Guest Post: The Fellowship-Retention Bonus “Loophole” Still Exists; Are You Eligible?

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By Dustin Schuett, DO

Note: The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Department of the Navy, Department of Defense or the United States Government.

The 2018 Navy Graduate Medical Education Selection Board results were released 12 DEC 2018. For a select few Navy physicians pursuing fellowship, the opportunity exists to take a Retention Bonus (RB, formerly Multi-year Specialty Pay) and pay back their fellowship obligation and the RB obligation concurrently without extending their Navy commitment.

To be eligible, the physician must meet all of the following requirements:

  1. Be at 8 years or more of active duty time in the Medical Corps.
  2. Have completed all pre-commissioning obligation time:
    • All initially obligated HPSP/USUHS/HSCP time AND any ROTC or USNA obligated time
    • This does not include residency obligation time

Essentially, if you went to medical school on a 4 year HPSP scholarship, have completed or will have completed 4 or more years of combined GMO and post-residency payback time BEFORE starting fellowship and have 8 total years active duty Medical Corps time, you’re likely eligible.

Here is my personal example:

4 year HPSP > 1 year internship > 2 years as a GMO > 5 years of residency > 2 years post-residency staff time (4 total including GMO time) = 4 years of total payback completing HPSP obligation, 10 years in Medical Corps

As an orthopaedic surgeon, our annual Incentive Pay (IP) is $59,000. I was able to take a 3 year RB which increases my IP to $73,000 annually plus an additional $33,000 lump sum paid annually for a total of $106,000/year, a $47,000 increase per year without increasing my obligation time.

If you have questions about special pay, please follow the current BUMED guidance:

If there are any questions please direct them to your HRD/Admin/Special Pays Coordinator, or Specialty Leader, who will forward to BUMED inquiries they are unable answer at the command level, but no individuals should be bypassing their local command admin support, since they need to be able to understand the issues, and responses, to be able to better support the command.

For more information, see the Medical Corps Special Pay Guidance that can be found on the BUMED Special Pays website.

Good Luck!

9 thoughts on “Guest Post: The Fellowship-Retention Bonus “Loophole” Still Exists; Are You Eligible?

    Jeff moore said:
    January 8, 2019 at 13:42

    Waiting for an answer from special pays… my example 4 year HPSP- internship- FS training- 6 years FS(offered Sigonella as a second tour as I took it)- residency -straight into fellowship. I don’t think I can take an RB but some say I can. Thoughts?


      Dustin Schuett said:
      January 9, 2019 at 06:50

      You should be able to take an RB.
      You have met the requirements so:
      1. Completed initial commissioning obligation: you paid off your HPSP 4 yrs during your 6 yrs as a flight surgeon.
      2. You’re over 8 yrs in the medical corps (6yrs flight surgery + minimum 3 years of residency)

      What was your residency in and how long is your fellowship? The length of your fellowship will determine the length of the RB you can take without extending your get out of the navy date.
      My fellowship is 1 year with a 2 year payback so I could only take a 3 year RB and have it concurrently with fellowship and fellowship payback without extending my commitment.
      If your fellowship is 2 years or longer, you should be able to do a 4 year RB without extending your commitment.
      If your fellowship is 3 years or longer and your specialty is one of those allowed to do a 6 yr RB (anesthesia, ER, FP, Gen Surg, Ortho, or Psych), you should be able to do a 6 yr RB without extending your commitment.


        Dustin Schuett said:
        January 9, 2019 at 06:53

        A potential stumbling block for your situation is that you have to sign the RB agreement before starting your fellowship and I believe after completing your residency.
        Long version short, I think you should be eligible (assuming you did an active duty residency). Definitely worth the effort and time considering the amount of money on the table.


        Jeff moore said:
        January 9, 2019 at 16:34

        Three year anesthesia residency finishing in July and 1 year fellowship in pain starting 1 August.
        Thanks for the reply.


    Dustin Schuett said:
    January 9, 2019 at 18:40

    Jeff, it should definitely work for you.
    Please keep me posted on the progress and let me know if I can help in any way or answer any further questions.


    MillennialDoc said:
    June 3, 2020 at 18:46

    Military medical student here…clarifying question re: your personal example outlined above.

    If you were not eligible for the fellowship-RB loophole, you would still be entitled to the annual $59k incentive pay during your fellowship, correct?

    I am a service academy grad and HPSP student with a lengthy total contract (9 years), so I think I will likely head to fellowship before my initial obligations are finished.

    Awesome that you were able to utilize this loophole though!


      Joel Schofer, MD, MBA, CPE responded:
      June 3, 2020 at 22:14

      It is not my example as it was a guest post, but you get incentive pay (IP) during fellowship.


      Dustin Schuett said:
      June 3, 2020 at 23:59

      As CAPT Schofer said, you get your incentive pay for your specialty while in fellowship. If you are board certified at the time, you also get board certification pay (currently $6,000 a year prorated monthly).
      The current (FY2020) Navy Medical Corps Special pays document ( details out the Special Pays on pages 10-11 depending on specialty.


      Jeff Moore said:
      June 4, 2020 at 17:12

      I am currently finishing an inservice fellowship and completed residency last year. I get paid for my primary speciality(anesthesia) but I am not board certified yet because it is a 4 part process. The IP speciality pay starts 90 days after residency graduation which coincidently is around 1 OCT so one must wait for the next years special pay plan to be approved/published. You will be back paid to you eligibility date, the 90 day post grad date. Day 1 after residency you get the non-residency/ GMO pay until your IP is approved and then the gmo pay is dropped. It takes a few months to level out on your pay stub. Usually FEB. hope it helps.


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