Call it a glitch or a loophole; either way Pentagon lawyers have interpreted a technicality in the 2008 National Defense Authorization Act in a way that will make it harder for Guard and Reserve members to earn time toward early retirement.
The 2008 law reduces the age that a retired Guard or Reserve member becomes eligible to receive the full benefit of their retirement by taking three-months off for every 90 days served on active duty. For example, a Guard member called up for a total of one year would be able to draw retired pay at age 59 versus the normal age 60; or two years could reduce the age to 58, etc.
The actual text of the law authorizes three months’ retirement-age credit for each 90 days served on active duty “in any fiscal year.” The issue comes down to an interpretation of the phrase “in any fiscal year.” The DoD reads this to mean that each 90 day period must fall entirely within a single fiscal year.
According to Col. Steve Strobridge of the Military Officer’s Association of America, this would mean that a Guard or Reserve member would have to start a 12-month active duty tour on Jan. 1, April 1, July 1, or Oct. 1. Stonebridge writes, “Starting a tour on almost any other date means you only get nine months of credit for a one-year tour — because at least one 90-day period crosses the boundary between fiscal years.”
Strobridge goes on to explain that, “Because this is a below-the-radar accounting glitch the affected people don’t usually see, most won’t even know they’ve been shorted — until their early retirement check doesn’t arrive when they expect it.”
Read this week’s As I See It column on the MOAA website to learn more.