DoD Knowledge Base: FAQs

Use of Military Rank by Retired Service Members
Published: 08/03/2007 | Updated:  07/29/2014
What are the rules for using military rank if a person has retired from the military?

The following pertains to retired military members, officer and enlisted.

All retired personnel are permitted to use their military titles socially and in connection with commercial enterprises. Such military titles must never be used in any manner, which may bring discredit to the Uniformed Services.

The use of military titles is prohibited in connection with commercial enterprises when such use, with or without the intent to mislead, gives rise to any appearance of sponsorship or approval by the Uniformed Services or the Department of Defense.

Military titles will not be a part of the signature block of a retired servicemember when signing official correspondences as a civil service employee. 

Retirees not on active duty will not use their military titles in connection with public appearances outside the United States unless such use is authorized by the appropriate overseas commander. 

When military titles are used by members to sign their names to documents that pertain to them personally, they must show that they are in a retired status after the grade.  Social and business calling cards must reflect the retired status.

In a military office, retirees using military titles on the telephone could lead to confusion and unwitting misrepresentation, conveying the impression of active duty status. In any case, common sense is the guide when a retired servicemember works for the Government.  No reasonable retired officer would invite awkwardness when employed in a military office by insisting on being called by military title, if such title outranks the retired servicemember's active duty chief.   The retired servicemember's use of his rightful title in Government employment is guided by his acceptance of his civilian status and loyal conformance to the established channels of command. Local customs, practices, and conditions of employment are the primary influencing factors.