Relief for Cause OER Information and Training Tips

In today’s post, I want to discuss the Relief for Cause OER.  Let me preface by telling you that I hope you never receive this type of evaluation report, or have to write one for one of your subordinates.  But, if you plan on making a career out of the Army, there’s a good chance that one of these two situations might happen to you at some time or another.   If either of these two events happen, it is in your best interest to EDUCATE yourself about the regulations and procedures concerning a Relief for Cause.

relief for cause oer
Relief for Cause OER

What is Relief for Cause?

According to AR 623-3, a “Relief for Cause” is defined as an early release of an officer from a specific duty or assignment directed by superior authority and based on a decision that the officer has failed in his or her performance of duty.”  In layman’s terms, it’s the process of formally getting fired from your job.

Please note that this isn’t very common in the Army.  Normally, you get a few “chances” to correct your behavior or performance.  Or, you get a “less than stellar” evaluation report.  During my 15 years, I only knew one person that actually received a “Relief for Cause” OER.  And I met plenty of people who weren’t very good at their job or they got “informally” fired.

Reasons for a Relief for Cause OER

In most cases, a Relief for Cause happens when a rater loses confidence in a subordinate’s ability to successfully perform her job due to misconduct, poor judgment, the subordinate’s inability to complete assigned duties, or for similar reasons.  When this happens, the rater has the authority to relieve the subordinate officer.

Some examples might include:

  • A death in a unit that could/should have been prevented
  • Losing weapons or sensitive items
  • Hazing
  • Lying
  • Stealing
  • Misconduct
  • You can also be relieved if your rated officer finds out about something you did in the past

Typically, the reason is determined by the rater or senior rater.  After reading the official regulations, I could not find any specific examples.

My Recommendations

Before you initiate a Relief for Cause for one of your subordinates, here are a few things you should consider:

1)      Wait 2-3 days until your emotions die down so you can make a logical decision about the issue

2)      Explore other courses of action to see if there is another viable solution with less “long-term” impact on the officer

3)      Consult with your Legal Team to find out your role, responsibility and obligation

4)      Sit down with the Soldier to hear their side of the story

5)      Initiate a 15-6 Investigation, if required, to look into the matter (talk with JAG first)

6)      Read AR 623-3 and DA PAM 623-3 to educate yourself on the process and regulations

Once you take these steps, you will be educated about the process and your courses of action.  At this point, trust your gut decision.

Appeal Process

You have the right to appeal the Relief for Cause OER, but the odds of winning are against you.  The best thing you can do is schedule a consultation with your S1 or local JAG Office.  Find out what your rights are and educate yourself on the regulations covering the appeals process (see below).  There are lots of different rules for the process, depending upon the rank of the officer.

You might also want to consider the time involved to appeal it, the evidence you have to back-up your opinion of the matter, how much longer you have in your career or obligation and the advice you get from JAG or a civilian attorney.

Final Thoughts

I’d like to close by saying the Relief for Cause OER is typically a “career ending” evaluation report for the rated officer. While it may be necessary at times, the rated officer should always do their due diligence and determine if there is another course of action that would remedy the situation. If nothing else, consult with JAG and put some serious thought into the matter before you choose this course of action.

If you have any questions I may be able to help you with on this complicated subject, just post them below and I will do my best to provide an answer.

References You Should Read

  • AR 623-3
  • DA PAM 623-3
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Chuck Holmes

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8 thoughts on “Relief for Cause OER Information and Training Tips”

  1. No one wants to give a Relief for Cause OER and no one wants to get them. But if you are a rater and you’ve done your job right, and you supervise someone who is incompetent, you should give them a bad OER. It’s up to you do to your job, do the counselings and give them a fair chance. But don’t just give them a marginal OER because you are scared to do a Relief for Cause OER. If you do that, you aren’t doing your job right.

  2. Katelyn Hensel

    A Relief For Cause OER seems like it is harsh, but not when viewing the causes behind an officer or soldier receiving one. A death in a unit that could have been prevented would be traumatizing in itself for the soldier, but there would have to be repercussions for the actions that cause it in the first place. With regards to losing weapons or sensitive items, that could be a cause for #1 as well because the weapons or sensitive items could be used against the unit. It seems people are cracking down on hazing across the country. From football teams to fraternities and sororities, bullying in the form of hazing is being eliminated and I couldn’t be happier to see it go.

  3. The Relief for Cause OER is certainly something I hope I never have to write or receive. It must be terrible to have to write a report ending someone’s career. It’s good to hear that it doesn’t happen very often, though – I’m sure officers use it only as a last resort, and explore all other options before writing one. As you say, it’s good to be educated, even about things you hope you’ll never come across!

    1. It doesn’t happen very often at all, Andrew. During my 15 years in the military, I only saw one person get a Relief for Cause OER. I’ve seen lots of people get fired from a job, but in most cases they just get a marginal evaluation and get moved to another job. To get a Relief for Cause OER, you really have to mess up or piss off someone high up in the ranks.

  4. Though I’ve never been in a situation where I witnessed or was otherwise involved in “Relief for Cause”, I have seen more than one soldier “informally” fired from a position. The examples you list are good, but of course there are so many more. Anything that could be considered “conduct unbecoming” of either an officer or an enlisted soldier can be used for cause in my experience.

    1. Most people who get fired get “informally” fired. This happens because the supervisor didn’t document things properly or do their job right. The problem with “informally” firing people is that you still keep them eligible for upward promotion and advancement. That means they can move on to a higher, more important job, and mess more things up. That always drives me crazy. If someone is bad, they should be counseled, given a chance, and if the behavior continues, fired formally.

  5. The relief for cause OER or NCOER is absolutely a career-ender, so no, they should never be entered into lightly. We had some major issues with some personnel across the brigade during our first deployment–taking people out of a career National Guard environment and suddenly plunging them into an active duty combat deployment has a way of revealing the weak links–from platoon leaders and platoon sergeants to company commanders and first sergeants. All of the ones I know of were shunted into a place where they couldn’t do any harm–a first sergeant who just wasn’t taking care of his unit was laterally transferred to master sergeant and sent to work on the battalion staff, for example, and a poorly-performing platoon leader was similarly kicked over to an assistant staff position. The ones I knew weren’t bad guys; they were just in over their heads in the positions they held.

    1. You’re right, spending time on Active Duty or Annual Training allows you to see people’s true colors, talents, and skills. In some cases, a Relief for Cause OER is necessary, but in many cases, you can just give the person a sub-par evaluation and move them to a different duty position.

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