I’d like to know what the law says (if anything) about being forced to retire before reaching the minimum years of commissioned service.

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