Soldiers receive certificates of retirement during a ceremony at Conmy Hall, Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall, Va., Sept. 28, 2017.

Soldiers receive certificates of retirement during a ceremony at Conmy Hall, Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall, Va., Sept. 28, 2017. (Gabriel Silva/U.S. Army)

WASHINGTON – The Army will end a program in 2018 that allowed some soldiers to receive retirement benefits without serving a full 20 years in uniform, the service’s top civilian recently announced in a memorandum.

Army Secretary Mark Esper cited in a Dec. 15 memo that the end of the Army’s drawing down of its force strength was the reason why he rescinded the Temporary Early Retirement Authority, or TERA, program.

TERA, in use since 2012, allowed soldiers who had served at least 15 years but less than the 20 years typically needed to secure full retirement entitlements to receive those benefits if they had been selected for a discharge as part of the Army’s drawdown. It also allowed some officers to receive those benefits if they had not been selected for a promotion.

TERA “has served as an effective tool for drawing down the Army’s end strength,” Esper wrote in his memo. “However, the National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal year 2017 increased Army end strength and we have ceased the drawdown.”

Last year, the Army ended its yearslong drawdown that followed budget cuts and the decreased need for troops in Afghanistan and Iraq. The service now seeks to grow its active-duty force strength by some 7,500 soldiers to about 483,500 by September to meet growing worldwide challenges, including an uptick in troops operating in Afghanistan.

Esper’s ending of the TERA program allows some soldiers to receive the benefit next year. The program was initially approved to run throughout fiscal year 2018, according to the Army.

Soldiers eligible for TERA must submit a request through their chain of command by Jan. 15 for early retirement consideration, which will be approved or denied by Feb. 28, according to the memo.

However, some soldiers will still have opportunities after Jan. 15 to receive early retirement benefits through TERA. Soldiers still awaiting the results of pending 2017 promotion boards after Jan. 15 will have 30 calendar days following the promotion announcements to submit an early retirement request to their chain of command. Four officer promotion boards from fiscal year 2017 have not yet been announced, said Hank Minitrez, a spokesman for the Army’s personnel office.

All soldiers who are approved to retire through the TERA program must leave the service by Sept. 1, Esper wrote in the memo. Twitter: @CDicksteinDC

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Corey Dickstein covers the military in the U.S. southeast. He joined the Stars and Stripes staff in 2015 and covered the Pentagon for more than five years. He previously covered the military for the Savannah Morning News in Georgia. Dickstein holds a journalism degree from Georgia College & State University and has been recognized with several national and regional awards for his reporting and photography. He is based in Atlanta.

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