marioa

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#1
Hey all,

So here is my quick, post-assignment to TDRL story:

I was assigned to the TDRL for PTSD and Bipolar (which sucks) on the 30th of March 2015. I EAS'd as an E4 but was an E5 from 2010 to 2013 before I got busted down for not passing out party invitations (I'm not kidding)... Anyway, so I received the decision from the PEB that I was to be discharged at 10% for PTSD and Bipolar. It was found by the board that my injuries occurred in combat, while I was entitled to basic pay and not as a result of negligence or misconduct and deemed due to "combat related operations". So that means that the severance pay that I will receive will be tax free, and not subject to recoup by the VA.

I've asked around here a couple of times on the forum, "how is severance pay calculated?" because when you get the decision back from the PEB, it states that Disability Severance Pay is: base pay x 2 x the number of years of service. But you and I know that NOTHING associated with pay in the military is ever that easy to calculate SOOOOO.... my question was (because I had heard) that if I was a Sergeant back in the day, was my pay going to be calculated via "highest grade satisfactorily served" , "high 3" (the average of the 3 highest paid salaries you received) or just the rank at which I was discharged from the TDRL as.

The reason this question came up in the first place is because:

Severance Pay: The percentage of disability awarded has no bearing on the amount of severance pay you are entitled to receive. Severance pay is computed using years of service and base pay--for those who entered service after 8 September 1980, pay is based on the high 3 average. Severance pay is computed in two ways (1) Members being discharged for non-combat related conditions: multiply years of service (minimum of 3 years and not more than 19 years) times twice the amount of monthly base pay (based on the high 3 average). (2) Members being discharged for combat related conditions: multiply years of service (minimum of 6 years and not more than 19 years) times twice the amount of monthly base pay (based on the high 3 average). Count as a whole year service of six months or more; disregard service of less than 6 months. For each computation, if the member has less than the minimum number of years of service (3 or 6) they will be paid as if they have the minimum years of service (3 or 6).

then again...

Disability Severance Pay is a one-time, lump sum payment and is computed as follows:

  • 2 x basic pay for applicable grade x years of service (subject to minimum 3 or 6 years) not to exceed 19 years.
  • Applicable grade is the highest of the following:
    • Current grade.
    • Highest grade satisfactorily served.
    • Grade to which the Soldier would have been promoted had it not been for the disability for which he is being separated. This is colloquially referred to as, "promotion list grade."
  • Soldiers are credited with a minimum of 3 years of service as computed under 10 USC 1208 unless they qualify for the minimum 6 years of service.
  • To qualify for the minimum 6 years, the disability must be incurred in line of duty in a combat zone as designated by the Secretary of Defense OR incurred during the performance of duty in combat-related operations as designated by the Secretary of Defense. DoD policy for the "combat related operations" determination is that the disability must be incurred as a result of armed conflict as set forth in DoD Instruction 1332.38, paragraph E3.P5.1.2.

I've been told that I would be paid via the highest grade by a couple of guys here on the forum but I was also told by my PEB Lawyer that DSP is paid via the grade that I was discharged at. So which is it? We'll find out.

The difference in pay is about $14,000 between E4 and E5 with 13 years of service.

So I'm posting this here, not to prove anyone wrong, but so that in the future, if one of you reading this has the same questions as I do (did), you'll have a better idea of what is up because you'll see how much I got in DSP. I'll also make sure that I post my timeline as best as I can remember it.

I wish anyone reading this all the best luck moving forward. Civilian life isn't all that bad, and the VA has a bunch of different programs that can help. And then there are always us here in this awesome website.

Love you all,

Mario

side note: It turns out that "Highest grade satisfactorily served" is an INCREDIBLY hard expression to define and understand from a military standpoint. And like any wording in the military, it never means what you hope it means, and it's never as simple as it sounds. Or maybe it is. I don't know. But we'll find out.
 

marioa

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#3
I just realized that my retirement orders state that:

"As of 30 March 2015, you will complete 14.0 years, 10.0 months, and 23.0 days cumulative service of which 12.0 years, 7.0 months and 6.0 days is active duty. You had 2.0 years, 3.0 months, and 17.0 days inactive service and earned 47.0 inactive duty points equivalent to 1.0 month and 17.0 days for pay under reference (a) (which is Title 10, U.S. Code). On 30 March 2015, you will complete 14.0 years, 10.0 months, and 23.0 days service creditable for retired pay multiplier."

Which I'm assuming means that I'll be getting for 15 years instead of 13. Which is cool. But we'll see.
 

marioa

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"side note: It turns out that "Highest grade satisfactorily served" is an INCREDIBLY hard expression to define and understand from a military standpoint. And like any wording in the military, it never means what you hope it means, and it's never as simple as it sounds. Or maybe it is. I don't know. But we'll find out." Here's what I found out!

