Involuntary Separations in the Army: What You Should Know

There are circumstances when separation from the Army is necessary. In many cases, separation is voluntary, but there are also situations of involuntary separation too. We have noticed a large amount of involuntary separations as troops are brought home from Iraq and Afghanistan. Involuntary separation can be from certain issues such as:

  • Failure to achieve promotion.

  • Disciplinary issue.

  • Health issues.

  • Family issues

  • Etc….

In the majority of cases, separation from the Army comes with an honorable discharge and veterans benefits. If the involuntary discharge was for disciplinary reasons, some, or all the veterans benefits could be withheld.

QSP (Qualitative Service Program)

This process has been adopted by the Army to identify NCOs for involuntary separation in order to retain NCOs who have the most to offer. There are 3 categories of QSP used to identify NCOs for separation:

  • Qualitative Management Program (QMP) – This is based on performance, conduct and potential for advancement.

  • Over Strength (OS-QSP) – This identifies those NCOs who are in an MOS that has over strength and needs to be “weaned down”.

  • Promotion Stagnation (PS-QSP) – This identifies NCOs who are in an MOS that is not currently promoting at certain levels.

Pay Eligibility

There are 2 types of separation pay that a service member is entitled to if they are eligible. There are other options if a Soldier is being separated with a disability. The 2 types are full pay and half pay. To be eligible for either one, the Soldier must have served on active duty 6 years but less than 20 years. To qualify for full separation pay, the Soldier must agree to serve in a Reserve component for 3 years following his/her release from duty. For full pay, a service member must have an honorable discharge, and for half pay, they must have either an honorable or a general discharge.

To estimate a Soldier’s separation pay, they would just take 10% of their annual base pay multiplied by the number of years served. 20-25% will be withheld for taxes.

If Over 15 Years

If a Soldier has over 15 years of service, but less than 20 years and they are being involuntary separated, they may be able to retire under the TERA rules. The TERA (Temporary Early Retirement Authority) benefit is substantially better than the lump sum separation pay. The Soldier would have to apply for it, and it is given on a case by case basis.

Deployment Involuntary Separation

The Army has determined it to be more cost effective that if a unit is deploying, any Soldiers who have 6 months or less before their ETS date and choose not to reenlist or extend their Army service will be involuntarily separated.

Officer Involuntary Separation Benefits

If an officer is not selected for promotion twice, the Army’s position is involuntary separation. If this happens, they are entitled to certain benefits. These include:

  • Officers along with their family members are given one time preference in hiring for prevailing wage NAF positions.

  • Health care will be provided for officers and their eligible dependents for 120 days past separation if the officer was on active duty 6+ years. If under 6 years, the benefit will be good for 60 days.

  • The officer and their eligible family members can use the commissary and post exchange for 2 years after separation.

These are just a few of the benefits officers can receive if they are involuntarily separated from the Army.

Final Thoughts

While being told you are going to be involuntarily separated from the Army may seem like the end of the world, it doesn’t have to be. As someone once told me: when one door closes, another door opens.

The experience you gained from the time you spent in the Army can lead to very good civilian careers. You will most likely receive a lump sum payment that can help you survive until you find the career in civilian life that suits you.

If you, or someone you know received involuntary separation, please tell us how it went, and how it is now.

It isn’t the end, it is just the start of better things to come.

chuck holmes

Chuck Holmes
Former Army Major (resigned)

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