April 11, 2023 | Written By Toni Quinn O’Neill
Minor Paperwork – Major Problem
Officer Grade Determinations – What you need to know
The requirement can come out of nowhere to respond to an Officer Grade Determination (OGD). Years ago, only serious misconduct would result in an officer facing a Grade Determination when they decided to retire. Now, after changes in the law a few years ago, highly decorated, hard-charging officers are spending their last months on active duty, defending their impressive careers through an officer grade determination. Instead of planning their retirement ceremony or interviewing for their post-retirement job, they are contacting prior bosses and colleagues for letters of support.
If you have been the subject of an official investigation (even if at the command level) that substantiated any allegation, law requires that you be notified that you are facing an officer grade determination.
The decision of what grade you will be retired in is made by the Service Secretary or their designee. What they are looking for is the grade in which you last served “satisfactorily.” This is laid out in 10 USC § 1370; however, “satisfactorily” is not defined.
If you are a Lieutenant Colonel or above and have received an LOR, an Article 15 (Non-Judicial Punishment), or been the subject of a substantiated investigation in your current rank, you will face an OGD. There are a few other reasons you may face an OGD, but those are the main reasons. What I see the most of is officers who had substantiated command investigations but may not have even received administrative paperwork (Letter of Counseling, Admonishment or Reprimand) as a result. Those officers still face an OGD at retirement. Even if they went on to command or other prestigious jobs, they will still be answering an OGD to determine what grade they will retire in.
It is essential to be prepared to answer an OGD, have your records ready, and respond within the 10 days that you have to respond once notified so that your retirement date will not be affected. You need to take this seriously, no matter how minor you believe the issue is that is causing this OGD. The reduction in grade over your lifetime could equate to hundreds of thousands of dollars in lost income.
Do you need to hire counsel? I would. Don’t do this by yourself; it’s too important.
If you believe (or know) you will be facing an officer grade determination when you choose to retire, email me at email@example.com and set up a consultation to discuss your next steps. Give yourself your best chance at success with experienced counsel by your side.
Toni Quinn O’Neill is a Partner with Parlatore Law Group and a highly sought-after attorney focusing her practice on criminal defense and military law. With a passion for the courtroom, she has represented a myriad of clients, from general officers to newly enlisted recruits, and has litigated over 120 felony and misdemeanor criminal trials to verdict or dismissal as a defense attorney with an extraordinarily high acquittal rate.
"I cannot say enough positive comments about the service Ms. O’Neill provided in completing my Officer Grade Determination case. She took the time to fully explain the process, ease my anxiety, and answer any questions I had throughout. She also worked on an accelerated timeline to meet my needs. The piece of mind Toni provided while going through this process was invaluable and it was great to feel like I finally had someone on my side when I needed it the most."
Lt Col T, USAF 2022
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