Senator Johnny Isakson Secures Speedy Fix For Army Retirement Benefits Issue

Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chairman Johnny Isakson has secured a fix for an Army policy that was forcing officers to retire at a lower rank and forfeiting a good portion of retirement benefits. From a presser issued by the Senator’s office:

WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Senator Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., chairman of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, commended U.S. Army Secretary John McHugh for heeding Isakson’s call to reverse a policy that was forcing a significant number of Army officers to retire at a lower rank and lose significant retirement benefits – amounting to as much as $1,000 per month –for the rest of their lives.

“I am thrilled Secretary McHugh responded quickly to my concerns and is taking the steps necessary to rectify this situation. The men and women of our armed forces deserve to retire at the rank they have earned from their service to our nation,” said Isakson.

A significant group of Army captains and majors (former non-commissioned officers who were recruited for Officer Candidate School after September 11, 2001) were being forced to retire at their highest previous enlisted rank, instead of their rank as officers, as a result of the Army’s use of Enhanced-Selective Early Retirement Boards. In November, Isakson, along with Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., and a number of additional Senate colleagues, sent a letter to Sec. McHugh calling for a reversal of this policy.

In a letter this week responding to the senators’ concerns, Sec. McHugh wrote, “I heartily share your concern regarding those officers…who were informed they must retire in their previous enlisted grade. I am pleased to inform you that…I have waived the minimum requirement for those officers, allowing them to retire as officers without regard to the number of years they have in active commissioned service.”

The new policy will result in a significant increase in lifetime retirement benefits for the impacted soldiers, for some as much as $1,000 per month or more, or just over $1 million over a 40 year retirement in the case of a captain forced to retire as a sergeant first class.

The full text of Secretary McHugh’s letter can be viewed HERE.

Under the previous Army policy, a soldier was required to serve at least eight years of active service as a commissioned officer in order to retire as a commissioned officer. Soldiers who serve 20 years total, but less than eight years as commissioned officers are retired at their highest enlisted rank. During the “Grow the Army” effort, the Army dramatically increased the number of officers commissioned via its Officer Candidate School (OCS). The Army expanded to a post-9/11 peak of 570,000 soldiers in 2010 and is currently executing an aggressive end strength reduction designed to shrink the Army to 450,000 soldiers. Many of those OCS graduates are being forced to retire as the Army shrinks.

“These brave men and women answered the Army’s call to duty not just once, but twice, and I applaud Secretary McHugh’s swift action to correct this policy and ensure we fully honor the service and sacrifice of our nation’s heroes,” Sen. Murray said. “I’m grateful to my friend and colleague, Senator Isakson, for joining me in this fight.”

Senators Isakson and Murray were joined in sending their initial letter by U.S. Sens. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., Susan Collins, R-Maine, Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, Mike Johanns, R-N.E., Tim Johnson, D-S.D., Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., Mark Pryor, D-Ark., Bernard Sanders, D-Vt., and Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H.