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Volunteering to serve again can trigger separation-pay payback

Aug. 19, 2013 - 06:00AM   |  
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Marines who accept cash buyouts to leave the service early will have to pay back the government if in the future they volunteer for active duty again, according to a recent administrative message from the Corps.

That could leave some owing more than six figures in Voluntary Separation Pay.

“Members of the armed forces are required to have VSP recouped when that member voluntarily performs active duty or full-time National Guard duty while serving in an active duty, Selected Marine Corps Reserve, or Active Reserve component for 180 consecutive days or more,” reads Marine administrative message 387/13, signed Aug. 2.

In other words, those who volunteer for a deployment lasting more than six months would be subject to repayment, but members of a Reserve unit who are involuntarily recalled for a deployment would not be.

VSP is a lump-sum buyout that is carefully targeted to overpopulated active-duty ranks and military occupational specialties. 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.

The intent is to encourage Marines to leave uniform, thus helping the service reach end strength goals as the force draws down from a wartime high of 202,100 personnel to 182,100. As such, officials do not want Marines who take VSP rejoining the active component. Reservists on active duty for more than 180 consecutive days within a given year count against the Corps’ official end strength, which must be reported to Congress.

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