Bill would let 'Grow the Army' officers retire with full pension
WASHINGTON — Some Army officers would not be forced to retire at their previous enlisted rank under a House bill introduced in the final days of the congressional session.
The bill, sponsored by Reps. Glenn Thompson, R-Pa., and Tim Walz, D-Minn., allows soldiers who built most of their careers in the enlisted ranks to retire with commissioned officer pay and benefits after serving just four years as an officer, instead of the standard eight years.
The Army is shrinking after quickly expanding its ranks in 2007 to deal with Iraq and Afghanistan. Noncommissioned officers who ascended during that time are facing forced retirements at their enlisted rank, cutting deeply into pensions.
“Soldiers deserve to retire with the rank they have earned and corresponding benefits they’ve been promised, and anything less devalues the sacrifices they have made for our country,” Thompson said in a released statement.
The “Grow the Army” program increased the number of active-duty soldiers to 570,000 in 2010; many NCOs stepped forward for commissions as Army officers.
The Obama administration has proposed reducing that to 450,000, which could force the retirement of up to 30 percent of its commissioned officers, according to Thompson and Walz.
Their bill, called the Proudly Restoring Officers of Prior Enlistment Retirement Act, protects soldiers who have put in 20 years of service and at least four years as an officer from losing a “large cut in their retirement,” the congressmen said.
It might be a hit idea with soldiers, but the bill has very little chance of becoming law for now.
The 113th Congress is set to end this week and legislation not forced through for last-minute votes will die. Lawmakers were focused on passing critical budget bills Thursday.
Thompson and Walz could reintroduce the bill next year. Both were re-elected in November.