As of January 2013, Congress authorized more categories to the 2008 National Defense Authorization Act, which originally applied only to reserve-component Soldiers serving in overseas contingency operations like Iraq and Afghanistan. The new categories mean more guard and reserve soldiers will now be eligible to receive retirement pay before 60, provided they meet certain criteria. Many soldiers have already taken advantage of the early-age retirement option.
The expanded early retirement criteria are undoubtedly linked to the military’s reduction in force plans. Selective early retirement is one way in which soldiers can be incentivized to leave the military ranks. In an interesting paper written for members of Congress, Andrew Feickert, a specialist in military ground forces, discusses the Army’s options for conducting its mandated restructuring.
In his summary statement, Feickert notes “ the Army can employ a variety of involuntary and voluntary drawdown tools authorized by Congress, such as Selective Early Retirement Boards (SERBs) and Reduction in Force (RIF). Voluntary tools that the Army might use include the Voluntary Retirement Incentive, the Voluntary Separation Incentive, Special Separation Bonuses, Temporary Early Retirement Authority, the Voluntary Early Release/Retirement Program, and Early Outs.”
The Pentagon plans a reduction in force of 67,100 soldiers from active and reserve Army units and the Army National Guard in the five years starting Oct. 1, as well as 15,200 from the active and reserve ranks of the Marine Corps as part of an effort to save $487 billion over a decade, according to the most recent budget sent to Congress. The Navy and Air Force would lose fewer people— 8,600 and 1,700 respectively –because of their role in a strategic shift toward the Asia-Pacific region and the Middle East.
New Categories Added for Early Retirement
The new categories for early retirement include reserve-component soldiers who are activated to respond to national emergencies such as natural disasters like hurricanes or earthquakes. Another category is for those in warrior transition units who were hurt while mobilized for such responses.
Soldiers can find out if they meet the new criteria by checking their mobilization orders or their DD-214 discharge document. Those documents need to have any one of the following Title 10 or Title 32 U.S. codes annotated: 12301(a), 12301(d), 12301(h), 12302, 12304, 12305 or 12306.
If you think you might be eligible, you can check with Human Resources Command for eligibility information. The HRC can be reached by calling 502-613-8950.
Soldiers will still need to wait until their 60th birthday before they are eligible for Tricare, according to Sheila Dorsey, Chief, Reserve Component Retirements. Other than that, they will receive the normal retirement benefits such as exchange and commissary benefits.
How the New Categories Work
Eligible soldiers can accrue reduced-age retirement as follows:
- During any fiscal year, soldiers can accrue 90 days of early retirement. Fewer days will not count or be carried over to the next fiscal year and more days past 90 will not count and will not be carried over to the next fiscal year. That 90-day period does not have to be contiguous. It could be the sum of more than one mobilization, so long as it meets the U.S. codes within that fiscal year.
- Another rule is that the 90 days can accumulate over fiscal years. For example, if a soldier gets 90 days credit this fiscal year, he or she would be able to retire 90 days before age 60. Then, if a soldier also gets 90 days credit next fiscal year, he or she would be able to retire at age 59.5, or 180 days before age 60.
The accumulative effect can continue for a number of years in 90-day blocks, with the only stipulation being that a soldier cannot retire before age 50.