You have been investigated for alleged misconduct.  Some of it was substantiated.  This adverse report can affect the rest of your life.  You are retiring.  Your commander has given you a document with the Subject Line:  Officer Grade Determination Notification.  This means that your military service will determine if you can retire in your current grade.  You have been in the military your entire adult life, served your country on remote assignments, deployed to war zones, near death more times than you can count, and you have been separated from your spouse and children for years due to your service to country.  And now everything you have dedicated your life to and worked for your entire life is at risk.

Because of some type of substantiated misconduct–regardless of the seriousness–you will face an OGD.  You may retire at a lower rank–a rank you worked day and night to achieve during years of tireless service to your country.  While the reduction in rank is one matter, the reduction in pay is also very significant.  A reduction in even one grade can mean the loss of hundreds of thousands of dollars in the span of 20-30 years of your retirement.  You paid the price when served with paperwork for your misconduct.  You got through that process.  Now your financial security and livelihood is at stake.

All services have similar regulations in how they process OGDs because of the US Statute that discusses the rules for retirement.  As an example, Air Force Instruction 36-3203, Service Retirements, paragraph 7.2 states that “A commissioned officer retiring for other than disability and any other than age or service requirements is retired in the highest grade held satisfactorily, as determined by the SecAF or SecAF delegee….”  Paragraph 7.6, Officer Grade Determination (OGD) in Conjunction with Retirement discusses the process for OGDs.

An OGD must be completed prior to retirement or disability separation in the following circumstances IAW AFI 36-3203, paragraph 7.6.3 (verbatim extracts below):

  • The officer has applied for retirement in lieu of judicial or administrative separation action.
  • The officer has a court-martial conviction
  • The officer has a civilian conviction for misconduct which, did (or would) result in a mandatory comment and a referral in the member’s next OPR, training report or PRF.
  • The officer, since their last promotion, has been the subject of any substantiated adverse finding or conclusion from an officially documented investigation, proceeding, or inquiry (exception minor traffic infractions). Such cases include, but are not limited to any cases which have resulted in Article 15, UCMJ punishment, reprimand, or admonition within 4 years of the requested effective date of retirement.
  • In any other case in which the commander or other appropriate authority believes an OGD appropriate.

The US Army (as do other services) has a similar process governed by AR-15-80, which allows an OGD to be initiated where an officer has any information “deemed substantiated adverse, and material to determination of retired grade.”

This means that if there was any type of investigation pertaining to you that substantiated an adverse finding—you are subject to an OGD.  The wording of the instruction makes it clear that the adverse finding is sufficient to trigger an OGD–whether or not you received administrative action as a result of the finding.  And, since your commander or other appropriate authority can also initiate an OGD when he or she believes it is appropriate, you are subject to an OGD for any matter your command believes affects whether you served satisfactorily in your current grade.

Once an OGD is initiated you have 10 calendar days to respond unless you receive an extension of time.  It is a very serious process that can have lifelong consequences.

What can you do?  If you have bad paperwork” in your records or substantiated misconduct, even if you aren’t thinking of retiring for several years, it makes sense to understand this process and what you can do in the meantime.  An OGD is a serious matter.  Don’t wait until you are served the OGD notification to learn about the process.  Talk to a military law attorney to see what you can do now to help increase your chances of retiring in grade if and when you face an OGD.  What you do now can make a difference.  There is hope.  Never ever give up.

Ferah Ozbek is a retired from the United States Air Force where she served as an active duty judge advocate for over 20 years.  She continues to practice military law and represents military members and veterans who are facing injustice.  She specializes in helping military officers respond to Officer Grade Determinations.  To learn more about how Ferah can help you, you can send her an e-mail at ferah@ferahozbek.com or direct message her on LinkedIn.  Visit Ferah’s website at ferahozbek.com