What is a “Don’t Pick Me” Promotion Board Letter? Why Would You Send One?

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If you go to the Navy Active Duty Officer Promotions Page, you’ll find this at the bottom:

Sample “Don’t Pick Me” Letter to the Board

Removing the introductory portion, here is what the meat of this letter says:

1. Per reference (a), please remove my record from consideration by the FY-1X Active Duty (Grade) (Competitive Category) Selection Board.

That’s it. All it says to the promotion board is, “Don’t pick me.”

Why would or should a physician send a letter requesting NOT to be considered by a promotion board? Here are a few reasons:

  1. You are an O4 or O5, know that you are resigning, and that you will not be joining the Reserves – If you are just paying your time back and getting out, do your fellow officer a favor and remove yourself from consideration. It is hard enough to promote to O5 and O6 nowadays. Having one less person to compete with helps out those who are willing to stick around. Yes, if you are picked and get promoted soon enough you could get some extra pay for a little while before you resign, but I’d say the general karma of letting someone else get the promotion outweighs that small financial benefit.
  2. You are an O4 or O5 who is retiring but you know that if selected for promotion you won’t accept it – Why would someone not accept a promotion? Because a promotion to O5 or O6 obligates you for 3 more years if you intend to retire. And the Navy isn’t letting anyone get out early anymore. If you want to get out as fast as possible with a 20 year retirement, taking a promotion to O6 in year 18 means you must stick around until year 21 at least.

Why is a “Don’t Pick Me” letter not applicable if you’re an O3? Because for physicians the promotion opportunity is “all fully qualified” or 100% for O4. In other words, if everyone was fully qualified they could promote every physician who is a LT to LCDR. They generally don’t, but they could. You taking a promotion doesn’t hinder someone else’s promotion like it does for O5 and O6.

So…if #1 or #2 above are applicable, consider sending a “Don’t Pick Me” letter. And remember, they are now due 10 days before a board convenes (not 24 hours like before).


6 thoughts on “What is a “Don’t Pick Me” Promotion Board Letter? Why Would You Send One?

    Jason Blitz said:
    January 21, 2018 at 15:37

    Nice post! I know a lot of docs plan to leave the service shortly after finishing their training obligation whether or not they are promoted. But, probably few realize if they don’t accept a promotion, someone else (who would have otherwise been promoted into that spot) may now decide to leave the Navy earlier than intended or desired.


    Greg Schluter said:
    January 21, 2018 at 23:06

    I agree. If you definitely know that you are leaving the Navy, the polite and professional thing to do is free up the office for someone else. There is no reason for someone else to wait an additional year to get promoted if they don’t have to.


    Brian said:
    February 26, 2018 at 21:25

    I have read that asking to not be selected for promotion would screw you out of separation pay.


    Seems to me if you have been passed over to select for O5, but you are allowed to stay in via ‘continuation board’, and you wish to retire in a few years at 20, you are opening yourself up to being separated at <20 years with zero separation pay


      Joel Schofer, MD, MBA, CPE responded:
      February 27, 2018 at 17:19

      Yeah, but who is actually getting separation pay? Just about every doctor who wants to stay in can do so unless they resign. Not many are involuntarily separated.


    Jon said:
    September 20, 2020 at 13:03

    Doesn’t a “do not pick me” letter constrain possible billet opportunities when being considered for a milestone of command job? Instead of 50 qualified billets, you’re now eligible for 30 or less, for example.


      Joel Schofer, MD, MBA, CPE responded:
      September 20, 2020 at 15:48

      A don’t pick me letter is only for people who know they are going to get out and don’t want the promotion. If you were going to compete for milestone or command jobs, you would not be sending this type of letter.


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