Army Regulation 15–80 Army Grade Determination Review Board and Grade Determinations 12 July 2002

(I'm assuming the Marines use the same guidance)

Chapter 3 Enlisted Personnel Grade Determinations, page 4
Physical disability cases • 3–1
"3–1. General For enlisted cases, the AGDRB will make final determinations on behalf of the SA. It will determine the highest grade in which a soldier has served satisfactorily for purposes of service/physical disability retirement, computation of retired pay (10 USC 1406 or 1407), or separation for physical disability. While enlisted soldiers may be reduced in grade by courts-martial, nonjudicial punishment proceedings (UCMJ, Art. 15), administrative separation proceedings, or inefficiency boards, enlisted grade determinations cannot result in reduction of an enlisted soldier’s or retiree’s current grade. Enlisted grade determinations will result in either a decision to retain the individual’s current grade or to advance to a higher grade in which the individual satisfactorily served."

Here is how they determine what the "highest grade satisfactorially served" is:

Section II Guidance 2–4. Grade determination considerations A grade determination is an administrative decision to determine appropriate retirement grade, retirement pay, or other separation pay. Although a lower grade determination may affect an individual adversely, it is not punitive. The AGDRB will consider each case on its own merits. Generally, determination will be based on the soldier’s overall service in the grade in question, either on active duty or other service qualifying the soldier for service/physical disability retirement, receipt of retired pay, or separation for physical disability. Circumstances pertinent to whether such service is found satisfactory include, but are not limited to, the following:
a. Medical reasons, which may have been a contributing or decisive factor in a reduction in grade, misconduct, or substandard performance.
b. Compassionate circumstances.
c. Lengths of time in grade (TIG). The AGDRB cannot waive statutory TIG requirements for retirement at the current grade, such as the 31 or more days of service required at a previously held higher grade for a warrant officer to retire at the higher grade under the provisions of section 1371, title 10, United States Code (10 USC 1371); the 6 months for second lieutenants through majors; and the 3 years for lieutenant colonels and above under the provision of 10 USC 1370, except as otherwise specifically authorized by law. For instance, TIG requirements can be negated by operation of law in disability cases
d. The following examples help explain how active duty service obligation (ADSO) policies affect grade determinations. (Policies regarding the retirement processing of soldiers having ADSOs and policies regarding the promotion and reduction of enlisted soldiers are addressed in AR 350–100, AR 635–200, AR 600–8–24, and AR 600–8–19. Consult these regulations for current and definitive policies and procedures.) For example, soldiers promoted to sergeant first class, master sergeant/first sergeant, or sergeant major/command sergeant major incur a 2-year ADSO (AR 600–8–19). If a soldier requests retirement effective before the expiration of this ADSO, a retirement approval authority can deny the request or CG, PERSCOM can waive the ADSO and approve the retirement. A promoted enlisted soldier may not be reduced administratively only to terminate a promotion ADSO, and the waiver of an ADSO will normally result in the individual’s retirement in the grade to which promoted if that is the highest grade satisfactorily held (AR 635–200). Note this circumstance would not require referral to the AGDRB because the grade determination would be automatic. The soldier would retire at the promoted grade, unless the soldier was entitled to retire at a higher grade under some other provision of law. An ADSO can also be waived by operation of law in disability cases.
e. Performance level, as reflected in evaluation reports and other portions of the service record that reflect performance. In reviewing these matters, the AGDRB will consider whether reporting officials were aware of the misconduct or performance giving rise to the grade determination.
f. Nature and severity of misconduct, if any. Although the punishment an individual has received may be one factor in determining the seriousness of misconduct, the amount of punishment will not be considered in determining whether “the individual has been punished enough.” Grade determinations are not considered punitive, and the standard for grade determinations is “highest grade satisfactorily served,” not whether the individual has been sufficiently punished. g. The grade at which the misconduct was committed.

Here is why I figure I'm not going to be paid as a Sergeant but rather as a Corporal:

2–5. Unsatisfactory service Service in the highest grade or an intermediate grade normally will be considered to have been unsatisfactory when:
a. The highest grade was a result of a terminal leave promotion (see the glossary for a definition of this term).
b. Reversion to a lower grade was—
(1) Expressly for prejudice or cause.
(2) Owing to misconduct.
(3) Caused by nonjudicial punishment pursuant to UCMJ, Art. 15.
(4) The result of the sentence of a court-martial.
c. There is sufficient unfavorable information to establish that the soldier’s service in the grade in question was unsatisfactory. One specific act of misconduct may or may not form the basis for a determination that the overall service in that grade was unsatisfactory, regardless of the period of time served in grade. However, service retirement in lieu of or as the result of elimination action will not, by itself, preclude retirement in the highest grade.

