The Pentagon will allow some 120 officers forced into retirement to leave with full benefits, an about-face from a previous policy that would have seen them retire at their highest enlisted rank if they spent fewer than eight years as an officer.
The Enhanced Selective Early Retirement Board and Officer Separation Board policies forced certain service members to retire at the highest enlisted ranks they held for 36 months, rather than at their current pay grade. According to a Military Officers Association of America (MOAA) report, some service members would see a loss of over $1,000 a month in retired pay under the policy.
A bipartisan group of 15 lawmakers had pressured Secretary of the Army John McHugh into making the change, saying the policy essentially demoted the officers before kicking them out.
"Many are being retired at enlisted ranks they have not held in years," the lawmakers said in a November letter to McHugh. "This is particularly disturbing because had they ignored the Army’s call for officers most would have been promoted at least once more and been eligible to retire at a higher enlisted rank," they said.“To demote these soldiers in retirement is an injustice that devalues their service and will materially disadvantage them and their families for the rest of their lives."
McHugh obliged on Thursday.
"Once again, this is about doing what's right, and taking care of our men and women in uniform," he said. "We appreciate that this oversight was brought to our attention, and glad we were able to take corrective action in the best interests of these soldiers."
The Army also said 44 officers were improperly chosen for forced retirement and would be allowed to continue serving.
"Scaling back any pay or promotion our volunteer troops have earned is a disgrace to their service," Sen. David Vitter, R-La., a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said. "This reversal was months in the making, but the Army is finally making the right decision for our service members."
This year, the Army required 19,000 captains and majors to go through so-called early separation boards. Of those, the Army is scheduled to involuntarily retire 1,188 captains and 550 majors, according to The News Tribune.
The Army reached a post-9/11 peak of 570,000 troops in 2010, and is scheduled to go down to as few as 420,000 under defense budget cuts by 2019.