Human Resources Command processes the Army’s retirements

By Maria McClure, U.S. Army Human Resources CommandDecember 18, 2023

Human Resources Command processes the Army’s retirements
Lt. Col. Alan Lana, chief, Gray Area Retirements Branch of the Reserve Personnel Management Directorate, or RPMD, U.S. Army Human Resources Command, and Ledia Anderson, deputy, Gray Area Retirements Branch, discuss branch operations. HRC process the retirement requests for active-duty Soldiers and those serving in the U.S. Army Reserve. (U.S. Army photo by Maria Rice McClure) (Photo Credit: Maria McClure) VIEW ORIGINAL

FORT KNOX, Ky. – The U.S. Army Human Resources Command processes hundreds of thousands of personnel actions annually including retirements for active and Reserve Soldiers.

In April, the Army introduced a pilot program through a temporary exception to policy that permitted active-duty and Active Guard Reserve Soldiers to request retirement up to 24 months in advance of their retirement dates. This ETP proved popular, which led to a significant increase in retirement requests.

In response, HRC assigned additional resources and personnel to process retirement requests, streamlining procedures and approval authorities, and prioritizing actions by requested retirement dates.

The program provides more predictability to the Army and units, improves Soldier management and optimizes retirement planning that allows Soldiers the ability to better prepare for their transition into civilian life.

The Department of the Army extended the program Jan. 12 with MILPER 24-012. This MILPER will expire Jan. 11, 2025.

Depending on the component and type of service, the process of retiring from the Army looks different. In keeping with the command’s mission of providing transparency while always putting Soldiers first, HRC staff members Richard A. Meyer, chief, Retirements and Separations of the Force Shaping Directorate, or FSD; Maj. Daine Trammell, chief, Active Guard and Reserve Retirements of the Reserve Personnel Management Directorate, or RPMD; and Lt. Col. Alan Lana, branch chief, Gray Area Retirements Branch of RPMD, recently took some time to provide some insight into the retirement process.

Active-duty retirements

When active-duty Soldiers reach 20 years of active federal service, or AFS, they are eligible for retirement with some caveats depending on rank. For officers 10 of the 20 years of AFS must be active federal commissioned service, Meyer said.

“However, if they have Active-Duty Service Obligations [ADSOs], then that request may be deferred or denied until completion of those ADSOs,” he said.

There are times when a Soldier who is contemplating retirement receives a notification of permanent change of station, or PCS, and must weigh his or her options quickly.

“Upon notification of a PCS, Soldiers with 18 or more years of AFS may request retirement in lieu of the PCS within 30 days of the notification,” Meyer said. “For all regular Army Soldiers with less than 20 years of active federal service when notified of a PCS, the requested retirement date must be effective the first day of the month following the month in which the Soldier accumulates 20 years of active federal service or 12 months after assignment notification, whichever occurs later.”

Officers who have been notified of a PCS and have more than 20 years of AFS can request retirement, but the effective date must be no more than six months after the assignment notification, he said.

The first stop for a Soldier preparing for retirement should be his or her S1. The S1 shop will provide the Soldier with a checklist of required documents that will be part of the personnel action request, or PAR, submitted to IPPS-A where the routing is added.

While every installation’s process for retirement requests is different, once approved by the Soldier’s leadership, the PAR is routed to the post’s Retirement Services Office before it is submitted to HRC for approval.

A common mistake Soldiers make is routing their retirement PARs directly to HRC and bypassing their local Retirement Services Office, or RSO, Meyer said.

Although HRC is the approving authority for retirement requests, the RSO is responsible for preparing the service computations and ensuring retirement requests meet regulatory and statutory requirements.

Currently, the FSD team is processing officer retirement requests for July and August 2024, command sergeants major and sergeants major retirement requests for December 2025, and sergeants first class and master sergeants for February and March 2025.

Although the team is striving to improve the processing times of officer retirement requests, there are several reasons those takes longer, Meyer said. Officer retirements have more statutory requirements and the pool of officers eligible for retirement is much larger than that of the enlisted ranks.

Soldiers should plan their retirement dates carefully to ensure a smooth and stress-free transition. They can assist in speeding up the process by ensuring all documents related to time in service and PCS orders are in iPERMS, which is the system of record. Once a retirement application is received by HRC in advance of a market and assignment managers are informed, in most cases the Soldier will no longer be included in upcoming assignment cycles.

Active Guard Reserve retirements

Active Guard Reserve, or AGR, Soldiers are in the U.S. Army Reserve but serve in a fulltime capacity similar to active-duty Soldiers, Trammell said.

“The benefits and entitlements are comparable to active-duty Soldiers, with a few advantages like the opportunity to be stationed in or around hometown areas,” she said.

Like active-duty, AGR Soldiers with 20 or more years of AFS are eligible to retire and qualify for retirement benefits. Those AGR Soldiers who have not reached 20 years of AFS before they reach the maximum age of 60, but have 20 credible years of service, can qualify for non-regular retirement, aka gray area retirement.

