Throwback Thursday Classic Post – What is DOPMA and Why Should You Care?

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DOPMA stands for Defense Officer Personnel Management Act. It has been the guideline for officer personnel management since December 1980. It was designed to help modernize management practices and correct problems with officer management that emerged in the post-World War II era. Its notable achievements include:

  • Creating uniform promotion rates.
  • Standardizing career lengths across the services.
  • Regulating the number of senior officers as a proportion of the force.
  • Creating reasonable and predictable expectations regarding when an officer would be eligible for promotion.

DOPMA has been criticized for creating a system with high turnover rates, frequent moves, and shorter military careers. It is often referred to as “up or out” and is the reason why LCDRs can only stay 20 years, CDRs 28 years, and CAPTs for 30 years.

In addition, the Medical and Dental Corps are “DOPMA exempt” when it comes to our promotion zones. This is why it is easy to predict when Medical Corps officers are going to be in zone. Our promotion zones are not reliant on how many senior physicians left the service.

The Nurse and Medical Service Corps are not DOPMA exempt. Their promotion zones vary from year to year depending on how many senior nurses or MSCs get out of the service.

For example, a Commander MSC friend of mine was stuck waiting for promotion to O6 until one of the CAPTs in his community retired. That would not happen to a physician or dentist because we are DOPMA exempt.

DOPMA has been under fire recently and is getting some attention toward revising it, which you can read about here:

The Defense Officer Personnel Management Act faces scrutiny in 2018

Up-or-out rules get new scrutiny from Congress


SG’s Op Order – Medical Power for Integrated Naval Superiority

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Navy Medicine Shipmates,

In early November, I issued my SG’s Day One guidance and outlined how Navy Medicine will optimize to project medical power in support of Naval Superiority. I also promised that I would provide more detailed guidance on each of my priorities and the steps that we will take to build the Navy Medicine that our Nation needs to ensure that we prevail in any future fight. Attached you will find my operational order that describes the ideal end state for each of Navy Medicine’s priorities and charts the course that we will take to achieve these outcomes. I have also included a graphic version of these priorities for your reference and to help you carry the conversation to your work center. As a member of the One Navy Medicine team I am counting on your leadership, influence and personal commitment to help breathe life into these initiatives and bring them to full operating capability.

Thank you for your tireless efforts, professionalism and dedication to our Navy and Marine Corps team. I look forward to getting your feedback and seeing you on the deck plate.

-SG Sends

(Here is a link to a PAO summary of the OPORD as well.)

Post 9-11 GI Bill Policy Update

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On 10 JAN 2020, the Navy released a NAVADMIN that updates the Post 9-11 GI Bill policy. What are the changes? It allows Service Members over 16 years of service to continue eligibility and transfer education benefits (TEB) to their dependents. This means that the restriction on TEB for anyone who had served 16 years that was to go into effect on 12 JAN 2020 has been lifted and will not affect your ability to transfer their education benefits.

Guest Post – How to Apply for Continuation Pay Under the Blended Retirement System

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By Dustin Schuett, DO

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

For those who elected into the Blended Retirement System (BRS), there is the opportunity to receive a one-time Continuation Pay bonus in exchange for 4 additional years of obligated service.

Continuation pay can in theory be taken anytime between 8 and 12 years of active service as calculated by the Pay Entry Base Date (PEBD, which can be found in block 4 of the LES labeled “PAY DATE”). The Navy (as well as the other branches) currently only allows Continuation Pay to be taken at the 12th anniversary of the member’s PEBD. Members can currently submit for Continuation pay when they are between 11.5 and 12 years from their PEBD. Essentially if you opted into the BRS and will be serving to 16 years due to pre-existing obligations or career plans/aspirations, you can take the continuation pay at 12 years. If you plan to get out of the Navy prior to serving 16 years, you should not take Continuation Pay as currently available.

The amount of the Continuation Pay can be set between 2.5 and 13 times monthly base pay for Active Duty servicemembers. The Navy (as well as the other branches) have taken the low end setting Continuation Pay bonus at 2.5x since its inception though 2020 rates have not been officially released. This bonus can be taken as a single lump sum or as 2 or 4 annual payments paying 50% or 25% per year respectively.

Understand that this means you will need to serve 4 years after receipt of the Continuation Pay. This obligation will “run concurrently with any other service obligation, unless other service obligations incurred specifically preclude concurrent obligations” per MILPERSMAN 1810-081 Section 7.

