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Early out deal lures Marines

Thousands eligible; much to consider

Jul. 13, 2013 - 06:00AM   |  
A Day with Reconnaissance at the Range
A reconnaissance Marine trains with his M4 carbine. Most Marines with an end-of-active-service date in 2014 may opt to leave service a year early, but those in five military occupational specialties — including 0321 reconnaissance man — cannot separate earlier than 90 days. (Cpl. Jeff Drew / Marine Corps)
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Effective immediately, enlisted Marines with an end-of-active-service date between now and Sept. 30, 2014, may request to leave the Corps up to one year early.

Effective immediately, enlisted Marines with an end-of-active-service date between now and Sept. 30, 2014, may request to leave the Corps up to one year early.

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Effective immediately, enlisted Marines with an end-of-active-service date between now and Sept. 30, 2014, may request to leave the Corps up to one year early.

The Voluntary Enlisted Early Release Program is designed to entice Marines out of uniform as the service draws down from a wartime high of 202,100 personnel to 182,100 Marines. It is primarily intended, however, not as a force-reduction tool but to save the Marine Corps money.

In all, about 37,500 Marines have an EAS date in fiscal 2014. But officials are unsure how many will apply or how many requests will be approved, stressing “the program remains focused on cost savings for the Marine Corps and is not an individual entitlement program,” according to Marine administrative message 325/13, published July 1.

Last year, officials estimated that between 5,500 and 6,500 Marines would separate early in fiscal 2013 using the VEERP.

Enlisted personnel in all ranks are eligible. Additionally, Marines must:

■ Be eligible for an honorable or general discharge under honorable conditions.

■ Attend and complete pre-separation counseling, which includes the Transition Assistance Program and Transition Assistance Management Program.

Marines are ineligible if they are:

■ Stabilized for deployment at the time of their requested early release.

■ Scheduled for transfer to the Fleet Marine Corps Reserve or the retired list.

■ Indebted to the government, although accelerated repayments can be made to resolve indebtedness and qualify for early release.

■ Being released under another early-out program.

■ Participating in the National Call to Service Program.

■ Unqualified medically or if they display symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder or traumatic brain injury, and are undergoing post-deployment health evaluation and management care.

Also, Marines in one of five high-demand, low-density military occupational specialties cannot separate earlier than 90 days. They are:

■ 0211 Counterintelligence/human intelligence specialist.

■ 0321 Reconnaissance man.

■ 0372 Critical skills operator.

■ 2336 Explosive ordnance disposal technician.

■ 7257 Air traffic controller.

Time it right

The new fiscal year starts Oct. 1. Officials are allowing “cross-year separations,” meaning those with EAS dates falling on or before Feb. 1 may request to leave the service before October, according to the MARADMIN.

And while Marines can separate up to one year early, those requesting separations that are more than 90 days ahead of their EAS date will require an endorsement from the first general officer in their chain of command. That allows commanders to determine, before approving requests, whether a Marine’s absence will negatively affect a unit’s daily operations or readiness.

Commanders must ensure early releases do not bring their unit below 80 percent overall staffing or lower than 70 percent of any MOS in their unit. To deny a request, however, commanders must provide specific justification.

Marines are asked to submit requests as early as possible, but no sooner than 45 days ahead of their requested early separation date. If a Marine’s departure will not negatively affect a unit, commanders are asked to expedite requests as quickly as possible because the earlier non-critical Marines leave, the more money the service saves on manpower costs.

Some Marines also may be approved in part. If, for example, they request to leave the service six months early, they may be approved for three months instead to meet unit needs.

What to consider

While Marines released under the VEERP will be considered to have completed their obligated service, they are reminded to carefully consider how leaving the service early could affect some benefits.

For example, those who are serving as permanent resident aliens, with the hopes of gaining U.S. citizenship, must ensure they serve at least three years of active duty to remain eligible.

Marines also are reminded to ensure that they have sufficient time on active duty to retain GI Bill education benefits.

Marines who are not desperate to get out to pursue a time-sensitive life event, such as attending school or starting a job, also may want to wait to see what financial incentives the Corps intends to offer as part of its drawdown plan for fiscal 2014. Before the fall, officials are expected to announce details for both the Voluntary Separation Pay and Temporary Early Retirement Authority programs.

VSP is carefully targeted to overmanned ranks and MOSs. In the past, enlisted Marines, particularly staff sergeants, in jobs ranging from 0111 administrative specialist to 5811 military police, have been offered thousands of dollars to leave the service. VSP is based on rank and years of service and, for some, can break $100,000.

Temporary Early Retirement Authority also will be available to some career enlisted Marines who have served between 15 and 20 years. TERA allows them to retain their retirement pension at a slightly reduced rate without serving a full 20 years.

Marines who desire to leave active duty early but remain affiliated with the Marine Corps are encouraged to consider opportunities with the Selected Marine Corps Reserve. Under the Direct Affiliation Program, Marines in some MOSs and ranks have taken home up to $15,000.

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