The Air Force is still allowing airmen to separate and retire, despite funding woes that could affect when those troops move out of their homes, the service confirmed Monday.
“Retirement and separation dates are being requested, processed and approved as normal, and dates of retirement/dates of separation are being established as normal,” spokesperson Ann Stefanek said in an email. “No airmen are being, or will be, involuntarily extended beyond their desired retirement or separation dates.”
Still, some departing airmen will see their moving orders delayed until Oct. 1. That paperwork allows troops and their families to get themselves and household goods to new homes.
The clarification came after the Air Force said July 10 it would temporarily pause permanent change of station moves — the travel airmen take as they head to a new job at a different base, or when they move to a new home after military service — because Congress hadn’t provided more funds to backfill greater-than-expected spending on airmen and their families.
On July 21, the service announced that, thanks to an infusion of cash, airmen who are slated to move by the end of September can get their orders approved.
For airmen looking to leave the military, the issue involves two sets of paperwork: one for an airman’s separation or retirement, and one for their final move.
Troops can opt to separate once their current enlistment or commissioning contract is up. They become eligible for retirement benefits after 20 years of active duty service.
Airmen who plan to separate from the service on Jan. 1, 2024, or later should begin receiving the paperwork they need to schedule movers starting Oct. 1, Stefanek said. The same goes for airmen with retirement dates of April 1 or later.
“This will ensure those separating will … have their orders to move [household goods] 3 months prior to separating, and those retiring will have orders for [household goods] 6 months prior to retirement,” she said. “It doesn’t mean their dates to leave the service are delayed.”
Airmen leaving the service before those dates will continue receiving moving orders as usual, Stefanek said.
Whether moving orders are approved for calendar 2024 depends on how much money the Air Force has on hand. Most of next year’s permanent change of station moves are on hold until Congress provides a steadier cash flow.
Military Times previously reported that supplemental funding was delayed by a fight between Colorado and Alabama’s congressional delegations over the future home of U.S. Space Command, a decision controlled by the Air Force.
“We expect airmen impacted by this delay will be issued orders on, or shortly, after [Oct. 1] when fiscal authorization is provided for fiscal year 2024,” Stefanek said.
Airmen for whom the issue creates undue hardship can petition their commanders for an exception.
They are still allowed to participate in SkillBridge, an internship program that helps departing troops transition into the workforce, with their commander’s approval, Stefanek said. Commanders can also grant temporary leave for airmen who want to participate in a job training program that is outside their local area.
“The Air Force remains committed to ensuring airmen can participate in transition programs and that this delay does not adversely impact their future financial, personal, and professional lives,” Stefanek said.
Rachel Cohen is the editor of Air Force Times. She joined the publication as its senior reporter in March 2021. Her work has appeared in the Washington Post, the Frederick News-Post (Md.), Air and Space Forces Magazine, Inside Defense, Inside Health Policy and elsewhere.