“Typically, processing time ranges from 60 to 180 days for retirement requests based on the selected date of retirement,” Trammell said. “Requests are processed in the order of receipt with consideration for requested transition date, accumulated leave requested and participation in the CSP [Career Skills Program].”

To ensure timely processing of retirement requests, she recommends AGR Soldiers do a thorough scrub of their documents in iPERMS. They should submit any missing documents through their local S1 channels to update their files. Checking the Personnel Action Guide checklist to ensure all documents are in iPERMS including IPPS-A approved absence requests will mitigate PARs being returned for corrections.

“Ensure PARs are submitted within the timeframe prescribed to HRC in a timely manner,” Trammell advises.

AGR Soldiers should confirm their DA 5016, Soldier’s Chronological Statement of Points, is up to date at least two years prior to the anticipated retirement ensuring they have enough AFS years to qualify for retirement, she said. Additionally, it is advisable they complete any remaining service obligations prior to the submission of a retirement request or ensure the service obligation will be completed prior to the requested date.

Throughout 2023, Trammell’s team has worked on improvements to their processes by becoming more transparent in communicating changes to Soldiers in the field.

“The team endeavors to focus on the Soldier aspect of the mission and provide world-class customer service to each requester,” she said. “As we strive to balance the customer service experience with legal, regulatory and policy guidance the challenge exists to be both timely and accurate. Best practice is to respond to the request for information even if the response isn’t the one the Soldier wants to hear, in my experience just being heard and knowing your concerns are being addressed is sometimes enough.”

Gray area retirements

Soldiers who serve in the Reserve or National Guard and accumulate 20 or more years of qualifying service are eligible for retirement when they reach age 60, Lana said. However, some periods of active duty or active service can reduce the age requirement. The earliest age that a gray area retiree can start receiving reduced age retired pay is age 50.

The time between retirement from service and the date when the Reserve or National Guard Soldier is eligible to begin receiving retired pay is called the “gray area.” The gray area also applies if the member is in the Retired Reserve, he said.

“Under 10 USC 12731a, Reserve Soldiers who complete the eligibility requirements will be notified in writing within one year after completing required service in accordance with AR 140-185 or NGR 680-2,” Lana said. “Reserve Soldiers who complete 20 years of qualifying service will be issued a Notification of Eligibility for Retired Pay at Age 60, based on Soldier’s AYE [annual year ending] date.”

Those eligible for retirement must request retired pay from the military department where they last served.

“Payment is only made once requested,” he said. “They should apply no earlier than nine months and no later than 90 days before the retirement eligibility date to ensure payment starts promptly.”

A qualifying year of service, aka a good year, accrues after earning at least 50 retirement points in an AYE. The AYE is a Soldier’s individual Reserve year, which typically begins on the anniversary of his or her first day in the Reserve or date of commission and ends the day before the anniversary, Luna said.

“This date can change throughout a career, depending on breaks in service or other factors,” he said. “Knowing your AYE can help you maximize your future retirement value.”

Soldiers receive one point for each drill period performed, one point for each day of active service for times like annual training or mobilization, and one point for each day of funeral honors, Lana said. Soldiers may also earn points from approved correspondence courses.

“Each year you are affiliated with the Army Reserve unit, you will automatically receive 15 points for Reserve service, or as prorated for partial years,” he said.

If a Soldier has served in multiple components, it is vital he or she take time to update the DA 5016, Soldier’s Chronological Statement of Points, before transferring or changing components to ensure proper accounting of time served.

Soldiers nearing their 20-year mark of credible service who are considering gray area retirement should attend a retirement service briefing presented by a retirement service officer, Luna recommends.

“The USAR Readiness Divisions and the National Guard provide multiple briefings throughout the year,” he said. “Soldiers have a legally mandated decision to make about the Survivor Benefit Plan within 90 days of receiving their 20-year letter. This decision will affect their retirement pay when they reach age 60.”

In January, the Gray Area Retirements Branch experienced a backlog of more than 5,000 retirement requests.

“We were processing applications four months after a service member’s retirement eligibility date, thus delaying pay and benefits, which led to an unfavorable customer service experience,” Lana said.

The Office of the Chief of Army Reserve and Headquarters Department of the Army approved the Active Duty for Operational Support, or ADOS, funding to hire 19 Soldiers on temporary orders who would assist the Gray Area Retirements Branch team to expedite the processing of retirement requests. The Soldiers stayed onboard until September.

“We are currently processing packets 60 days in advance,” Lana said. “The addition of the ADOS Soldiers had a significant impact.”

To ensure the timely processing of a gray area retirement request Luna recommends ensuring the application is complete and accurate.

“Submitting at the nine-month mark allows time for the application to be processed in a timely manner,” he said. “Soldiers need to review their records and make any corrections required before transferring into the Retired Reserve.”

The Gray Area Retirements Branch is currently working with HRC’s Innovation Team to develop an online fillable application to make submitting retirement requests easier, which is part of an effort to continually improve processes to remain customer-centered in supporting Soldiers.

For more information about navigating gray area retirements, listen to episode 15 of the “Your Personnel File” podcast at