Special Pays Frequently Asked Questions

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As you can imagine, we’ve been getting a lot of questions in the Corps Chief’s Office about the FY20 pay plan. We’ve compiled a list of the questions so far and answers. Here they are…

Q – If I am on a 4-year retention bonus but that option no longer exists for my specialty, can they take it away?

A – No, per the guidance on the BUMED Special Pays website, “If a member is under an existing agreement, the officer will continue to be paid the rate in that agreement until it expires.”


Q – If you are in OB/GYN, Ophthalmology, Otolaryngology, Urology, Pathology, Family Medicine, General Internal Medicine, Pediatrics, Nuclear Medicine, or Radiology, it appears you can no longer take a Retention Bonus (RB) if you have any obligated service when previously it was only your initial obligation that had to be repaid before you could take an RB. Is that correct?

A – Yes, that is correct. Paragraph 3.a.(6) on page 5 of the Medical Corps Special Pays guidance states that physicians in these specialties “are not eligible to enter an RB while under an Active Duty Service Obligation (ADSO) for medical education, training, or Special Pays RB.”  You cannot have any obligated service if you wish to sign up for an RB in these specialties during FY20.


Q – For the specialties that saw loss of the 4 year RB and/or reductions in IP/RB amounts, will time-in-grade (TIG) or service obligation (MSR) waivers be offered?

A – At present, no.  However, a draft NAVADMIN that addresses TIG and MSR waivers that is with PERS; it was placed on hold due to Congressional language which prohibits the military divestitures until a Report to Congress is submitted.  No timeline for a decision is available.


Q – The DFAS medical special pay website has different values/contracts available for FY-2020.  Are the major changes announced yesterday specific to the Navy and the Army/Air Force special pays for 2020 are reflected on this website?

A – The rates posted on the DFAS website are the maximum allowable payment rates set by DOD.  Physician pay plans are service-specific, and the services are allowed to pay “up to” those amounts.  The pay rates in the documents we sent yesterday (27 FEB) and that are available on the BUMED Special Pays Website are the relevant rates for the Navy in FY20.


Q – If I have a valid RB, is there anything I need to do? 

A – No.  There is no longer a need to submit an annual request.  Your IP and RB will continue to pay at the current rate through the expiration of your contract.


Q – Why is Family Medicine one of the specialties affected by the reductions when it’s not currently overmanned?

A – The special pays plan was based on manning levels that incorporated some of the planned divestitures.  Yes, I know this seems to run counter to the NAVADMIN argument above.


Q – Does terminate and renegotiate extend the time owed?

A – Yes.  If you terminate and renegotiate, your obligation resets to day 0 on the effective date of the contract.  For example, if you currently have three years left on a 4 year contract (obligated until 2023) and you terminate and renegotiate for a 6 year RB, you would then be obligated through 2026.


Q – Are the RB and GME reductions temporary, or will they continue until some specialties are eliminated from Navy Medicine?

A – First, there are NO PLANS TO ELIMINATE ANY SPECIALTY(IES).  Special pays are reviewed yearly and are set based on current inventory compared to future requirements.  In the black and white world of the Comptroller, overmanned communities do not merit or require retention incentives; the fact that we can continue to offer something was a concession on their part.  However, although our office has strenuously advocated against this approach (as has much of BUMED) over the last 18 months, “voluntary” force shaping measures such as reduction of special and incentive pays are likely to persist until inventory matches requirements.

2 thoughts on “Special Pays Frequently Asked Questions

    Sarah said:
    February 29, 2020 at 11:25

    So, if an AD member in the targeted group (OB/GYN, peds, etc.) wanted to transfer GI bill benefits to a child…because that would then incur a new obligation, that member would no longer be eligible to take a retention bonus for those 4 years? Would that be correct?


      Joel Schofer, MD, MBA, CPE responded:
      February 29, 2020 at 15:29

      I don’t think so because the GI Bill transfer is not technically a Navy obligation as that is a VA run program. Even if you signed up to transfer to the GI Bill, you could still get out before 4 years. You’d just lose the GI Bill transfer.

      When you look up obligated service dates in the Navy, they NEVER reflect any agreement related to the GI Bill since that is a VA program. In other words, the GI Bill has nothing to do with special pays.


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