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Confusion continues over TERA, VSP application approvals

Mar. 20, 2014 - 06:00AM   |  
Cox interview MWM 20131231
The Air Force's personnel chief, Lt. Gen. Sam Cox, said Friday the delay in processing applications for voluntary separations and 15-year retirements would last days, not weeks or months. By Saturday, an Air Force press release said leaders had decided to end the pause. (Mike Morones/Air Force)
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Despite an announcement Saturday that the Air Force had decided to resume processing applications for voluntary separations and 15-year retirements after a “strategic pause,” airmen are still being told that processing is on hold, an airman told Air Force Times on Thursday.

The airman asked not to be named out of concern he would face retaliation.

In an emailed response to Air Force Times on Wednesday, Air Force spokeswoman Rose Richeson said the Air Force Personnel Center “will begin adjudicating applications using updated guidance and additional authorities received from Headquarters Air Force” this week. Air Force officials did not respond to questions about what day the processing has or will resume. Read the full text of the Air Force response here.

The Air Force Personnel Center on March 4 told major commands that Temporary Early Retirement Authority and voluntary separation pay application processing had been delayed pending a review, according to a memo obtained by Air Force Times. Eight days later, the Air Force released a public announcement, calling the delay a “strategic pause” to evaluate the applications received to date and the needs of the service based on future plans included in the 2015 budget request released last month.

The Air Force’s personnel chief, Lt. Gen. Sam Cox, said Friday the delay would last days, not weeks or months. By Saturday, an Air Force press release said leaders had decided to end the pause.

“After providing senior leadership a chance to evaluate the programs and assess our early progress, we are ready to resume immediate processing of voluntary applications in most categories and begin notifying Airmen of their status,” said Cox, deputy chief of staff for manpower, personnel and services. The announcement said the Air Force was awaiting approval authority for waivers of requirements such as active-duty service commitments, time in grade or years of commissioned service.

Cox told Air Force Times the Air Force has so far received a little more than 10,000 applications for early retirement, voluntary separation or other voluntary programs. Roughly half of those applications are ineligible, he said. Some may not have enough years of service to qualify for TERA, for example, or may be in career fields that are already undermanned and would be further weakened if their separation or retirement was approved, Cox said. Those airmen also will not be involuntarily separated, he said.

The Air Force says it must cut up to 25,000 airmen over five years to deal with across-the-board budget cuts. Internal documents from January show that the Air Force identified 23,263 airmen who are in overmanned career fields and must be cut, although the Air Force has since dropped the number of planned cuts for enlisted security forces airmen by roughly 1,500.

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