2–6. Service in lower grade If service in the highest grade held was unsatisfactory, the soldier can be deemed to have served satisfactorily in the next lower grade actually held, unless paragraph 2–5 applies.

SOOOO...

Also a side note, I contacted DFAS Cleveland (for Marines only) and the lady at the call center told me that they can't tell me anything, but if I write a letter and send it via the USPS or fax they can respond directly to specific questions. LOL...why can't people just tell you what they know about your case? It's my case after all.

Today day is my discharge date.
 

marioa

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#5
So I just spoke with both DFAS Cleveland and MMSR-4.

I called DFAS because I saw that I had a pending CRSC payment coming in and I figured that since my discharge was Saturday, I shouldn't be receiving this. Well, they said that they had no check for that amount so the payment must be my "final payment" from the Marines. The CSR also told me that I am tentatively scheduled to be receiving $65k in severance pay. He said that it is in the process of a final audit which can take anywhere between 30-90 days because of the amount I'm receiving. He also said it looks like they are taxing it which he acknowledged shouldn't be happening and would most likely be caught during the audit.

I asked him about the grade I was getting paid at and if there was a grade determination being done, he said that he didn't see that, but that it was still too early to know if it would be done or not. I explained that I had been a Sergeant for a few years before I was busted down, he again told me that he hadn't received the notification but that he knew of them being done. He's clearly stating that this is something that actually happens. He advised me to call MMSR-4 and find out if one was being done for me or if it was in the works.

So I did.

MMSR-4 was pretty rude and short on the phone. Not the Marines, but the jerk civilian I talked too. He told me that he had never heard of such a thing and that "highest grade satisfactorily served" only applied to retirement pay. So now I'm assuming that the Marine Corps doesn't follow something like the Army Regulation 15–80 Army Grade Determination Review Board and Grade Determinations 12 July 2002 that I pointed out above. That's disappointing but hey, I guess I should have know right? If anyone has anything to add, please feel free!

So that's the update for today.
 

marioa

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No new update today from DFAS. It's still in the audit phase, and they aren't able to tell me an estimate on how long it's going to take, the person on the phone couldn't tell me if the $65k was the amount before or after taxes (which once again, my severance pay won't be taxed) and couldn't confirm that the $65k was even a correct payment amount. It really makes a big difference on who you talk to. I suppose I'll just have to sit and wait. It never ends eh fella's?
 

marioa

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#7
I just got a phone call from a military lawyer who handles the Formal PEB hearing cases, he told me that Disability Severance Pay is calculated via high-3. He said that he's going to contact his friend at DFAS Cleveland and get back to me about it in a couple of days. Wow. Wouldn't that be nice!
 

marioa

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#8
Called DFAS Cleveland this morning as I haven't heard back from the Lawyer because I would assume he hasn't heard back from DFAS.
Got some confirmation about the amount I can expect to receive. $65,940.

So that means I'm getting paid as an E4 from 2015 base pay for 13ish + years of service. Which is NOT High-3, or Highest Grade served. It's the grade I was separated at. So I don't know where we all came up with this bullshit High 3 or Highest Grade Satisfactorily Served, but they are both nonsense. Gotta love internet information...

Strange thing is that he said that DFAS still owed me a couple of months of CRSC, which honestly doesn't sound right at all. And unfortunately for me (and my family), they are having to audit my account because I owed money on that SBP that you can get (which I SHOULD HAVE declined). So it's probably going to take them a while to sort this out. He said it normally takes 60-90 business days. I was separated on the 30th of September, they got my info on the 21st of September, so I probably won't be getting paid until around Christmas which sucks.

If anyone is actually paying attention to this thread, I'll post when I finally get my pay. In the meantime, I wish you all good health, and the best of luck in your cases.
 

marioa

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#10
I called DFAS today on a whim. Turns out that I owed money on my SBP and that seemed to have stalled the progress of my payment being processed. The rep I talked to told me that she was going to put a tele-log entry into the system in the hopes that that would get my payment processed after it had stopped in the process of the audit. So I can call back again on Tuesday of next week to see if there has been any progress. Guys, keep on DFAS if you're waiting for things. Paperwork gets "lost" in the shuffle.
 

marioa

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#11
DFAS says that my claim was submitted to review on the 15th which is cool because that means that the actions that the CSR took worked and the process continues. The review is the final approval needed to pay the account. I was told that the review can take up to 30 days. So maybe before Christmas I can expect a check. This makes me feel a lot better. Things are getting really tight financially, bills are getting prioritized...so it'll be nice to finally be able to pay off my debt. Happy Thanksgivings guys!