Soldiers with at least 15 but less than 20 years of service may be eligible for early retirement.
According to Army Directive 281/2012, titled “Temporary Early Retirement Authority,” or TERA, officers and warrant officers who have twice failed selection for promotion to the next grade and noncommissioned officers denied continued service as a result of an approved qualitative service program centralized selection board are eligible for the program.
“Soldiers who elect to retire under TERA and are approved, will receive full retirement benefits at a slightly reduced annuity,” said Gerald Purcell, the enlisted personnel policy integrator with Army G-1. He emphasized that TERA is not an entitlement.
The TERA is one of the tools the Army is using to reduce the force in the coming years, said Purcell. He said the reduction affects active-status soldiers serving in the active and reserve components.
The Army’s plan is to reduce the active component from about 570,000 soldiers to about 490,000 soldiers by the end of fiscal year 2017.
The Army has reduced the force before. But the force drawdown in the 1990s, for instance, was much different than the most current effort, said Albert Eggerton, the deputy chief of the officer division with Army G-1.
“Now, the Army is making the call on who stays and the programs are different,” Eggerton said.
Purcell said a priority with the latest drawdown is precision, care and compassion.
“Our goal to do this in a compassionate, caring way, and ensure soldiers and their families are taken care of during the transition,” Purcell said.
The qualitative selection board is tasked with identifying NCOs, by military occupational specialties and pay grade, who are excess to the future force structure mission requirements of the Army, Purcell said.
“We (then) tell the selection board to rank the soldiers (with their peers) based on potential future contributions,” Purcell said. “Those identified would be quality soldiers we’d otherwise retain, but because their grades and skills are excess to the Army’s needs, we have to let them go.”
Purcell said soldiers will know when they have been selected for involuntary separation and that they have about a year to request TERA.
“TERA is a good thing for soldiers to take if they have already been identified for involuntary separation,” he said, explaining that the involuntary separation bonus would not have the value of early retirement in terms of pay and benefits.
The officer and warrant officer drawdown decisions are similarly based on the Army’s mission requirement needs by skill and grade, Eggerton said. He said some officers with mission-essential critical skills would be allowed to stay in the Army despite not being selected for a higher grade.
Eggerton and Purcell agreed that TERA is good news for soldiers who otherwise would receive less under involuntary separation.
For more information on TERA, see MILPER message 12-329.