Army does about-face on involuntary separation

After introduction of the Proudly Restoring Officers of Prior Enlistment Retirement (PROPER) Act legislation by U.S. Rep. Glenn Thompson (R-Penn.) and Tim Walz (D-Minn.), the U.S. Army made an abrupt reversal Friday regarding involuntary separation policy.

The new policy allows prior enlisted officers selected for involuntary separation to remain on active duty or retire at their current commissioned rank with full benefits.

Under current law, soldiers must serve a minimum of 20 years to become eligible for retirement. To retire with officer rank, at least eight of those years must be served with a commission. Prior to the policy reversal, many soldiers with 20 years total, but less than eight years as commissioned officers, were being involuntarily retired at their highest enlisted rank and forced into demotions that greatly reduced their retirement benefits.

“Under the criteria for officer separations, these soldiers should not have been considered,” Secretary of the Army John McHugh ssaid after the announcement. “This is an issue of fundamental fairness, and today, we have taken appropriate action. These soldiers have served their country honorably, both as enlisted soldiers and, now, as officers. We owe them nothing less. We appreciate that this oversight was brought to our attention and are glad we were able to take corrective action in the best interests of these soldiers.”

The policy reversal means the eight-year requirement for this elite group of officers has been waived.

“Secretary McHugh made the right decision, and we stand by that action,” Thompson said. “From the start, this was a flawed policy that devalued the service and sacrifice of soldiers who stepped up to lead as commissioned officers at a time when the armed forces needed them most. I thank Secretary McHugh for acting quickly to assure these service members are able to retire with the rank and benefits they have earned.”