A number of policy updates announced in response to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic impact U.S. service members and military families, including an extension to travel restrictions and changes to pay. Here are five of the latest announcements from the Department of Defense, Army and Marine Corps:
Update to travel restrictions
The Department of Defense’s stop move order has been extended through June 30. The extension, which went into effect April 20, was approved by Secretary of Defense Mark Esper to help prevent spread of COVID-19, according to a DoD press release.
The travel restrictions apply to all DOD service members, civilians and their families a includes official travel, including Permanent Change of Station and Temporary Duty through June 30, 2020. Exceptions may be given when travel is mission essential, necessary for humanitarian reasons or in the event of extreme hardship.
“While the Department acknowledges that this order will have great impact on our service members and their families who are looking to proceed with their lives, the rapidly changing environment has created significant risks to service members, as the DOD continues personnel movements and travel. The decision was made in order to protect U.S. personnel and preserve the operational readiness of our global force,” the release stated.
For more information and links to the original guidance and updates go to https://www.defense.gov/Newsroom/Releases/Release/Article/2156918/update-to-travel-restrictions/.
Special leave accrual for service members
Service members can now accrue up to 120 days of leave. According to an April 16 memo signed by Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness Matthew Donovan, service members with annual leave balances of more than 60 days on Leave and Earnings Statements between March 11, 2020 and September 30, 2020 have until the end of Fiscal Year 2023 to use excess leave balances of up to 120 days.
“The department’s actions to stem the spread of COVID-19 has significantly limited the ability of service members to take leave during this national emergency, and we know that leave is vital to the health and welfare of our force,” according to a DOD press release.
More information and a link to the original memo are available at https://www.defense.gov/Newsroom/Releases/Release/Article/2153213/special-leave-accrual-for-service-members/.
Special and Incentive Pay
Because of the effects of COVID-19, both active and reserve service members who are entitled to special or incentive pays that require the performance of specific duties such as Hazardous Duty Incentive Pay or Aviation Incentive Pay, may be unable to perform the required duties through no fault of their own. Service members who are otherwise eligible for special and incentive pays may be entitled to waivers for performance requirements. Waivers are available even for service members who are new to their units and have not yet met the initial duty performance requirements. Service members should contact their chains of command to find out if they qualify for a waiver or whether they need to take action to obtain one.
This policy, described in a DOD fact sheet, also applies to reservists and National Guard members whose drill periods have been canceled, delayed or excused because of COVID-19
For more information and links to the official policy and fact sheet visit https://www.defense.gov/Newsroom/Releases/Release/Article/2144019/additional-guidance-on-military-pay-and-personnel-benefits-covid-19/.
U.S. Army updates promotion and retention policies in response to COVID-19
The U.S. Army has made several changes to enlisted promotion and retention policies due to the COVID-19 pandemic according to a March 31 press release.
- Battalion commanders can authorize virtual promotion boards
- Suspension of the one-year expiration date for the Army Physical Fitness Test
- Suspension of the two-year expiration of the weapons qualification
- Suspension of pin-on requirements for the Advanced Leader Course and the Senior Leader Course
- Soldiers may request reenlistment or extension for a period of three to 23 months
“We are taking unprecedented and immediate action to keep the right people in the right rank when we need them the most,” said Sgt. Maj. of the Army Michael Grinston in the press release. “Force health protection is the Army’s top priority. We are constantly assessing the situation and refining guidance to the force. It’s going to take the whole Army working together and adapting as we go, but we will kill the virus.”
For more information on reenlistments and extensions, soldiers should contact their career counselors.
Annual Marine Corps PFT canceled
Marine Corps Physical Fitness Tests, Combat Fitness Tests and circumference measurements for the Body Composition Program have been canceled for the remainder of 2020.
According to an April 23 Marine Corps Advisory, the tests were canceled in order to comply with social distancing requirements in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
An exception to policy is in place for Marines who need a fitness test as requirement for attendance at certain schools, courses and special assignments.