The programs, Voluntary Separation Pay (VSP) and Temporary Early Retirement Authority (TERA), were explained in Marine administrative messages published in May on www.marines.mil.
According to the MARADMINs, the two options will be offered to active-duty staff sergeants, gunnery sergeants and master sergeants, except for those in 69 different occupational specialties. (For more detailed information, see MARADMINs 250/14 and 251/14 online.) Any staff sergeant, gunnery sergeant or master sergeant who has failed selection for promotion to the next higher grade will also still be eligible for participation in these programs.
VSP will be offered to Marines who have served between six and 20 years. Those Marines will receive a one-time payment for early retirement. Marines must have served at least 15 years to be eligible for TERA, paid at a reduced rate over the rest of their lifetimes.
Gunnery Sgt. William Hart, career counselor for Henderson Hall on Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall, said that if a Marine qualifies for early retirement, he or she should take it over a voluntary separation check, as a TERA-based retirement will yield more money long-term.
In an email to the Pentagram, Hart wrote that a staff sergeant with 12 years of active duty service would receive a one-time, lump-sum payment of $101,676 through VSP. But a staff sergeant with 16 years of service would receive $710,880 in retirement pay over the next 40 years.
The choice is up to the Marine, Hart said, but TERA makes more sense if a Marine qualifies.
Neither of the incentives are guaranteed and are instead used to manage manpower and alleviate overmanned jobs.
According to MARADMIN 251/14: “The TERA program supports the strategic force management of the Marine Corps and should not be considered an individual entitlement. The TERA program will be used to retire Marines who, absent the availability of TERA, would have been expected to qualify for a 20-year retirement.”
And according to MARADMIN 250/14: “The VSP program supports service-wide force shaping efforts, is not an individual entitlement, and each request will be considered based on the needs of the Marine Corps.”
Marines who have already requested non-consideration for promotion, those who are already being separated or those who have accepted other early out options are ineligible for VSP and TERA.
Additionally, those who have other obligations, including time-on-station requirements or education payback, may not be approved, but waivers will be considered on a case-by-case basis.
Marines who apply and are approved for VSP or TERA must leave the service no later than Aug. 31, 2015.