Can a retirement eligible officer just retire?
If a retirement eligible officer is detached for cause or the subject of a report of misconduct (normally following NJP/Article 15, a civilian conviction, or court-martial), the officer cannot simply submit a retirement request to retire in his or her current grade with an Honorable discharge.
It also can be dangerous to submit a retirement request if you have an unresolved misconduct case or have had a substantiated finding of misconduct in the last 2 years.
SECNAVINST 1920.6C remains the current instruction governing separations, retirements, and retirement grade determinations. Enclosures (6) and (8) provide overlapping, confusing guidance on how retirement grade determinations can be made; that is, how an officer can be retired in a lower grade than that which he currently wears.
The General Rule
Most officers, by federal statute, will retire in the grade at which they served last so long as they held that grade for 3 years. This may be waived by the Secretary to not less than 2 years. In addition to the minimum time in grade rule, officers can only be retired in the grade at which he or she last served satisfactorily, as determined by the Secretary, for a period of not less than 6 months. 10 U.S.C. sec. 1370.
Different Scenarios for RGDs
A retirement eligible officer should never waive a BOI without consulting experienced legal counsel.
Unresolved Report of Misconduct
Submission of a Retirement Request Waives a BOI
If a Report of Misconduct has been forwarded, but a show cause determination has not been made, submission of a retirement request waives the right to a BOI. Enclosure (6) to SECNAV instruction provides that any officer being considered for show cause proceedings (BOI) can submit a voluntary retirement require. However, the officer has to acknowledge that he or she is waiving the right to have a BOI make a recommendation as to pay grade.
Resolved Report of Misconduct
Show Cause (BOI) Proceedings Ordered
If show cause proceedings have been ordered (i.e. the officer has received a notice that the show cause authority has directed a BOI), then the officer can still submit a voluntary retirement request. However, the officer must acknowledge that he or she can be retired in a reduced pay grade as determined by the secretary AND that the characterization can be less than Honorable. The officer also has to acknowledge that he or she committed the misconduct and/or substandard performance alleged in the notification.
No Show Cause
Retirement Request May Still Trigger a RGD
Even if an officer has run the gauntlet and been through an investigation while avoiding disciplinary action and/or show cause proceedings, a retirement grade determination can still be triggered per enclosure (6) to SECNAVINST 1920.6c. The instruction provides that a voluntary retirement requests from "officers who have been the subject of a substantiated adverse finding or conclusion from an officially documented investigation or inquiry" must be forwarded to the Secretary for a retirement grade determination if the inquiry was completed within 2 years of the date the voluntary retirement request is submitted. There is no entitlement to a BOI to make a retirement grade recommendation.