Enlisted soldiers with 20 or more years of service who are facing administrative separation for misconduct might be able to breathe a little easier thanks to a new Army policy.

Army Directive 2021-29 updated the service’s separation policy for enlisted personnel. The change gives leaders more flexibility when meting out punishments that impact a soldier after their Army career has ended.

Officers can already retire at a reduced rank.

The new policy for enlisted troops, which was released Sept. 30, “gives soldiers more options,” said Gerald Conway, an Army G-1 policy official, in a recent announcement. The directive ends the “all or nothing determination” used previously, he added.

Before, there were only a few options available when making the final decision on administrative separations for misconduct by retirement-eligible enlisted personnel, the Army announcement stated.

Soldiers could either be separated with or without suspension of the separation for up to one year, or retired at their current grade, Conway explained in the announcement.

Rank reductions, in lieu of a discharge for misconduct, could help soldiers’ post-military employment opportunities, the announcement stated.

The decision to seek a reduction in grade may be voluntary or involuntary, according to the announcement, and the reduction can go down to any grade equal to — or higher — than the last one at which a soldier served satisfactorily.

Any reduction made, however, will be final and is not available for appeal.

Soldiers facing involuntary grade reductions will be given written notice and afforded the right to legal counsel, Conway said in the announcement.

Active duty soldiers will have no fewer than 10 days and all other soldiers will have no fewer than 30 calendar days to respond to the rank reduction notice, the announcement added.

The new policy applies to the active-duty Army, the Army Reserve and the Army National Guard.

Rachel is a Marine Corps veteran and Master's candidate at New York University. She's currently an Editorial Fellow for Military Times.

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