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Saturday, June 15, 2024 | Back issues
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Court Scuttles Navy Doctor’s Retirement Plan

(CN) - A Navy doctor who thought he'd be retired by now must remain on active duty until 2018 because the government miscalculated his service obligation dates, a federal judge ruled.

Dismissing the doctor's challenge Wednesday, U.S. District Judge Gladys Kessler lamented the fate of the "sad case" involving Capt. Alexander Stewart.

With more than 24 years of service in his distinguished career, Stewart filed suit in Washington because the Navy discovered that its failure to account for pre-existing service obligations improperly shaved three years off Stewart's contract.

Judge Kessler on Wednesday upheld contract amendments that keep Stewart on active duty until October 2018.

"The Navy's effort to comply with the applicable statute and regulation cannot be deemed arbitrary, capricious or contrary to law," the 29-page opinion states.

Stewart had signed contracts extending his active-duty obligation to at least 2015 in exchange for special pay the Navy offers physicians.

Each of the three special-pay agreements Stewart signed in exchange for these bonuses, however, miscalculated the cumulative duration of the captain's obligated service date.

Stewart's third and final agreement extended his obligation to the Navy by four years for a bonus of $33,000 per year in lump-sum payments on top of his regular pay for four years.

The miscalculations failed to include the initial five-year obligation Stewart incurred by attending the U.S. Naval Academy.

Stewart began his initial obligated service date of 12 years when he graduated from Uniformed Services University of Health Sciences in 1995.

The OSD required that Stewart engage in qualifying service in the Navy until at least May of 2007. Stewart received specialized training in otolaryngology - the ear, nose and throat specialty as well in rhinology, the nasal specialty.

The Navy notified Stewart about its OSD miscalculations in February 2011, and three years later the Board for Correction of Naval Records refused to reinstate his July 2015 obligated service date.

Kessler concluded the ruling by saying Stewart "would be unjustly enriched" if he were to curtail his service requirements to the Navy "without having to pay for his end of the bargain - namely, provision of high quality, specialized medical care to the Navy for the period of time he agreed to."

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