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Military retirement, based on last or highest rank?
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Military retirement, based on last or highest rank?

Lets say someone joins the military for 20+ years. Is retirement pay based on the last rank or highest rank? For example lets say someone enlists for 16 years and then serves an additional 4+ as an officer? Or lets say they serve 16 years as as officer but then decides to enlist for 4+ years. How would retirement be calculated with these cases?

You have to serve the last 8 years in the component you retire in. Four years as an officer is not enough to retire as an officer. You would have to go 8 years at least as an officer if you want to retire as an officer. Same if you went the other way. It also applies if you are a reserve officer and then go regular. You need the last 8 years to be as a regular officer. If you take regular at the 16 year point you could get passed over and at 22 years time in service, be forced out and get NO retirement at all. That is because you only did 6 years as a reserve officer. Usually you retire at the last rank, which in almost all cases is the last rank you had. In some cases an enlisted becomes an officer, gets passed over for promotion and has to go back to the enlisted ranks. In that case he would get to retire as the highest officer rank he held. Pay is different. Today it is the average of the last 36 months of service. So going from an officer to an enlisted may get you a retirement but it will definitely give you a lot less in retirement pay. There are lots of rules that you need to find out about before you take any major change in position or rank.

Retirement is calculated depending on when you initially enlisted. Here's a simplified breakdown: If you were in prior to September 8th, 1980 you'll fall under the "Final Pay" retirement option. Between that date and August 1st, 1986, you'll fall under the "High-3" plan which will pay you according to the highest rank you've held for three years. After August 1986 there is the CSB/Redux plan. That includes an option to take a $30,000 career bonus but results in an overall lower retirement pay. I've included a link to a retirement pay calculator that might help: http://militarypay.defense.gov/retirement/calc/

Eagle1 Fox2
It has been a while since I came across this regulation and I am a little fuzzy on it, but I do know that Jeff is wrong about not being able to go from officer to enlisted. In fact it is very possible, and in some cases people do in fact go from commissioned officer to warrant or commissioned to enlisted. Usually this is a personal choice and some people just like the enlisted side better. With that said, I believe retirement pay is based off of the highest rank honorably held for at least 3 years. This means that you cannot get promoted to lieutenant colonel, get stripped of your rank, and then retire with lieutenant colonel pay unless they allow you to keep it. Also, it means that you cannot promote to say a major, spend 2 months as a major, then revent to a staff sergeant, and expect to get a major's retirement pay. Again, it has been a while since I went through this regulation and I would need to look it up again to confirm.

It is your last rank held. I don't think anyone has switched from officer to enlisted. Don't even know if they let you do it. I do know that you must hold your rank for a set time to receive retirement pay at that rank. I can't remember how long though. I want to say at least 2 years but could be a little more or less. I am for sure there is an amount of time you must hold the rank though.

Highest rank, including how much work you did which affects it.

You can't go officer to enlisted and they calculate your retirement pay as your last held rank.

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