Verify that any pre-existing obligations can be served concurrent to (at the same time as) not consecutive to (following) any pre-existing obligations (ROTC, USNA, HPSP, USUHS, FTOS Training etc). I am currently carrying obligations for FTOS GME time for Fellowship training and a Retention Bonus which I am serving concurrently to my fellowship obligation as well as resident obligations. I contacted BUMED Special Pays who confirmed that my obligations do not require consecutive payback with other obligations.

I would strongly recommend anyone taking Continuation Pay to verify with BUMED Special Pays that their current obligations do not preclude a concurrent payback of obligation for Continuation Pay. Four years is a long additional commitment in exchange for only 2.5 months of base pay.

Here are the steps to obtain Continuation Pay in PDF form as well as below:.

  1. Go to the NSIPS website and log in.
  2. Select “Employee Self-Service” on the left side in the Menu box.
  3. Select “Blended Retirement System” under “Retirements and Separations” on the far right side.
  4. On the Blended Retirement System page, confirm that you are enrolled into the BRS and that the current date is between the 1st and last day eligible to elect by looking in the 2nd Box on this page.
  5. Select the “Continuation Pay” tab.
  6. Click the link for your “Continuation Pay Notification Letter” in the 3rd box from the top
    1. Save/print this letter for your records.
  7. Select “Yes, I elect Continuation Pay and agree to serve for an additional four years of obligated service from my date of eligibility”.
  8. Choose the Continuation Pay Payment option you desire from the listed options.
    1. Single Lump Sum Payment
    2. Two Annual Payments (50%)
    3. Four Annual Payments (25%)
  9. Click “Save” at the bottom of the page. This locks in your selection (don’t worry, you can still change the selection and opt out if you desire).
  10. I recommend checking to ensure everything has saved, to do this:
    1. Click “Home” in the top right corner of the page.
    2. Follow steps 2-5 above and ensure that your selections have been saved.
  11. Await your payment which per MILPERSMAN 1810-081 Section 8 b. will be on the 12th year anniversary of your PEBD (Pay Entry Base Date).


  1. MILPERSMAN 1810-081
  2. Navy BRS Service Members FAQs
  3. Navy BRS Continuation Pay Rates 2019

Acting SECNAV Vector – 355 Ships

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Here’s a link to the Acting SECNAV’s weekly vector that discusses the push to get to 355 ships:

Vector 6: Jan. 10, 2020: 355 Ships

The Blended Retirement System Lump Sum – Probably Not a Good Idea

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Now that the Blended Retirement System (BRS) is in full effect, it is time to start digging a little deeper on some of its features, like the lump sum payment. Here is a pocket card put out by the DoD Office of Financial Readiness to explain the lump sum feature of the BRS:

BRS Lump Sum Factsheet

Reading through the card, I think it does the best job I’ve seen so far at explaining how the lump sum option works, especially for those who don’t understand what discounting is:

Discounting is the process of determining the present value of a payment or a stream of payments that is to be received in the future. Given the time value of money, a dollar is worth more today than it would be worth tomorrow. Discounting is the primary factor used in pricing a stream of tomorrow’s cash flows.

When discounting future cash flows to determine the present value, you have to use what is very much like a reverse interest rate, called the discount rate:

The discount rate also refers to the interest rate used in discounted cash flow analysis to determine the present value of future cash flows.

The higher the discount rate, the lower the present value of your future cash flows and the smaller your lump sum would be. Some have criticized the DoD for setting the discount rate too high. While adjusted annually, it is 6.75% for 2020.

What I really found interesting about this pocket card I had found, and what caused me to write this blog post, was this part of it:

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Note that the DoD Office of Financial Readiness is admitting, “For most Service members, a guaranteed stream of income for life is likely better than a lump sum.”

Yes! One of my biggest beefs against the BRS is that it gives you options like this and the chance to make a mistake. You can’t screw up the guaranteed stream of inflation-adjusted income that comes with the legacy retirement system.

You can screw up a lump sum, reduced by a high discount rate, by blowing it on an expensive car, too large of a house, a weekend in Vegas, or whatever else people like to waste money on. Yes, you could use it productively, perhaps to start a business, buy a franchise, or acquire high-paying skills with further education. But you could just as easily buy one of these:

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Do yourself a favor. If you are in the BRS, when the time comes think long and hard before you reduce your future income streams and take a lump sum payment. As the DoD itself admits, “For most Service members, a guaranteed stream of income for life is likely better than a lump sum.