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15-year retirement option opens again

Sep. 2, 2013 - 06:00AM   |  
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The 15-year early retirement option again will be offered to certain categories of active and reserve soldiers who are selected for involuntary separation in fiscal 2014 because of promotion passovers or drawdown-related force management programs.

The 15-year retirement option, officially the Temporary Early Retirement Authority, was established by Army Secretary John McHugh last fall as the Army prepared to launch a series of retention screening boards for officers and senior noncommissioned officers of the Regular Army and Army Reserve.

Congress earlier authorized the military services to use TERA as a force management program through fiscal 2018, which ends Sept. 30, 2018.

The special program allows soldiers with at least 15 but less than 20 years of active service to receive the same benefits as those who retire with 20 or more years of service, except that their retirement pay is reduced accordingly.

Soldiers who fail to qualify for TERA but who have six to 15 years of active service at the time they are separated generally qualify for involuntary separation pay, provided they are not being forced out for cause, such as a court-martial conviction. The one-time payment is calculated by multiplying 10 percent of a soldier’s basic pay at the time of separation by years and partial years of active service.

During fiscal 2014, Qualitative Service Program reviews will be held in conjunction with senior NCO promotion boards for the Regular Army and Active Guard and Reserve (Army Reserve), and in the case of sergeants major, by the command sergeant major board.

The master sergeant promotion boards that convene in October will consider sergeants first class for QSP, while the sergeant first class boards that convene in January will consider select categories of staff sergeants for involuntary separation. The sergeant major QSP screenings will be conducted by the battalion and brigade command sergeant major boards that meet in December.

Officers with at least six but fewer than 20 years of service, generally qualify for TERA or involuntary separation pay when they receive a second passover for promotion to major or lieutenant colonel and are not picked up for selective continuation.

The Army has scheduled nearly 20 selective continuation boards in fiscal 2014 for active and reserve officers. Included are screenings for passed-over captains of the special branches and majors of the Army Competitive Category and special branches.

National Guard officers assigned to the Active Guard and Reserve under the provisions of federal law were not included in the early retirement option in the September 2012 McHugh directive establishing TERA as an Army force-shaping tool. A second directive issued by McHugh in June adds federalized National Guard Active Guard and Reserve officers to the eligible population.

Unlike previous drawdowns, when TERA was used as a voluntary early retirement incentive, eligibility for the current option is limited to officers and NCOs facing possible or actual involuntary separation because they were passed over for promotion or selected by a force-shaping board.

The first applicants for the discretionary drawdown tool have been Regular Army and Active Guard and Reserve (Army Reserve) soldiers selected for separation under the QSP, a retention screening for staff sergeants and above who are in overstrength specialties, or specialties in which promotions are stagnant.

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