Newspaper article The Topeka Capital-Journal

Reservist's Birthday Surprise: Discharge ; Military Denied Woman's Request to Remain Active

Newspaper article The Topeka Capital-Journal

Reservist's Birthday Surprise: Discharge ; Military Denied Woman's Request to Remain Active

Article excerpt

Donna Bergmann said she has never failed a physical and felt like she had more to give in the Army Reserve, but age regulations forced her to leave.

Bergmann served in the Kansas Air National Guard from 1982 to 1994 and was a member of the Air Force Inactive Ready Reserve until 2001, leaving as a captain. She re-enlisted in 2008 and worked up to staff sergeant in the 375th Chemical Company in Belton, Mo., which trains to respond to terrorist attacks or acts of chemical warfare. She also participated in military funerals around Kansas and Missouri in addition to her other duties with the 375th, she said.

"I felt like doing military funerals was my calling," she said. "I felt like it was the least I could do."

Bergmann said she was told she could submit a request for a waiver of the mandatory retirement age for the Reserves five months before her 60th birthday, which she said she did. She said she assumed she had gotten the waiver when she was sent to a training school in April, two months before her birthday, because she didn't think they would spend resources training someone who would leave so soon. It wasn't until mid-May that she found she was still being discharged.

Bergmann said she did what the office of retention had told her to do, but no one told her about a specific form she needed to send in until it was too late for it to reach the right office before she turned 60. She was discharged in June.

"It never made it to the right place," she said. "Long story short, my birthday came and I was released. I lost my health insurance, my life insurance, my dental insurance and my retirement, all on my birthday. So, happy birthday."

Lt. Col. William Ritter, spokesman for the U.S. Army Reserve, said exemptions to the mandatory retirement age of 60 are relatively narrow. Soldiers who have served 18 years by their 60th birthday are eligible to stay until they complete the 20 years of service required for a pension, but not past their 62nd birthday. …

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