In July 2001, Captain Ron Casillas received orders informing him that he was being reassigned to the retired reserves as he was now eligible for retirement after completing 20 years of service. This came as a bit of a surprise to Ron as he had about five more years to go until he hit his 20-year mark. When he called the Army Officer Management, they told him that he had, in fact, met the requirements for retirement and could now go pick up his retiree identification card. At the time, there were no informational government webpages to verify this information. So, Ron went on with his life. He married a woman from Ukraine and had a couple of children. And yet he never received his pension despite having a retiree card for 17 years.
Forced to flee Ukraine in 2014 with his pregnant wife, when Russia illegally invaded and seized control of Crimea and a large swath of the eastern part of the country, Ron worked various jobs to keep his family afloat. Despite his efforts, he now really needed his pension and eventually hired a lawyer in Washington, D. C. The lawyer wrote to Army Human Resources Command who said they needed to see the orders stating that Casillas had served his 20 years.
The lawyer cited DOD Instruction (DODI) which states that, “if a person has been notified that he has completed the years of service required for eligibility for retired pay, that eligibility may not be denied or revoked on the basis of any error, miscalculation, misinformation, or administrative determination of years of service performed.” (1200.15 of March 13,2014, enclosure (3), Para. 7c.)
The Reserve Retired Chief said that Ron only had 14 years and therefore was not entitled to his 20-year letter and refused to abide by the DODI.
At this point, Casillas wrote to his Senator back home, Dianne Feinstein. Senator Feinstein followed up on his letter with the Department of the Army who determined that Ron’s retirement orders had been erroneously issued. Their response was to “fix the glitch” on their computer system and cut a new set of orders which discharged Ron from the retired reserve and ordered him to return his retiree identification card to Fort Knox.
Out of options, Casillas has turned to the media in hopes that someone can help to resolve his situation and to warn other soldiers preparing for retirement of what can go awry when the Army makes a seemingly innocuous clerical error.
Ron told NEWSREP, “You could have told me that five years ago when I was still relatively healthy and could have finished up [my service]. Even three years ago, HRC [Human Resources Command] at Ft. Knox, told me that they’d be sending me my retirement packet a year before my 60th birthday (March 2018), so we were all jazzed because that was about the time we E&E’d from Ukraine due to Putin’s attack.”
Ron is an honorably discharged veteran who served with 5th Special Forces Group and ODAs 595 and 596 training Saudi, Kuwaiti, and Egyptian soldiers in Kuwait during Operations Desert Storm and Desert Shield. Now he has been cheated out of his pension by a clerical error that the Army made years prior and has been left without further recourse.