Army Abandons Plan to Downgrade Benefits for Group of Retiring Captains

Law Firm Newswire



Tampa, FL (Law Firm Newswire) January 21, 2015 – Congressional resistance mounted against a cost-saving measure enacted as part of a shrinking Army force.

This summer, the Army began a drawdown of forces that will reduce the service to about 450,000, which is its smallest size since World War II. Unfortunately, the cost-saving measures scheduled to accompany the cut in forces had an unappealing consequence for a group of captains whose benefits were downgraded to sergeants’ benefits. 

In response, opposition to the plan materialized in Congress, and on December 15, the Army announced that it was reversing course on its drawdown policy and that the captains would retire at their current rank.

Under the Army’s summertime drawdown plan, 1,188 captains and 550 majors were being cut. Many of the officers from that group had been enlisted soldiers from 2006 to 2009, during the Iraq War, and were quickly promoted into officers during the Defense Department’s attempts to replace departing junior officers. They did not serve the eight years as captains required to retire at that rank. That fact prompted the Army to opt to pay them the benefits they would be entitled to at their highest enlisted rank (sergeant).

Upon learning of the plan, Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., and Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., sent a letter to Secretary of the Army, John M. McHugh, saying, “To demote these soldiers in retirement is an injustice that devalues their service and will materially disadvantage them and their families for the rest of their lives.”

The Army then notified Congress that it was dropping its plan to downgrade benefits for the affected captains. The Army also notified an additional 44 officers who were being forced out two years shy of 20 years of service — the threshold for qualifying for full retirement benefits — that they would stay on the job after all.

“The Army’s original plan to downgrade benefits for many officers was an ill-conceived idea that would have sent the wrong message: that service during a conflict could potentially carry negative financial consequences, as well as the risk for injury or death,” said David W. Magann, an attorney in Tampa, Florida who specializes in legal services for veterans. “And it is important to remember that a significant number of enlisted soldiers who served during the Iraq War and other conflicts returned home with debilitating conditions, such as post-traumatic stress disorder.”

Lawmakers who urged the reversal say that the change could translate into an additional $1 million in benefits over a lifetime for 120 officers.

“The difference between paying a soldier benefits based on his or her highest enlisted rank and paying officer-scale benefits would have added up significantly over time for the affected officers,” Magann said. “It is refreshing to see that the Army did the right thing and abandoned an inherently unfair plan.”

Learn more at David W. Magann, P.A. Main Office: 156 West Robertson Street Brandon, FL 33511 Call: (813) 657-9175 Tampa Office: 18715 N Dale Mabry Hwy Lutz, FL 33548