Army enlisted grade reduction policy will hurt more Soldiers than it saves
Enlisted grade reduction option will levy harsher punishment in forced retirement
According to new Army policy, commanders may opt to reduce the grade at which retirement-eligible enlisted Soldiers retire when they are pending administrative discharge at an AdSep board. A new Army press release states that “The new directive gives Soldiers more options,” said Gerald Conway, Army G-1 human resources personnel policy integrator. What this policy really does is give commanders the ability to add more penalty to the involuntary separation. AdSep board members don’t like to separate Soldiers who have earned their retirement over 20 years of good service even if they have made a mistake. Commanders know this new policy will reduce a board’s reluctance to punish Soldier misconduct. This is because Ad Sep board members will no longer have to worry about wiping out 20 years of good service. As a result, Commanders will likely pursue more separation boards and boards will leverage this option simply because its available. The forced retirement of a military career won’t be considered punitive enough. This option will have an outsize impact on some Soldiers’ earnings. As an example, reduction in rank for an E-7 to E-6 equals approximately $143,640 of retirement pay over a 30-year period before taxes. Soldiers should get an administrative separation lawyer as soon as they suspect they are under investigation that could lead to an AdSep board.
Is enlisted grade reduction a favor or a punishment for Soldiers?
The Army press release dated September 30, 2021, said “Enlisted Soldiers who have completed 20 or more years of service but face a pending administrative separation for misconduct can now receive a reduction in rank before retirement.” This statement makes it sound like the Army is doing Soldiers a favor. “The new directive provides more options and removes the ‘all or nothing’ determination. A grade-reduced retirement, rather than an administrative discharge for misconduct, may be appropriate considering the nature of the misconduct versus the totality of a Soldier’s service and may also improve their post-military employment opportunities.”
Enlisted grade reduction policy will hurt more Soldiers than it saves
This policy may make the difference in the lives of a few Soldiers who otherwise may have been separated without being allowed to retire. However, its more likely to cause the Army to reduce the retirement pay of many more Soldiers than those who have had their retirements saved by this policy.
“Army Directive 2021-29 updates the service’s enlisted separation policy and provides leaders more flexibility when administering actions that impact a Soldier as they move beyond their career,” said Conway.
Prior to this announcement of this new policy, the Army used three options when separating Soldiers with more than 20 years of service for misconduct: Soldiers could be separated, they could have their separation suspended for up to 12 months, or the Army could retain these Soldiers and grant retirement at their current grade.
When should I get an administrative separation lawyer?
The press release rightly says “Before any involuntary reduction, a Soldier will be given written notice, afforded the right to consult with counsel, and the right to submit matters on their behalf, Conway said. Soldiers serving on active duty will have no fewer than 10 duty days to respond to the notice. All other Soldiers will be given no fewer than 30 calendar days to respond.” At this point retaining counsel is critical, but Soldiers should retain counsel much sooner to achieve a positive outcome. Soldiers should get an administrative separation lawyer when they suspect an investigation into alleged misconduct begins. This will allow Soldiers to mitigate the effects an investigation can have in prompting a separation board to begin with.
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